Today’s media works much differently than in days past–and for that reason, quite a few companies are struggling to grasp exactly how they should approach PR. Many err on the side of being aggressive and doing as much as possible to raise awareness. They send lots of free swag, host a ton of events, distribute a never-ending stream of press releases, etc.
Some may think this strategy will most effectively guarantee coverage, but I can assure them it will not.
Let’s pause to consider a couple of reasons why:
- According to the US Department of Labor, PR professionals outnumber reporters 4.6 to 1.
- According to Gallup Research, 400,000 new businesses are started each year in the United States.
There’s a major discrepancy between the number of companies looking for media coverage and the number of reporters who might cover them, so coverage is never guaranteed even if a company produces a consistent stream of content that they truly think is “newsworthy.”
When I was beginning my career, our agency got a visit from respected Silicon Valley media veteran Connie Guglielmo, who wrote for Forbes at the time and now serves as Editor-In-Chief of CNET News. Here’s something she said that has stuck with me throughout my career:
“If you are a company constantly trying to pitch your 8.4.2 or 10.2.5 release of your product that has very incremental improvements, I am not interested whatsoever.
That is your responsibility as a business to continue to update and improve your product. I want to hear about more than just updates. I want to know how your company and/or product are going to impact the world around us – whether that is financially, technologically, etc.”
Taking those words to heart, I have always tried to utilize a quality-over-quantity or “Less Is More” strategy. Here are a few reasons why that works in PR today:
1. Scarcity Creates Attraction
When you have an element of scarcity, you tend to get people talking.
You’d prefer people to ask, “What have they been up to lately? What are they working on now?” Ultimately, that scarcity will create a type of buzz not often earned by companies who continuously announce “news.” Limiting your communications will also help create more amicable relationships between your company and the media, who won’t feel completely inundated with news all the time. You won’t end up on their “annoying PR” Twitter lists, and they’ll be more willing to take that briefing you’re trying to schedule.
It’s a win-win publicly and personally.
2. Precision is Powerful
The ability to communicate accurately and efficiently is very powerful.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the average attention span in the United States in 2015 is 8.25 seconds, and it’s almost certainly lower for members of the news media…which is exactly why precision is so valuable in messaging.
Being precise in your messaging for press releases, media pitches, and even advertising collateral will serve you much better than being overly explanatory.
3. Excess Creates Confusion
You know when your teacher used to write endless lines of notes on the board and you didn’t even know where to begin? Imagine reporters’ notebooks as that board and your company’s notes all over it.
Eventually, if you are throwing new announcements at them all the time, they will experience information overload. Remember that they’re also following the other 50+ companies in your space and whatever other industries they may be covering. Your goal is to have a clear message that the media can easily digest and translate for the public; the more information you try to squeeze in, the greater the chances that your core message will be lost.
The best example of “Less Is More” in action is the world’s most valuable company, Apple. Former PR chief Katie Cotton, who Forbes named one of the 50 most powerful women in business, worked very closely with then-CEO Steve Jobs and now-CEO Tim Cook to create an essentially fatal attraction between consumers and their Apple brand.
By rarely speaking to media, staying extremely precise with messaging, and only making impactful news announcements at major events, Apple was able to build the world’s most enviable relationship with all media–not just tech.
Next time your company or your clients pressure you to be more aggressive, try to slow things down and discuss the potential value of a more reserved strategy. In PR it is not always the loudest or fastest talker who wins; sometimes it’s the one who creates the most impact when she speaks.
Colin Jordan runs media relations and executive comms for Egnyte in San Francisco. Follow him on Twitter @colinjordan.