Ben Ready is Managing Director of RG Communications. He has been a journalist and communications professional for nearly 20 years.
Media publicity is not terribly difficult – in theory. In practice it is incredibly complex and nuanced, which is why their is now entire industry built around it. As I have explained previously, there is a vast difference between media publicity and public relations. While both attempt to influence awareness, understanding and perception, they serve a different purpose and require vastly different approaches. In it’s simplest form, a media publicity campaign is about getting your brand, product or service in front of potential customers. It has always been my experience that while many clients talk about wanting ‘public relations’, what they really want is to see their name in the paper (for doing good things). Public relations on the other hand is largely concerned with managing the perceptions of complex publics, of which media is just one. While entire books have been written on public relations theory, very few writers have definitively addressed effective publicity strategies. Over many years of developing, refining and implementing effective strategies I have learnt that the only three things that matter are your Content, Contacts and Cadence. To keep the alliterative theme going, it is the what, the who and when. Content (What) Your content is your story and is the starting point for any publicity strategy. Without an engaging story, your contacts and cadence are irrelevant. Developing a strong narrative (or narrative series) is where you need to invest the greatest amount of time and resources. Unfortunately it is more art than science, which is why developing a good narrative is largely intuitive and takes many years of experience to do effectively. In a newsroom it’s called ‘news sense’, in the content marketing space it is called ‘story telling’, we call them opportunities. The key to developing great opportunities for publicity is to take yourself out of the story and concentrate on the needs of your audience. Simply stacking up your marketing messages into a pile is not creating a story, that is advertising. Ask yourself some simple questions:
Why is this story interesting?
What value is there for the audience?
Is it ‘news’ or ‘marketing’?
Who does this impact?
Contacts (Who) Your contacts are your target audience. In media publicity, it is the journalists, influencers and gatekeepers who control what appears in the media. It can be contacts in the traditional sense of people you know and have established relationships with or it can be people you haven’t dealt with previously. It is important to have a clear understanding of who your target audience is and then work backwards to find they media they consume, and the gatekeepers who decide what they consume. The first priority should be to establish and build relationships with people who may be covering your company or organisation on a regular basis. The easiest way to build relationships is to provide contacts with a steady stream of good stories. The easiest way to break their trust is to pitch them crap (highlighting the importance of content). It is important to establish and maintain wide databases of RELEVANT media. Cadence (When) Cadence is the regularity by which you target the media. You can execute opportunities too often, or not often enough; getting the balance right is difficult. The regularity of opportunity execution should always depend on the quality of your content, not the schedule in your planner. Setting up a schedule to release something on the third Thursday of every month often leads to missing great opportunities which happen at other times while using content that is not suitable, just because it is in a schedule. The best news (content) should be released when it happens. The longer you wait the less newsworthy it becomes. be prepared to be flexible and responsive to opportunities as they emerge and don’t let yourself be restricted by an arbitrary schedule. There are many different names for each of these aspects of a media publicity strategy. Regardless of what you call them, understanding them and finding solutions is the only strategy you will ever ned for getting yourself in the paper.