Social Media Bootcamp: 11 Ways to Boost Your Media Relations

Many, perhaps most, companies offering social media tools and services don't take full advantage of the industry press and bloggers. To successfully place stories requires know what stories are worth publishing, as well as where and how to deliver them.

Many, perhaps most, companies offering social media tools and services don’t take full advantage of the industry press and bloggers. And, for the most part, they want to you to take advantage of them! They need content, you have content… win, win.

Your customers read, trust and are influenced by these blogs and e-mail newsletters. These channels can help you have your story told by an impartial and trusted source to “translate” your story for your customers. The successful placement of your stories requires knowing what stories are worth publishing, as well as where and how to deliver them.

Media relations – just one element of your overall public relations activities – is perhaps the most cost and time-effective form of promotion. A few hundred words about you, on the right channel, by someone influential who will interpret your story for his or her readers, can help your story go viral better than, say, a promoted tweet by Lady Gaga.

Here are my 11 ways to use media relations to boost you brand.

#1 – Make public relations a part of *not apart from* your overall brand strategy

Public relations is the most inherently social of your company’s communications. Anyone who has been following my blogging, knows I am adamant that social media needs to be woven into the very fabric of your company.

Everyone in your company should, at minimum, be clear about the messages and mechanisms of your PR program. And anyone who is public facing needs to know what he or she should and should not say about your company to someone from the outside, be it a blogger, vendor or customer.

#2 – “Rumors of my death have been greatly exagerrated” – Press release

Writing great press releases and sending them directly to those who can use them works. Twitter and Digg may not need press releases, but writers, bloggers and journalists do. Creating good press releases is not easy and it’s rather shocking how frequently those on the receiving side get bad releases – perhaps because of the false perception that social media does not use them.

Here’s a pitch that will make the recipient emit a loud moan:

We have an announcement that I think you’ll be really excited about. When are you free for our CEO, CMO and CTO to tell you all about it?

It’s really hard for a writer to know if something is going to be of interest to his or her readers if you’ve not said what it is. This pitch asks the writer to commit time for an unknown reason and uncertain return. PR fail – teases don’t work.

#3 – Be clear about the story you’re pitching

If you or your agency can’t explain your new innovation, big deal or whatever you’re pitching in 100 or a couple of hundred words, the bloggers and journalists can’t either. Sorry, a product brochure or SlideShare deck is no substitute for a narrative press release.

Here is the first of several quotes from my cohort of editors, journalists and bloggers. I think it’s helpful while learning the “landscape” of media relations to hear directly from those at the keyboards.

“Relevance to the market and the ease with which I can access info in the release are essential for getting your story posted.”

#4 – Personalize your pitches by knowing the channel, the writer and the readers

Media relations is not a game of getting your story published in the most places. Your goal is to get your message to as many of your customers as fast as possible via the blogs and newsletters they trust. So pitch the blogs and newsletters relevant to your brand, tailored to its readers.

“The more directly a reader can relate the information to their own experience, the more likely we are to run that PR.”

#5 – Every picture [and logo and screen shot and head shot] tells a story

Include graphics – or at least links to graphics – with your press release. If it’s all there, the journalists and bloggers can move faster. I don’t understand why every brand does not have its logo readily downloadable from its website so it can be grabbed when needed.

Here are two more tips on the subject of press release mechanics. Providing relevant quotes – from someone with a big title at your company, from a user, from an influencer – is an incentive for the channel to post your story. And, if your press release really rocks, the writer is going to want to cut, paste and edit those quotes and maybe more. A press release sent as text – as opposed to HTML – is great foreplay. If you prefer to send the release as an attachment, do it as a Word or text doc, not PDF. Save a blogger time and you may have a friend for life.

#6 – Go heavy on meaningful content and go light on hyperbole

No company will tell you its products are mediocre. Here’s an actual press release excerpt that has a reverse content-to-hype ratio:

[Our new product] enables multiple organizations within an enterprise to execute business solutions that increase productivity and maximize ROI by creating synergies through the aggregation of high-value, relevant information distribution and sharing, plus collaboration amongst employees, customers and partners.

I’m guessing many well-intentioned people spent a lot of time crafting this sentence. If you are going to work hard on your media relations, put that energy into something more meaningful.

“After removing all the superlative statements, eliminating redundant quotes from all the company managers saying how excited they are, and deleting company fluff about its leading role in the industry, I’m often left with a single sentence: Company A introduced product B. So what?”

#7 – Be consistent and persistent

Being consistent and persistent is a key element of every aspect of both social media and marketing communications.

“If I don’t see it, I can’t write about it.”

“Proactive communication on the part of the company or their PR agents makes all the difference in the world.”

“Pitch each story only once. I’m probably not going to write about your new product when you announce it and then again when you ship it. Pick one.”

But consistency and presidency does not need to be annoying:

“We do our best to respond to every e-mail. But if you don’t see your story posted and you don’t hear from me, forgive me and try me again the next time you have news.”

#8 – Be up front about early releases and “exclusives”

Working a story with a limited number of channels is often more worthwhile than a diffuse blast. And every blog and newsletter wants to break a good story first. They understand that they can’t always get exclusives, but consistently getting stories from you second – or worse, second hand – risks turning some channels off for you.

#9 – Allow sufficient time for your story to be written & posted

Try to get your press release to the blogs and pubs that matter a day or two before you put it on a news wire. Those covering the industry hate seeing something on the wire hours before it hits their inboxes. And don’t put it on your company’s blog or website too soon before the story is posted by your pitched channels – a thousand robots may have pushed your story to search engines prior to the first real coverage.

#10 – Create no communications roadblocks

Make it easy to contact you. I recently read a press release from a major consumer package goods brand that had no contact information at all. Huh? One of the major online press release services will post your phone number but uses a complex web form for e-mail contact. Do your best to get that service to change, put your coordinates in the body of the release or think about moving to a more friendly service.

Spam is a way of life; help your IT department to get over it so that you’re accessible to everyone – especially your customers – via quick links, not web forms, on your website.

#11 – Professional media relations has a great ROI

Whether you use an outside agency, specialist or bring the expertise in-house, media relations is one of the most effective and efficient means to increase your brand’s visibility and sales. Just as you’re working to convince the marketplace that your products and services are a better choice than a “do-it-yourself” approach, don’t allow your brand to suffer because you did not do your media relations right.

The Social Media Bootcamp series reinforces the best practices required for successful social media marketing. The series serves both as an introduction to core concepts for newbies and reinforcement of core concepts for busy industry veterans. Our first post in the series is about Creating a Brand Personality. Send us your ideas for topics for future Social Media Bootcamp posts.

Photo of street art by Banksy taken October 2008 on Houston Street, NYC by me – I find it inspiring.