Better organize your announcements and media contacts, make the “news” easy to find and stick to business etiquette; pro PR tips
About a year ago I started writing a monthly summary of PR technology news. The idea grew out a survey of communications professionals where I was struck by how little news and coverage there was about technology for the PR community.
It’s been an eye-opening experience. It’s a lot of work to gather up all the information – most of the good stuff isn’t being pitched – and the vendors don’t make it easy. Most do a good job organizing features and functions for their products, but when it comes to curating information for reporters or bloggers, it gets messy and cumbersome.
Some of this is a natural outgrowth of age. As companies get older, they accumulate, announcements, transactions and history. I’ve kept notes about all of the things that make it harder than it needs to be. It makes a nice checklist for any organization – not just for PR tech vendors – to review periodically and see you could make it easier for a third party to cover your company.
1. Make the “news” easy to find.
Many websites mix news, content and marketing. No reporter or blogger wants to wade through all the content that’s been mashed together to find “the news.” A better approach is to host a dedicated online newsroom just for news and keep it separate from all other content.
It’s good to showcase third-party coverage in your newsroom – what you do with our coverage is just as important as earning it in the first place – but do it under a separate tab. Don’t mix up coverage with your press releases.
Resources that generally go with an online newsroom include press releases, announcements, statements, letters to investors, company FAQs, a brief history, funding rounds (if a startup), logos, photos and headshots. There may be a place for including social media. Here’s an example of an interesting way to include social elements from Instagram (or other sites) selectively.
- Post HTML versions of your press releases – not just PDFs;
- Create a separate RSS feed for your newsroom that carries just news;
- Offer reporters a way to sign up for distribution lists that send just for news; and
- An online newsroom also gives you a platform to rapidly standup a crisis communications response.
2. Make sure your media contacts are easy to find.
It’s frustrating for writers to fish around for someone to field a question. Make your media contacts easy to find. A best practice here is to use a distribution email that goes to a PR team, including agency contacts (i.e. firstname.lastname@example.org). You build in redundancy that way and ensure you don’t miss something.
A secondary benefit of a distribution email for media is you can put it on your press releases. That way, you’ll always have updated contact information even if your PR contacts change in the future.
3. Put datelines and bylines on blogs.
Many companies use their blogs to complement or supplement announcements. If done well, it can be a good approach as part of an overall content strategy. You might tell a good story about a customer to go with a new product for example.
This can be useful for reporting too, but only if you can discern who wrote it and when. This provides context and may lead to additional interviews. Put bylines and datelines on your blog posts and content. Make sure there’s a separate subscription service for your blog that’s different than news.
Should you or shouldn't you put a date blog posts when you publish them? Please answer the survey question and feel free to comment why or why not in the thread.#blogs #bloggers #publicrelations #contentmarketing #content
— Frank Strong 🤘🏻✒️🗡 (@Frank_Strong) February 15, 2020
4. Replace the jargon with plain language.
The jargon and superlatives in use today are mind-numbing. This is a long-standing complaint among reporters, so it’s not new, but it bears repeating. Jargon doesn’t make you look smart or different or better. Traditionally your audience just doesn’t know what the heck you’re saying and lose interest. Today I think it’s also making all the tech companies sound the same; a sea of sameness.
If you speak in plain language, you’ll stand out, and you’ll probably get more coverage. Take any press release, eliminate the jargon, positioning statements and drop adverbs and adjectives, and you’ll be a lot closer to copy that resonates.
5. Say something that matters with executive quotes.
Executives that say they are “excited” or “very pleased” or “we’re the best” in an announcement aren’t adding any value. These are just empty words that no one can relate to outside the company. Do you think the media cares that you are pleased with yourself? What about your customers…do you think they care if you are very excited? A company exists to please customers, not the other way around. I know it’s hard to steer an executive clear of this stuff – but one approach is to have a real 15-minute conversation about what the announcement means and work that into a quote. Push back – tactfully – on your leadership to provide answers, analysis, context and perspective.
6. Use multimedia in your announcements.
I marvel at the PR technology vendors with blog posts espousing the virtues of using images, graphics, and multimedia in press releases – and then don’t follow their own advice. A picture really is worth a thousand words. Press releases don’t help with SEO anymore, but there’s a pile of studies that show press releases with multimedia are viewed more, for longer and facilitate coverage.
7. Be responsive to inquiries.
If you get an inquiry, you need to respond in a timely fashion. If you don’t respond two things will happen: the piece gets abandoned (but only if it could have been a good news story) or the writer will just fill in the gaps with other sources.
- Writers at smaller publications often go on to write for large ones later;
- Small sites tend to be stepping stones to bigger ones;
- Any link on the web can go viral at any given moment; and
- Not responding doesn’t mean something won’t be written – you just lose your chance to shape it.
8. Stick to business etiquette.
You can’t go wrong being professional in exchanges, in email, on the phone, or in social. I tend to find the best approach is “business casual” – that is conversational but not too uptight. Here are a few things that usually don’t go over well:
- Being too familiar (“hey buddy!”);
- Being overly friendly (“if you ever just want to chat”);
- Gushing with compliments (“I love what you do!”);
- Contemptuous insistence (“I know you write about apples, but why can’t you see my tool about fire hydrants is clearly a fit!”);
9. Don’t send unsolicited embargoes and exclusives.
Too many companies try to use embargoes and exclusives as a ploy for scarcity, urgency and inside information to pump up mediocre announcements. Don’t do it. Every reporter sees right through it. Save those approaches for when you have a truly remarkable announcement. And keep in mind, slapping the word “embargoed” on a document doesn’t compel anyone to abide by it. You have to get the reporter’s agreement first.
I keep getting pitches with unsolicited "embargoes" and I find it so odd. You sent it to me and I didn't agree to anything. Please #PR and #journalist friends, weigh in on this: Are embargoed pitches useful?
— Frank Strong 🤘🏻✒️🗡 (@Frank_Strong) April 29, 2020
10. When you do get coverage, reach out.
Over my career, whenever someone mentioned an employer or a client in a post or article, I tried to be diligent in reaching out to the writer. I’m especially talking about those passive mentions you’re lucky enough to earn. I’d say thanks without asking for anything else, pass along contact information, and then add them to my list with a note reminding me of how I found them. More often than not, that would lead to additional coverage over time.
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Nothing ever guarantees coverage – that’s why they call it earned media. But assigning someone to pull out all the stops and make your company easier to cover will certainly improve your chances.
What tips would you offer?
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