This post was first published by James Gerber on March Communications’ blog PR Nonsense.
Far too often, companies believe that they are entitled to media coverage. Even when no message seems to be resonating, executives often try to find undeniable reasons why they should be receiving regular pieces of coverage in the highest tier outlets – places like the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg TV or even new school outlets like Mashable.
Maybe your company makes a supremely cool product. After all, if your product is innovative and has features that the market hasn’t seen before, the media will surely be interested, right? Maybe you regularly speak in front of audiences in the hundreds or perhaps even thousands. That would seem to be worthy of being covered in the press. Your products or business could have won prestigious awards. You may have had a great piece of press coverage early on or you have $X million (or billion) in revenues. So why is it so hard now?At our agency, we’ve heard all of these questions before. There is a tendency for executives’ myopic views on their businesses and products to cloud objective reasoning. They get stuck in the “Executive Echo Chamber”, where all of the praise and recognition they’ve received becomes a self-reinforcing loop that ultimately makes them believe they deserve the very best coverage without the tremendous amount of effort it takes to achieve it.
The truth is that media recognition is always earned… and it’s getting harder than ever to earn it.
Escaping the Echo Chamber
Reality check time: in the U.S., there are roughly six million businesses. Not all of those businesses are competing directly with yours for media coverage. Many might not even have PR functions or agencies helping them engage with external audiences. But you can bet that all are striving to gain mindshare. Thousands of people in an industry may follow a certain executive closely and turn up to see them speak, but journalists are jaded and nearly every company that they would consider covering can tell a similar story.
Let’s take a closer look at the gatekeepers. Currently, there are 57,000 full-time journalists employed in the U.S. Simple math shows that there are over 100 companies per journalist. That doesn’t sound so insurmountable, until you consider that the highest value targets for many companies, top tier business media outlets, only number in the dozens and employ perhaps several hundred journalists. Several hundred journalists who receive hundreds of pitches each day.
Even the most interesting announcements face an uphill battle to reach mainstream audiences. The truth is that even the developments that would normally pique the interest of top tier outlets may not garner coverage. Perhaps a reporter covered a similar story a couple of days before, or maybe there was breaking news that took precedence. Timing is everything.
Are Your Pitches Selfies?
Timing isn’t something you can always control, but being audience-centric, on the other hand, is. At SiriusDecisions Summit 2014, Marisa Kopec spoke about the need for brands to stop producing “selfie-style content”. I’d argue this applies to PR too.
Although every announcement or pitch will in some way revolve around a business or its products, whenever a company or a PR agency is reaching out to a journalist, it’s important to think about who that journalist’s audience is and how the news benefits them.
When a company and its representatives start focusing on an outlet’s specific audience and tailor the message to focus on the benefits the audience will get out of hearing a company or spokesperson’s news and views, they have a significantly higher chance of success. For a particular story, if there are no benefits for a given audience, take the story elsewhere and find the right audience. It may not be the business press, but the groundswell of coverage that your company achieves by taking this approach may just carry you there.