To many, media relations is as perplexing as complex algorithms. Some are so skeptical, they view practitioners as snake oil salespeople. To demystify the practice, let’s walk through some common misperceptions. To first ground us, let’s start with a definition. Per Wikipedia, “Media relations involves working with media for the purpose of informing the public of an organization’s mission, policies and practices in a positive, consistent and credible manner.” Now on to what media relations does not equal …
Media Relations ≠Public Relations
The Public Relations Society of America describes public relations as “… a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” Public relations is comprised of several areas, such as the following: community relations, employee relations, event promotion, investor relations and public affairs. Content creation, sponsorships and speaking engagements can also fall in the realm of public relations. The bottom line: public relations is not just media relations. It’s much more.
Media Relations ≠ Advertising
By pitching a story idea to the media, practitioners are able to secure earned media. The earned media could be a print or online article, TV or radio interview/segment or a blog post. This earned media is not an advertisement. An advertisement is paid for by the company or brand and guaranteed. The beauty of media relations is the third party credibility conveyed to your company. Ask yourself: do you put more stock in flashy advertisements or an article you read from a credible news source? However, coverage secured via media relations is not guaranteed as it is at the discretion of the reporter and/or editor regarding if, when and how the news is covered.
Media Relations ≠Free
This is where folks get confused. Per my section above, earned media isn’t paid media. In fact, don’t ever offer journalists money. But, the myriad tactics required to secure earned media aren’t free. Sound media relations requires strategic thinking, creative ideas, outreach and follow-up – all of this takes time. Lots of time. And time in media relations is how practitioners earn a living. Also, there are many tactics such as media tours, mailings, spokesperson out-of-pocket costs, media events, etc. that may be costly. In short, you don’t pay for the placement itself but the work that goes into securing the placement. With the exorbitant cost of advertising, you almost always come out ahead with media relations (and the credibility factor is honestly priceless).
Media Relations ≠ Press Release
A press release is one vehicle to inform the media of company news (e.g., a new product, an event, an opening, etc.). However, a well-crafted media relations strategy should include a pitch angle to accompany the press release that gives the journalist you are pitching context and/or the “so what” to the news and/or information that places your company’s news within a larger story. Some of my best media placements have been secured without a press release at all, but rather a crafty [email] pitch letter. Side note: Creating a press release when there isn’t news or simply posting a press release on a wire site (unless you’re just doing it for web reasons) will not earn your company quality news placements.
Now that you understand the “equation” of media relations (media relations = awareness and credibility for your brand or company), I hope you reach out to the team here at Pivot PR when you need some strategic media relations support!
A recent survey by the Consumer Executive Board (CEB) of 1,900 corporate decision makers found that buyers are, at a minimum, 57 percent of the way through the buying process before they contact a potential supplier. Some respondents reported being as much as 70 percent complete with the decision-making process before reaching out to a vendor. What does this mean for you? If your company is one that continues to solely pump out case studies and product literature, you’re missing your opportunity to actually influence and/or connect with your buyer. Yes – we live in a culture of “selfie” photos and can even subconsciously become focused on ourselves, our products and our business. To survive, you must be buyer-centric versus company-centric. (To really make my point, let me ask you this — do you unfollow the person that exclusively posts selfies?)
There are multiple guides, books and webinars out there that detail how to map the buyer journey and then align content and communications channels with that journey. There isn’t enough room in this blog to detail the full process. But, I hope this post can serve as a catalyst for you to explore your content strategy. Here’s your gut check. I’ve included below a couple of examples of the type of content that would be appropriate for each phase of the buyer journey. Keep in mind that the vehicles can cross over between phases; this is just a loose guide. Do you have any content listed in the awareness and consideration phases below? If your answer is “no” or “sort of,” please take action ASAP. If you’re already well on your way but are struggling with content ideas, check out Buzzsumo to see what content is trending for a topic or domain.
- White paper
- Editorial article
- Email newsletter
- White paper (solution comparison)
- Vendor/product comparison
- Case study
- Trial/software download
- Product literature
It’s okay to have some “selfies”; just be sure to insert some group, community or lifestyle photos too. The good news is that there are plenty of resources out there to guide you through this process. And, even better news, your friends at Pivot PR do somersaults of excitement over this entire process – from buyer persona creation and buyer journey mapping all the way down to creating the content. Always feel free to reach out for our help.
Based on our experiences in the corporate world, we’ve found that the fire drills and hustle and bustle that keep you crazed during the year tend to slow down in the summer. After you take a vacation or two, be sure to use the time to clean house and get things in order so that you’re ready to go full force again in the fall.
1. Message Strategy: If someone asked you for your elevator pitch in an actual elevator, would you have the perfect 15-second answer? Would your co-worker have the same response? What about your website copy, marketing collateral or sales presentations? Are those pieces littered with industry jargon? Can you explain why you are really different or do you sound just like all of your competitors? One of the first things we do with our clients is to conduct deep-dive interactive sessions to develop buyer personas and the corresponding message strategy. This exercise forces an organization to rethink its positioning, key messages, supporting points and the right answers for those tough questions.
2. Editorial & Content Calendars: Have you pulled the latest editorial calendars of your most targeted media outlets? Whether it’s a long-lead trade or consumer publication, be sure to plan ahead or you’ll miss out! Also, don’t forget about that list of awards you’ve been meaning to expand (or the award to which you’ve been wanting to apply). Once completed with this work, create your annual content calendar to align with your media opportunities.
3. Media List Refresh: Is your media list all-inclusive and up-to-date? Doubt it. If you aren’t subscribing to a media database, you’ll need to roll up your sleeves and take the time to research online and/or pick up the phone and cross-check your contacts. Keep in mind: news rooms have a revolving door. If you updated a list a month ago even, it’s probably already outdated.
4. Monitoring: We at Pivot recommend regularly monitoring industry news so you can stay up-to-date on topics that matter the most. You can use Muck Rack to see previous articles written by journalists for free.
5. Crisis Planning: Although some organizations are more susceptible to crisis than others, every business has the potential for a crisis situation. Be sure to think through the most common scenarios and plan your communications thoroughly both internally and externally. Crisis communications is absolutely the last place you want to wing.
Of course you know you should be doing all of the above, but the question is are you really going to? If you need experts who can take all of this work off of your hands, Pivot PR is here to help!
As most of you have probably noticed, we at Pivot PR have turned the tables on journalists and interviewed several highly influential media figures in Charlotte over the past year. We’ve spoken to folks in television, print, radio and online (including bloggers). Heck, we even interviewed the mayor! Why? Because relationships matter. And, the media landscape is changing so quickly, media list services like Cision can’t stay up-to-date.
So my question to you is, do you have a media list? Meaning, even if you crafted the perfect press release or pitch letter, or had an amazing story to tell, would you know who to send it to? It’s more difficult than one would think. Quick, who’s the leading beat reporter for your industry at The Charlotte Observer? Do you know the producer for WBTV’s 6 a.m. weekday show? How about the editor-in-chief for the hottest daily newsletter or blog in town?
If you’re not sure, don’t fret. We can help you target the right people to gain positive media coverage, ultimately driving awareness and new customers to your business. Keep in mind: creating media materials that don’t get coverage is a waste of your time, and bombarding the wrong journalists with your news will just get you blacklisted.
ShopTalk is The Charlotte Observer’s weekly small business section designed to educate and connect the Charlotte community. The print version is published every Wednesday, and in conjunction with its blog, can be found online here. To learn more here’s a Q&A we did with reporter Jonathan McFadden…
Thanks for meeting with us, Jonathan! Tell us more about your role with The Obsever, specfically ShopTalk. I am the reporter, I do a lot of writing, video and help to maintain the blog. I also help out by contributing to daily business stories. I’ve been at The Charlotte Observer for eight months now and I’m really enjoying it.
To you, what’s the main purpose of ShopTalk? I would say the purpose is to provide tools, give advice, and show what others are doing – either to replicate or to avoid.
I noticed you do conferences and after hours events. Can you elaborate? Yes. We’re responsible for all the planning of those, which keep us busy. We’re in charge of finding the venue, conducting rehearsals, moderating, and interviewing panelists beforehand to provide takeaways to attendees.
What should folks keep in mind while pitching you? I get a crazy amount of pitches a day. It’s hard to give specific criteria to use because I usually find something good in each pitch. Definitely make sure each pitch is personable and compelling. We get a ton of stuff outside of Charlotte, which we don’t want, so it doesn’t hurt to put Charlotte in the subject line. Also, don’t get frustrated if we don’t run with your story right away. You could very well be on my radar and we might do something down the line when it makes more sense or I could tie it to a bigger story.
What kind of stories to you personally enjoy doing? I love the rags to riches or struggle stories — ones that are born out of frustration are particularly interesting to me.
Define small business. SBA says 500 employees or less, but sometimes we make exceptions. Be ready to disclose revenue and, yes, we usually share that information because it’s relevant. It’s an indicator of your success and provides a metric to our readers.
What about the ShopTalk Blog? It’s great because print is once a week, so a daily blog allows us to cover many more stories than we could otherwise.
What issues would you like to write more about? I’m Interested in getting more into public policy issues for small business. There’s a lot happening in the state house regarding taxes. Hopefully we can tap into that a bit more in the future. The state of entrepreneurship is also of interest to me as there are behind the scenes things to consider. For example, getting capital is difficult here. I know people are working to change that.
Is there collaboration between ShopTalk and business beat reporters? I have a meeting every Monday morning with my editor, but everyone has their own sub-beats under the “business” umbrella. All-in-all there is a lot of communication with each other and we help each other out. It could be as simple as passing something along you know is appropriate for your colleague. With a really big story, there are times where everybody pitches in and helps out with it.
How do you conduct your research? My main sources are trade association reports, industry experts and online research; we also have a researcher on staff. Sometimes I use social media and the Better Business Bureau is helpful. I cast a wide net. It’s important to substantiate legitimacy of our sources.
What else should our readers know or do? Tell your story. I’ll get it out of you, but it’s helpful that when you know you’ve got something compelling, tell it! Don’t bury it. I understand there can be things you don’t want out there, a tragedy or something horrible that has happened to you, but others can learn from it! I want the story behind the story. If you’re working with a public relations agency, make sure they drive it home too. Don’t use industry jargon. Also don’t forget to follow me on Twitter! @JmcfaddenObsBiz
A special thanks to Ted Williams for this article in Charlotte Agenda….
As a digital media guy, I was invited to a special “media event” before the Ritz opened the Punch Room Room (outstanding spot, by the way). I looked around the room on the 18th floor and noticed a bunch of people that didn’t look like traditional media people. I was the nerdiest one there (I constantly tuck in my shirt and wear a Brooks Brothers non-iron).
I thought Heidi (amazing lady that runs the Ritz’s Sales and Marketing team) made a mistake along with her PR agency by not inviting media folks.
Then it hit me. How does the Ritz Punch Room audience consume media? In nerd talk, what media influences this target audience’s discretionary spending? It’s Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, etc. I’m not cool enough to snapchat, but I cyber stalked many of the attendees on Instagram. Sure enough, they had large, engaged followings.
Communications is getting it’s face ripped off. The change is intense. The opportunity is intense.
This doesn’t mean that traditional media awareness and coverage is ineffective. You’ll rarely find a person who believes more in the power of print or long form video than I. But, it does mean that communications will become a priority for senior management teams.
In my opinion, Charlotte PR firms are pivoting and will continue to pivot. Don’t be fooled, this is a huge market because business owners, GMs and marketing directors need partners to help them navigate the new media world and find their authentic voice (sounds like cheesy marketing speak, but it’s true).
Leader: Drew Porcello, President/CEO
Key Clients: Wolfgang Puck Pizza Bar, AvidXchange, Le Meridien
Stats: <10 employees | LinkedIn | Site
Special thanks to Abby Miressi, who wrote a great piece on Pivot PR found here.
Thanks for meeting with us, Rick! So you’ve been with Charlotte magazine since 1995. Tell us about your journey to publisher. At that point we were more or less a new magazine. We had just purchased the name Charlotte magazine and that was pretty much it – we started over from scratch. Essentially, I was the guy that did the stuff that needed to be done. I went from editorial assistant to assistant editor to associate editor all before first issue. I was on the editorial side for 18 years—15 as editor—before moving to publisher in January 2013.
Do you like editorial or publishing better? They are very different and I enjoy them both. It’s pretty rare to go into the business side with that much experience in editorial. The role is usually filled from the sales side. When the opportunity was presented to me, I asked a colleague at another city magazine (who had gone from editor to publisher) and he said, “It’s all one hat. Just think about the long term vision of the magazine.”
What is your long term vision for the magazine? We will continue to find ways to grow and connect with our audience, and continue to do what we do, but do it even better. It’s important for us to have a direct relationship with our audience and cultivate it through storytelling. From an advertising perspective, we’re selling exclusive access to our audience, and it’s exciting because some of those opportunities don’t even exist yet. Just think about what we’re doing now that didn’t even exist five years ago. The important thing for us to always keep in mind is why we’re doing it in the first place.
How have things changed given the technology and social media aspect of publishing? We’re doing a whole lot more, and we’re doing it faster. Even three years ago all you could really do was buy an ad. Now you can sponsor an event, sponsor our newsletter, advertise on our website, create a social campaign, etc. There are a lot of different ways to connect with people. All are content-based but each has to be rooted in connecting with our audience so we ensure we’re serving the reader.
We were an early adopter of Twitter. Events have become popular. Our Best of the Best (BOB Awards) event has grown by 100 people each year over the past several years – 750 came last year. The Charlottean of the Year Award (which debuted in December 2014) came out of editorial. We did it because we saw a need to recognize the people that are making our city better, and we thought the city magazine should be the one to do it. We solicited nominations from the community and from community leaders then our editorial board made the final decision.
Tell us a little more about earned media opportunities available? I’ll be honest, when I was editor, a PR person said to me once, “You’re the hardest publication in the state to get into.” I took that as compliment. We work so hard to service our readers. We’re a monthly so there’s not a lot of space, and it’s not all that often a press release finds its way in our magazine. However, for example, if we’re doing a story on hamburgers and we receive a press release about a new restaurant specializing in burgers, it makes us aware and that restaurant may get included.
Securing placement in our magazine really takes an understanding of what we’re trying to do, who we’re trying to reach and the exact type of story we’re looking for. It’s helpful if someone external provides a different angle to an existing trend we’re covering. That’s because we really try to do stories that nobody else is doing and we don’t typically cover something that’s already been covered.
Understanding you’re a long lead magazine, how far out are you planning? Our April issue is going to print now and it was fully assigned 3-4 weeks ago. A lot of our features and longer pieces are over four months out. Our covers, at least the concepts, have been decided over a year in advance.
What about your blogs? Is there an opportunity to cover things you wouldn’t in print? Do they provide an opportunity to cover stories faster? Yes; our blogs are becoming more of the place where we can get out in front of things and be the first with news. Our bloggers get direct pitches. They are looking for content more often, but we make sure they’re quality. We try to take the time to interview folks and come up with interesting and unique angles. Those blog posts are the ones that get the most traffic.
Do you feel like you have competition? That depends on if you ask account reps or editorial staff! When you think about it, we’re really just competing for people’s time. We do things that no one else is doing, or in a very different manner, so we’re not worried as much about what our competition might do. We just do what we do.
Your mantra is connecting with readers so if you had one thing to tell them what would it be? We’re trying to create a great magazine experience. You will find things in our pages you won’t find anywhere else – online, social and print. Our stories are as good as or better than anything you’ll read in the country. That’s why they get picked up and shared nationally through publications like the New York Times and BuzzFeed.
We recently had a chance to sit down with Kevin Pitts, publisher of the Charlotte Business Journal. The focus was to get a better understanding of their awards programs: Advanced Manufacturing, 40 Under 40, Women in Business, Business Person of the Year, CIO of the Year, CFO of the Year and Healthiest Employer of the Year.
Thank you for meeting with us, Kevin. What is the CBJ’s goal when doing awards?
We want to be the provider of the most credible recognition. We want business people to think, “Of all the awards I qualify for in Charlotte, this is the one I want!” We also want to paint a picture of what success looks like, and share best practices.
I noticed that different programs require different selection processes. Tell us the reasoning for that.
You’re correct. All have different models. For example, 40 Under 40 and Women In Business are nomination driven. We crowd source nominations, then our newsroom will pull together all of that information and research, boil down and select the winners.
We do partner with a third party research company for programs like Best Places to Work. They develop a workplace engagement survey each year that measures employment engagement, then it goes through a modeling process, gives a score and ranks and indexes versus the best-of-best throughout the country. It’s not just local- that way we know where we compare on a national level.
The Advanced Manufacturing Awards are handled by an industry-specific judging panel in the area, who really focus on what the nominees have done to advance manufacturing in our region.
Lastly, we may partner with industry associations to help us make our selections for programs like CIO and CFO of The Year.
Tell us what’s most important when nominating someone. Also, what about the number of nominations a person receives?
It really comes down to the quality of the nomination. The thing we look at first and foremost is business accomplishments and contributions they’ve made to the business community. That’s it — that’s king — the main focus of all programs. It’s not a matter of how long the nomination is, how many nominations or how influential the nominator is. Your nomination should explain very clearly which business accomplishments are germane to the particular awards program. Don’t get me wrong, multiple nominations are fine, but make sure it adds context and a different perspective. If each brings something different to the table, then that’s great.
Can you give us some Do’s and Don’ts?
Skip the fluff! Any accomplishments that can be quantified, such as sales and growth, really strengthen the individual’s case. Also, you’ll typically need to be in Charlotte for a reasonable period of time- at least 2-3 years. Remember, business accomplishments are what this truly boils down to. The community involvement piece is important, but don’t forget about industry associations, and how the nominee works to advance their industry. There’s a lot of wonderful people out there but, it’s not a popularity contest.
Does Size of the organization matter?
Irrelevant. If you look at our class each year you’ll see a good mix. I love to see nominations from entrepreneurs and small businesses.
Any final thoughts?
I like a good party! Every company has a personality. When it comes to marketing, I’ll over simplify it by saying print is about reputation management, digital is transactional and events are about who you are and engaging with others. These types of events and recognitions humanize companies and their people.
As you know, Mayor Daniel (Dan) Clodfelter was appointed Mayor of Charlotte back in April. Since he has had some time to settle into his role, we thought it’d be a great time to pick his brain a little and learn more about him. Here’s what Mayor Clodfelter had to say…
What are the key areas you’re concentrating on to better Charlotte? How did you choose them?
At present, I’m interested in three broad themes. One focuses on how we can continue to diversify our local economy and build a strong infrastructure to support entrepreneurial enterprises in our City, especially for businesses that emphasize innovative products and services. A second theme centers on strengthening regional partnerships with surrounding cities and counties, with a view toward developing ways to address challenges on a regional basis even when the State government is unable to do so on a statewide basis. A third area involves my longstanding interest in building and supporting strong neighborhoods that are resistant to social and physical decay and that can serve as the focal points for delivery of city services and programs. I believe all three of these are critical for Charlotte to be and to remain a resilient and adaptable City in the decades ahead of us.
What is one thing you want Charlotteans to know about you?
I think I became a “Charlottean” many years ago as a student at Davidson College and long before I finally settled here. I love the sense of pride that people have for this city and how they back it up with an incredible willingness to roll up their sleeves and go to work whenever there is a challenge or an opportunity confronting the community.
How do you balance your role as an attorney with that of the mayor?
Balancing my law practice with the role of mayor has its challenging moments, but I’ve found a system that works well. Certain days are blocked off entirely for the city, and other days I devote entirely to the law practice. I continue to believe there is value in having people serve in elected office who also maintain a work life that is not dependent on political involvement. I find that combination helps me keep a more balanced perspective on “things political.”
You’re coming up on six months as Charlotte mayor. What have you learned about working with the local media?
There are many more influencers on media and reporting than when I served on city council in the 1990s. Deadlines are tighter, the 24 hour news cycle never stops, and social media plays a major role now in shaping stories and news reports. I encourage reporters to grab me when I am out and about at different events, or if I’m already scheduled to attend some occasion or speak to some group. That may be the easiest way to catch me. Of course, they can always contact my office to request an interview, and I will do my best to make myself available to them.
If marketing/communications professionals would like you to attend their event, what do they need to do?
Please make initial contact with Peggy Huffman (firstname.lastname@example.org), who handles scheduling for the Mayor’s office. When sending an email, I recommend attaching background or a press kit on your company/organization so that I can fully understand your mission, goals, etc. While I wish I could participate in all of your events, unfortunately my schedule won’t always allow it. It’s best to submit your event request with as much advance notice as possible to increase the likelihood of my being able to participate. Mondays and Tuesdays are typically the best days for my schedule. If I’m unable to attend, we may have the opportunity to send someone else to represent the Mayor’s office.
We wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t ask. Do you intend on running in 2015?
At this time I haven’t made a definite decision as to whether or not I will run for election in 2015. I’m mainly focused on doing the job at hand, working with the City Council to articulate its collective vision for the City, and the community’s vision for itself. I’m trying to keep a sense of how the Council and community feel about the work I’m doing, and I’ll settle on a decision at a time a little closer to the filing period.
We would like to give a special thanks to Ashley Simmons, the press secretary for the office of the mayor, for facilitating our Q&A with Mayor Clodfelter.
Join us as we kick off TWO new things in Charlotte. #1: a brand new special interest group - CAMAComm and #2: a unique all-in-one trio in South End. Enjoy some craft beer and tasty bar bites while getting to know other communication professionals, share best practices (and war stories), and just have fun!
Why? Because it’s new. You’re a trend setter. You want to be “in the know.”
November 12, 2014
Craft Tasting Room & Growler Shop
What is CAMAComm?
Presented by Pivot PR, CAMAComm is American Marketing Association’s newest small group series targeting marketers in the communications field who specialize in marketing communications, communications and/or public relations. We’re the ones that create and execute a strategy utilizing written and verbal communications for a brand or company (or at an agency). We serve as the “voice,” ensuring all communications — from websites and social media to collateral and media materials — align with overall brand/company strategy. If this sounds like you, please join us.
On our agency’s one year anniversary, I’m very proud to introduce you to our next brainchild, Charlotte Media Exchange (CMX). Powered by Pivot PR, CMX is a communications platform designed for marketing professionals, subject matter experts and media to connect on hyperlocal stories in Charlotte.
You are interested in getting your company more media exposure, right? Well, here’s your chance! If you’d like to position yourself or your colleagues as experts available for interview, or receive inquiries from the local media, sign up below. It’s free!
If you’re a Pivot PR client you’ll find yourself already listed and we’ll be monitoring for you. CMX is yet another perk of working with us. But, for those of you who are not clients be sure to set, “My Alerts” so you’ll receive all appropriate media opportunities via email, based on your preferences.
There is nothing else like this in Charlotte. With your help I believe CMX has the potential to change how media relations is done in this town. Enjoy. And, please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions in making CMX even better!