When No News Is Good News

It gives you the opportunity to be creative

'If you represent a company that makes a good product, you can still make magic happen.'
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There’s no study out there to prove this, but, based on experience, I’m going to guess that 98 percent of marketers and publicists face this common problem when trying to get their client coverage: there is no news.

Journalists are bombarded with press releases and pitches every day from companies which just aren’t doing anything newsworthy. These pitches lack a “why now”—they’re simply telling the journalist about a new product or service. And unfortunately, nobody—especially the journalist on the receiving end—cares.

Maybe your company has a cool platform for getting organized and being more productive. Join the ranks—a million other companies do that. Or perhaps your tech startup just made a killer new executive hire. You believe that, in 10 years, he’ll be the next Mark Cuban or Elon Musk, but unless he is actually and literally Mark Cuban or Elon Musk, it’s just not news that anybody will care about.

Now that I’ve crushed your hopes and dreams, here’s the silver lining: sometimes having no news is good news, because it gives you the opportunity to get creative. If you represent a company that makes a good product, whatever it is, and the PR team and you have a brain, you can still make magic happen.

How, you ask? Here are a few ideas:

Show a fresh perspective

OK, so maybe your company isn’t doing anything newsworthy, but your CEO is absolutely crushing it. Is there anything special or unique about him or her that you can leverage?

For example, one of my clients is a serial entrepreneur with several successful startups under his belt. His companies may not have the name recognition of Paypal or Hootsuite, but they are solid, multi-million dollar companies. In my chats with him, it came up that he is a former Marine and believes that most startups fail due to the CEO’s inability to think operationally–the way you do in the military.

Given this country’s love of the military and the fact that entrepreneurial news sites are always looking for a fresh perspective about how to lead better, I turned his military background into a pitch, which landed my client an interview with Inc. and this story: “The Military Has Created a Hotbed of Entrepreneurial Minds.”

I find that getting to know my clients on a personal level gives me an endless supply of creative pitch ideas. So, if you’re in a news desert, trawl for interesting personal angles.

 Take a new look at an old product

José Olé has been making taquitos for decades; you probably remember eating them as a kid. For the Super Bowl this year, the brand took a hint from BuzzFeed’s popular Tasty videos and created their own recipe videos where they used their product in more elaborate game-day dishes. There was no “news,” per se—just a new take on an old product at a relevant time.

Looking ahead will serve you well in the execution of this tactic. Map out the year and note what relevant events are happening, then take a look at your brand and figure out how you can build a story that is both timely and fresh.

Say you represent a tech company. Given that Mother’s Day is in May and “women in tech” is a hot topic, you might think about making a video of your top tech executives talking about the biggest tech lesson they learned from their mothers. Then create a pitch and link to the video.

Sell the feel-goods

In the absence of news, another avenue to explore is the feel-good angle.

For example, there’s a company called Figs that makes scrubs for nurses that essentially make their butts look better. That’s cool but not newsworthy in and of itself. What is newsworthy is the company’s “Threads for Threads” program: for every pair of scrubs purchased, a pair is donated to doctors who don’t have access to clean scrubs (typically those working abroad). By aligning themselves to a greater story about brands doing good, Figs has been featured in Forbes, Fox, WSJ and a slew of other major publications.

You might encourage your client or company to weave charity into their business model to increase opportunities for these kinds of stories. If you’re going to go this route, don’t half-ass it by running a marketing campaign and throwing the charity in as an afterthought. Create a meaningful partnership with a charity that aligns with your business and allows for impactful human stories.

Curtis Sparrer is a principal at Bospar. He was one of Business Insider’s “50 Best Public Relations People In The Tech Industry,” and has led PR campaigns for startups and big names including 1010data, Apigee, Ebates and PayPal.