The Two Most Effective Media Relations Tactics for 2013

You want more publicity, don’t you? Whether it’s for yourself, your organization, or the clients you represent, more publicity is a good thing. For many of us, it’s what attracted us to media relations in the first place. It was pure magic the first time I read an article in print that was the result of a story I pitched. In this post, I’ll share what I believe to be the two most effective media relations tactics for 2013 (hint: it’s all about inbound and real-time).

Before I get to the two most effective media relations tactics for 2013, let’s agree that the smile-and-dial approach doesn’t work anymore.  In the example I shared above, I used the ‘smile and dial’ approach to land that first placement. Back then, if you called enough reporters, you would eventually find a couple willing to listen to your pitch – and perhaps one or two that would write a story. When I think back to what I was actually doing, I was interrupting busy journalists with pitches that probably had nothing to do with the stories they wrote about on a daily basis. While I’ve long since learned my lessons (and taken my fair share of tongue lashings from irritated journalists), I worry about the young professionals who are still calling down a media list trying to get anybody to write about the story they’re pitching. It’s wrong and it gives the PR profession a bad name – even if media relations is only a small subset of all the elements of public relations (for you purists out there).

It’s my intention with this post to introduce you to a new, more effective approach to media relations that are far more effective over the long term. If you’re patient enough to follow this prescription I’m about to write out for you, I guarantee you’ll generate more publicity than you ever did smiling and dialing. The question is, are you willing to do the work that’s required to get you there, or will you continue to resort to outdated tactics that weaken your relationships with the media?

For starters, the media environment – and therefore the media relations environment – is 24/7 today. It’s real-time and always on. If you work in media relations today, you have to be always on as well. There are two major approaches to media relations that work well in today’s 24/7 news environment: inbound media relations and real-time media relations. Here’s my breakdown of each. Hands down, these two tactical approaches to media relations are the most effective approaches ever developed. When carefully executed, they will yield the results you’re looking for. I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments below.

Inbound Media Relations

I hope by now that you’re familiar with inbound marketing, a term coined by HubSpot, referring to a fundamental shift away from interruption-based marketing tactics (like telemarketing or direct mail) to inbound or “pull” based marketing tactics that attract interested audiences to your marketing messages. A good example of inbound marketing is a blog jam-packed with useful information your prospects and other target audiences want to read. The magic of inbound marketing is that when interested target audiences are looking for you – that is, they’re ready to research a product or service or ready to buy it, they find YOU.

With media relations, you can adopt the same approach for reaching journalists and bloggers. If you build a news blog for example and treat it as your owned media channel, you can publish your news on a regular basis. You can showcase your expertise and build an audience around your content without the support of the media. You are the media in this example. An interesting thing happens when you do this well – you actually attract journalists and bloggers to your content, and they’ll often want to interview you or quote you in their stories (without you having to pitch them). This is nirvana for a media relations professional. So how can you do it? Here are a few steps to consider:

1. Make a list of all the stories you have to tell – the stuff you wish journalists would write about

2. Put your journalist hat on and write the stories yourself – use the inverted pyramid style of writing and answer the questions who, what, why, when, where, and how in your first couple of paragraphs

3. Do keyword research – and consider writing posts related to what your target audiences are searching for

4. Balance your blog content – between what people are searching for and what you want to communicate – make your mission in life to be the best blog on the subject matter most important to your organization’s business; this is the stuff you should know the most about

5. Write about it frequently – good inbound media relations are about quality and quantity; of course, you have to be relevant too – I’ll assume you can be if you follow the rules above

6. Monitor, measure, and learn from your audience – they’ll love some of your content, and they’ll hate some of it – write more of the stuff they love. Also, take note of the things your readers search for to find your content (Google Analytics will help you here). Write more of that stuff. Also, take note of the stuff they’re searching for (or commenting about) that you haven’t written about yet (Google Site Search via Google Analytics, or monitoring your blog comments is your #1 resource here)

7. Continue to build your audience – through subscriptions and a high level of “touch” across your community.

8. Make it easy for journalists and bloggers to reach you – make it easy to request interviews and quotes and to include you in their stories. If you follow the tips above, you’ll quickly be generating publicity opportunities without having to pitch to another journalist again.

I know, I know, it sounds like pie in the sky. Don’t I realize you’ve got to have something to show in this month’s status report? Yes, I realize you don’t have the luxury of time to adapt this approach to your current media relations programs. I also believe if you work this approach into your current efforts over time, that you’ll gradually be able to transition from interruption-based media relations to inbound media relations. What do you have to lose? It works… just ask all the inbound marketers out there. You know, the ones you read about in the stories you should have been included in.

If you want to be a master of inbound media relations, subscribe to the content provided by companies like HubSpot and Pardot. If you’re open to learning new things, these companies will teach you everything you need to know about attracting more people to your content – and helping you escape the trap of tried and true interruption-based media relations tactics.

Real-Time Media Relations

Real-time media relations is the most exciting area of media relations at the moment. It requires less patience than my inbound media relations suggestion above, but it also requires a lot more work. You have to be tuned in to everything going on in the media world in real time. Real-time media relations – also referred to as real-time PR or “newsjacking” – is the process of inserting your spokespeople or proactive story ideas into the news cycle. David Meerman Scott, one of my favorite marketing experts, has been writing a lot on this subject lately. I strongly suggest that you subscribe to and read the information David is writing about. I also encourage you to read his books if you haven’t already. His latest focuses on this topic and will quickly get you up to speed on far more insights than I can communicate in this section of my post.

That said, here are some quick tips for starting to think in terms of real-time media relations.

1. What are the top news sources in your industry – that is, the outlets that reach the highest concentration of your target audiences?

2. What are the top topics you can speak about? Start thinking about the news events that create an opportunity for you to comment. If you work for a document shredding company, you’ll want to be on high alert for stories about consumer personal information falling into the wrong hands or stories related to identity theft. If you work for an accounting firm, any changes to the tax code or seasonal tax-related events create publicity opportunities for your spokespeople to comment on.

3. Have a contact list prepared – have a target list on-hand for all the top media outlets you care about – consider reaching out to these organizations in advance to get on their radar. Using the suggestion above, let the local news station know about your identity theft expert. If a story about identity theft comes up, your spokesperson is available to head over to the station on short notice to be interviewed on tonight’s newscast.

4. Follow the inbound media relations tips above and write your own stories about these topics. You can use these posts as background on your experts when a story breaks. Rather than writing out the entire pitch, you can simply share a link to the post and offer to have your expert available for immediate comment.

5. Take things a step further – prepare some media responses in advance. If you suspect certain types of stories will happen – hail storms for roofers, plummeting or rising interest rates for mortgage lenders, family vacations for fuel-efficient vehicles, etc. – prepare your responses or sound bites in advance to help journalists evaluate the quality of the sources you have available.

6. Leverage crisis planning preparation for proactive news angle development – think of all the possible types of stories you might see on the evening news that could create an opportunity for your spokespeople to comment. Then be prepared in advance with pitches and a response plan that enables your after-hours staff to quickly capitalize on stories as they’re breaking.

7. Be adaptive to the unexpected – you can’t plan for everything. Work to be the most nimble organization you can be when it comes to working with the media. A great recent example can be found in Oreo’s response to the power outage during this year’s Super Bowl. Read David Meerman Scott’s summary of the events here. It’s a great example of how brands can capitalize on breaking news to score publicity and brand love. Would you have thought a power outage could be an opportunity to generate publicity for cookies? That’s the real-time media relations game.

In Conclusion

Inbound media relations and real-time media relations are the two most-effective tactics for generating significant publicity results for yourself, your organization, or the clients you represent today. Please sound off on the strategies and tactics you use to generate publicity today – or back me up on why these two tactics should be at the top of any public relations program in 2013.

 What do you think? Is inbound media relations worth the effort required to make it work? Are real-time media relations effective for unknown brands and spokespeople, or only the big guys? What other tactics do you find effective? Am I wrong about “smiling and dialing”? I want to hear your thoughts. Thanks for reading!

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