Media TrendsPublic Relations

Stop the Interruption: Push Versus Pull-in Media Relations

Got a second? Is this a good time for you? If I called you and asked you to read this blog post right now, chances are the timing wouldn’t be right for you. If on the other hand you discovered this post on your own terms and decided it was a good time to read it, I would have a much better chance at having your undivided attention. This is the difference between a push versus pull approach to your communications efforts.

While this is a topic I’ve been thinking about a lot over the past couple of years, I have to give a nod to HubSpot for introducing me to the term Interruption Marketing, though others coined the term before them. HubSpot is in the inbound marketing business, or as I like to put it, they help you get the most out of your content to pull prospects to you.

The following post details the differences between an interruption (push) or inbound (pull) approach to media relations, and why I think the latter is more effective at generating sustainable results for your public relations investment.

Push Media Relations

Back to public relations – more specifically media relations – there are two general approaches to working with the media. The first and most common is what I call the push media relations approach. You build a media target list, write a dazzling news release filled with gobbledygook and jargon, write a snazzy pitch, and proceed to interrupt every journalist you can with a mass assault of email, fax, phone, and voicemail messages. This approach doesn’t work anymore. It most often results in a lot of “attempts” on the status report, with little tangible results to show for your effort. Stop begging for coverage, it doesn’t work.

Pull Media Relations

I believe there is a better way, the second option, which I refer to as the pull media relations approach. Journalists are looking for good information all the time. They’re looking for you, you just have to make it easy for them to find you. In survey after survey, journalists admit to using search engines (Google, Yahoo), blog search engines (Technorati, Google Blog Search), Wikipedia, and corporate websites to research stories and find information. The more information you have, and the easier you make it for them to find, the better your chance of pulling them into your story. And let’s face it, if your story were that good, they’d be writing about you already and you wouldn’t need the push approach. This requires you to focus the same level of resources you used to reserve for interruption on the ongoing development of compelling, relevant content. It also requires a dedicated effort to search engine optimization, blogging, and social media. Invest in these areas and watch your awareness, publicity, and website traffic levels soar.

When Push Works

There are some instances where push (interruption) is merited. For starters, it’s always appropriate to provide feedback or useful information in response to a journalist’s story. They’re not writing in a vacuum and are genuinely interested in what readers have to say. This doesn’t mean you should post a self-serving comment like, “Hey bozo, you left us out of your story” and then proceed to link to your site. I’m talking about genuine feedback based on your knowledge and expertise surrounding the topic at hand. If it’s relevant to you, you should be genuinely interested. If you’re not, you’re just setting yourself up for failure.

A second example of when push is appropriate is when you’re just getting started. Let’s say you’re a startup or you’ve just taken a new communications role in your company (or you’re working with a new client in your agency). It’s appropriate to contact journalists covering your beat to introduce yourself. Provide them with some brief information on what you have to offer and leave it at that. Build a relationship with the journalist when you don’t need them to write a story, it just might pay dividends in the future. An interesting thing happens when you approach push this way – many journalists will start following what you’re up to. They’ll subscribe to your RSS feeds, opt-in for your news, and follow you on Twitter. Which is what the pull approach is all about.

Beyond Push and Pull

Beyond making it easy for journalists to discover your content, and moving beyond your shotgun approach to media relations, you should provide the same level of interactivity you would with your sales prospects on your website and blog. Think “call to action” on your online resources for journalists. Anticipate their needs and be proactive. Some examples of this include:

  • Provide RSS subscription options to your newsroom – let them customize their feed based on what they’re interested in
  • Provide an opt-in email subscription option for your press releases – 90% of journalists prefer email
  • Don’t just provide a static press kit, regularly update your media resources with new images, updated milestones, and reporter-only briefs of what’s going on
  • Make it easy for journalists to contact you at any time – provide your after-hours number, your Twitter handles, and email address for your entire communications team (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen press rooms with no media contacts listed)
  • Enable journalists to comment in your press room – let them post public questions or share feedback on your news
  • Provide multimedia – recorded webcasts and executive presentations are great tools for demonstrating the competency of your experts
  • Suggest story angles journalists should consider you for – this “story starter” approach is very successful at getting reporters to request an interview
  • Do you have a lot of different products or stories you’d like covered? Why not use landing pages to focus your information around a specific topic?
  • Finally, let them request interviews directly with your spokespeople – consider adding an appointment booking widget to your newsroom

The bottom line, no form of interruption marketing or advertising is as effective as an inbound approach. You need to think about how journalists search for information and make sure they find you in a couple of clicks. Don’t leave the media out of your target audience discussions for your website or search engine marketing plans, they are as important as prospective customers or investors. When you make this shift, you’ll be amazed by the quality and quantity of publicity opportunities.

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