The most effective way to get more news coverage for your company is changing. Here’s what to keep in mind to be successful.

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In the old days of PR (which means recently), success at getting media coverage for your business-to-business company was due in part to building lists of reporters, blasting out news releases (via mail, fax or email), pitching editors with the tenacity of a cold-calling sales person, asking favors, etc. Looking back, it was a shotgun approach to glorified begging in order to get as much media share of voice as possible.

Sadly, this approach endures today despite the declining results that it earns.

David Meerman Scott, author of The New Rules of Marketing and PR (now in its 4th edition) says that every week he still gets loads of these outdated appeals from companies and PR agencies asking him to write about them on his blog. Many of the things he is emailed to write about are well outside his area of expertise. Sometimes, his name isn’t even spelled correctly in the email pitch.

There is a popular blog that skewers the futility of this outdated approach, The Bad Pitch Blog. A common theme of the blog is highlighting the ineffectiveness of those PR tactics and how the practitioners look like analog jackasses in a digital world.

So unless you have a high threshold for pain and enjoy banging your head against the wall, there is a better way to earn more media coverage. It still involves your head, but more for thinking and less for banging.

Just as effective inbound marketing focuses on a buyer persona, successful PR should start with the reporter. If your approach to reporters is to build a long-term relationship of trust and helpfulness, your will reap what you sow.

Conversely, if your focus is primarily on you and your demands for media coverage related to what you’re pitching right now, you will be less successful.

To find which reporters and news organizations to target, research tools like Cision and Vocus can be worth the subscription price to make sure you’ve got a good starting point.

Once you’ve determined your media coverage targets, continue researching them. Investigate what they’ve written before. Follow them on social media like Google+ and Twitter to find out what they’re working on and see if they are asking for help.

Otherwise, when you first contact a journalist, don’t focus on your needs, focus on their needs. Ask them questions like:

  • What stories are you looking for?
  • When and how should we contact you?
  • What challenges are you facing?
  • How are you being evaluated/measured?
  • What are your goals?
  • How can I help you?

Think of your media relations outreach as customer service. The more that you can be a helpful resource to the reporter for story ideas, research, etc. the more you will ultimately benefit. Instead of thinking about how a reporter can help you, approach it from a standpoint of how you can help them.

Keep in mind that reporters and the news organizations that hire them are under enormous stress and pressure amidst the changing world of journalism. Most journalists are busy and underpaid.

One great way to start meeting and helping reporters is on HARO (Help A Reporter Out). This site is now owned by Vocus but was started by Peter Shankman, who describes HARO as:

“the de-facto standard for thousands of journalists looking for sources on deadline, offering them more than 200,000 sources around the world looking to be quoted in the media. HARO is currently the largest free source repository in the world, sending out over 1,500 queries from worldwide media each week.”

Once you register (for free) on HARO, you can scan the daily emails and respond to information requests that fall within your area of expertise with precise, concise answers, which also help to explain why you should be a source.

If a reporter does mention you in a story, THANK THEM! If they are on Twitter, @mention their name and include a link to their story. And while we’re on the subject of Twitter, if you retweet something from a reporter, don’t use the retweet button. Instead, copy the reporter’s tweet and compose a new one with “RT,” the reporter’s Twitter handle and then include an edited, appended tweet. That way, the reporter is much more likely to see (and appreciate) your retweet.

What PR approaches have you seen that are working particularly well (or badly)? Please join the conversation below.

photo credit: CarbonNYC via photopin cc