. . . and 3 Things not to
So your company has finally been covered in the trade or business press, huh? Maybe your CEO was used as a source in the story, or perhaps a top-flight publication reviewed your new product. Congratulations.
There’s a scene in the movie Bull Durham where Nuke returns to the dugout after pitching a great inning.
Nuke: That was great, huh?
Crash Davis: Your fastball’s up. Your curveball’s hanging. In the show, they would have ripped you.
Nuke: Can’t you even let me enjoy the moment?
Crash: The moment’s over!
Well, you have your coverage. Bask in the moment for two seconds . . . because now the moment is over.
This is a huge opportunity for even better publicity, so don’t blow it.
Unfortunately, most companies do indeed blow it. Most spend too much time enjoying the moment and ignoring the effort needed to generate real, lasting publicity. They simply link to the coverage in the News section of their website. Maybe they’ll put out a Tweet or two, and then . . . and then nothing. This is as far as most go, even those who have PR teams who should know better.
If you get good press coverage, it’s critical that you take advantage of it.
Here are five things you should do after getting positive press coverage:
Press releases are written with a particular audience in mind – journalists – but these days few journalists see any value in them. Back in the print days, when journalists needed filler stories to make the advertisements look fewer and farther between, even crappy press releases served a purpose.
These days, not so much.
In fact, the only press releases I ever even look at are for VC funding, customer wins, or new CEO appointments. That’s it. And even those are more for my own interest than any coverage that will come from them.
Product releases, product updates, partnerships, the opening of a new headquarters . . . I hit the delete key.
Conversely, what a few savvy PR firms do (I’m thinking particularly of Arthur Germain’s Communications Strategy Group) is write their own short articles and package them as press releases. If their client doesn’t have coverage already, they try to generate it through these.
Once they have coverage, most of these same agencies avoid boilerplate press releases touting coverage. Nor do they simply throw up a link in the News section of their website. Instead, they capitalize on the concept in the story. So, if your CEO is used as a source in a story titled “5 Ways BYOD Undermines Compliance,” employ a similar headline, provide a brief overview of the story (maybe the first paragraph or two) and then link to the published story.
You don’t need to spend much money on this effort, since there are 50+ free press release distribution sites out there.
Of course, you can wrap some of your boilerplate around the story, but the reason these releases work is because content-aggregation sites will pick these sorts of releases up and publish them to look like stories. Many of these sites already scour online publications for stories they can summarize and link to, so you’re saving them the effort. As a result, you will help boost SEO and drive traffic to the published story. Of course, since you are a main source (or the subject of) the story, your reputation will be enhanced and traffic will come back your way too.
2. Write a complementary blog post.
Of course, to take advantage of the SEO you generated through your story-focused press release, you need to also include links back to your own site. Your blog is the best place to link to, unless you already have complementary content available, such as a directly relevant white paper.
The best approach here is to discuss something left out of the story, or to illuminate some related topic that just wouldn’t have fit in the typical 1,000-word story.
Get in the habit of keeping track of your interviews. What were the top three concepts you discussed with the journalist? Chances are the journalist will only be able to include one or two of these. Move down to number three, and there is your blog post.
Heck, ask your PR people to record your conference calls, and then have someone transcribe that section, and you’ll only need to edit a post, not actually write it from scratch. (Be sure to get approval from everyone on the call if you do this, though. Some states, most notably California, have strict regulations about recording calls.)
3. Make sure some of your employees comment on the story and answer any questions other commenters may have.
Editors and journalists love to get comments on their stories, but unless you are writing about politics, sex or sports, few people comment on stories. In the tech world, the only exception to this is when you write a critical (well, or even a positive) story about one of the major incumbents, such as Apple, Microsoft or Facebook.
Back in 2011 I wrote a story for Network World titled, “4 reasons Windows Phone 7 will beat iPhone and Android . . . And 3 reasons it won’t.” The Microsoft haters flocked to the comment field. Then, along came the defenders. As a result, this story stayed on the list of most popular stories for a few weeks, which almost never happens at a publication like Network World., which has top-notch content published each and every day.
The story has 89 comments to date, and the comments kept coming in for nearly a year. 89 comments is not a lot for, say, a Paul Krugman story, but on Network World, it’s way more than stories usually get.
You don’t need controversy to take advantage of comments, though. If you do write a complementary blog post, take a salient point or two that can be boiled down to two sentences and put it in the comment field. Assign someone the duty of checking up on the story and answering any questions that show up. Encourage your employees to engage with the story, but be sure to avoid blatant marketing and PR.
Only add comments when doing so adds value for readers.
4. Do whatever you can to drive traffic to the story.
Obviously, the point of the above tips is to drive traffic to both your own site and to the published story. There are many other ways to drive traffic. Take advantage of them.
Queue up a series of Tweets. Recommend the story on LinkedIn. Like it on Facebook. Promote it on Reddit, Tumblr or whatever other social media service you use to promote your company.
Again, if you drive enough traffic to the story, the journalist and that journalist’s editor will notice. They will be impressed. Editors love it when you help make the stories they publish a success, and as a result, they will want more content from you, especially if you:
5. Let the editor or journalist know what you’re doing.
Be sure to email the journalist to thank them for the coverage and let them know that you will do whatever you can to promote the story heavily. Ask them if there is anything in particular they would like you to do to publicize the story, or if there’s any strategy you should follow that has worked well in the past for these types of stories.
Be sure to let them know about some of what you’ve done already. The thing is: all of the above tips can help endear you to journalists and editors, but only if they know you are the source of the traffic. They could easily think it’s their own snappy headline or compelling prose that is doing the trick. And it may well be, but if your efforts help, they should know about it.
Then, follow the journalist or editor on Twitter. Connect with them on LinkedIn, and as you continue to promote the story like crazy, they will notice.
Publications live and die by traffic these days. If a journalist knows he or she can count on you to drive traffic, you will become a trusted, go-to source.
6. Wear out your welcome.
There’s a fine line between following a journalist and becoming a nuisance. Heck, if you go too far, you’ll seem more like a stalker than a trusted content partner.
The biggest mistake most PR pros make after getting coverage is targeting that journalist with every single press release and story pitch they work on.
Even entire agencies make this mistake, in fact. I’ve had the experience of covering an agency’s client only to later have every single PR rep in the shop start pitching me on every single client they have.
I’ve even had them pitch me things they know I do not cover. This is verbatim from an actual pitch. “I know you don’t tend to cover kids’ fashion accessories, but I thought I’d run this past you just in case.”
I responded by saying, as politely as possible, “Don’t send me this crap.”
“Well, I figured it couldn’t hurt.”
Oh, how wrong you are. It can hurt – a lot.
Here’s the hurt: you’ve blown your chance to be a trusted, go-to source. Being a trusted source means I trust you not to send me crap, not to flood my inbox with pitches for stuff I never, ever cover and not to send me every last story idea that pops into your mind.
7. Take a negative tone in comments.
Despite the bastardization of the term “balanced” in the media, most journalists do their best to be balanced. That means not every single word about your company will necessarily be positive. We may have reservations about some aspect of your product, be skeptical about your market positioning, or doubt that you can knock off the incumbent as easily as you claim.
That’s natural. If you want true believers, form a cult not a tech company. Or go join Apple to have the best of both worlds.
Similarly, commenters may come in – and some may be plants for rivals – saying negative things about your company. The mistake many companies make is to go ballistic the minute anyone makes a negative comment.
Responding is the right thing to do, but not if you can’t keep your emotions in check. Losing your cool makes you look like a thin-skinned lunatic. Stay calm. Be measured. Be informative. Lay out your evidence and invite scrutiny. Then, the other person will look like the ass, and you’ll win the argument simply by keeping your cool. If you have to yell and gesticulate wildly to get your point across, I will assume that the evidence isn’t strong enough to do it for you.
8. Think of this as a one-off project.
Publicity and marketing are journeys, not destinations. Don’t expect to get great coverage and publicity once and be done with it. You need to work on it each and every day.
Marketing and PR, after all, account for forty to fifty percent of your sales funnel, if not more. In fact, the early stages of the sales funnel (raising awareness, deepening interest and leading prospects through to an evaluation phase) are exclusively about publicity and marketing.
Of course, this sort of marketing involves a heck of a lot more than engaging with the press. Leveraging press coverage is great for awareness, interest and engagement, less so for evaluation. However, if press coverage raises awareness enough, you can then direct prospects who are doing a little research after reading the story to white papers, case studies and testimonials.
And, of course, later in the process, when prospects are making their final decisions, press coverage helps with validation. If others say positive things about you, if you generate tons of coverage, then prospects will feel safe in their choice to trust you.
However, in order to achieve trust, you need to create valuable content for every stage of the sales funnel. And you must keep your content fresh. You need to engage with your larger industry and your prospects’ pain points, and you need to continually reinforce whatever trust you’ve already built up.
If your content consistently delivers value and helps your prospects solve or even think through their problems, you will build up enough trust that buying from you will feel inevitable. To some prospects, it may even feel like a “thank you” for all you’ve done for them already.
And if your marketing and PR efforts have gone smoothly to this point, it will feel like the beginning of a beneficial relationship, which is exactly what you want if you want your business to be sustainable.