If your business is considered too boring and not that innovative, you will have a hard time getting the press to consider giving you a bit of space in the media. And if you are just taking your first steps into the entrepreneurial arena with very little budget that doesn’t allow you to afford a PR agency with valuable contacts with the press, this goal becomes even more complicated.
However, no challenge is too big, as we know that there is a “how” for every “impossible.”
I have said multiple times what the media are willing to cover and that you must think like they think once you decide to try to reach them.
When it comes to the business environment, the media want to speak about (or speak to)
If you have just joined the market, no matter how innovative what you do is or how prepared you are, they are not likely to call you as an expert when a specific topic related to what you do is discussed.
And it is even harder when what you do is so revolutionary that it will take much more time than you think to get considered credible. In this case you will need the endorsement of a few influential people to start making the news.
In a few words, needing endorsements to get endorsements, you will need PR to boost PR.
You certainly do not want to have the media gossiping about you, for the simple reason that although they might use words like “it seems,” “they said,” and “according to,” the shadow of doubt that they portray will dismantle your credibility and the sense of trustworthiness you want to convey.
For most people, doubt is already a definitive sentence of guilt.
If you are not an expert, if what you do is not that innovative, and if you are luckily out of the hell of gossip, you can still leverage the power of being controversial.
However, even in this case, the power of being controversial might not be sufficient as you will need to provide evidence that what you are saying can be verified and appears to be not too far from being at least correct, if not true.
To be noted: when it comes to marketing (and PR is a slice of the marketing cake), “true” and “false” are part of a misleading terminology.
“True” and “false” are terms that involve a leap of faith and are recurrently used in religious and ethical environments.
Marketing is neither a religion nor a philosophy. It is not about what you believe to be true or to be false. It is about what works and what doesn’t.
Thus, let “true” or “false” to pastors and philosophers and start thinking about “this works” and “this doesn’t work, so we need to find a new way to make it work.”
That said, before proceeding further in the dissertation of the topic, there is something that I need to say to your benefit to increase the chances that you can appeal to enough journalists to get media coverage, and I will do it by quoting Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares, authors of TRACTION: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth:
“What gets a reporter’s attention?
Milestones: raising money, launching a new product, breaking a usage barrier, a PR stunt, a big partnership, or a special industry report.
Each of these events is interesting and noteworthy enough to potentially generate some media coverage. […]
But releasing a new version and breaking a usage barrier in the process is even more attractive to the press.”
When reaching out the press, you should think like the press.
It is not what you think is newsworthy but what the press thinks is noteworthy.
Let’s suppose that you haven’t raised any money, broken a usage barrier, signed a pig partnership; that you do not have a special industry report in your hands, you are not perceived as an expert, and you do not have that much to say which is sufficiently controversial…
How do you get media coverage?
By meticulously planning a PR stunt.
What can be defined as a PR stunt?
Using the clear and concise definition of Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares, a PR stunt is
“Anything that is engineered to get media coverage.”
The best way to explain what a PR stunt is, it can be done by recurring to the most extreme example: a terrorist attack.
Indeed, what a terrorist attack does is merely break a pattern.
It is the unexpected that happens.
A terrorist attack breaks the pattern of the normal course of events, and as soon as it happens it gets massive, broad media coverage, conveying most of the media’s attention on it. It is something that can’t be ignored.
Thus, how can you be a PR terrorist?
How can you leverage your creativity in ways that
let you bypass the process of betting on the slim probability
that your press release will be chosen among the many
received by any single journalist on a daily basis?
PR stunts are part of a new discipline in the PR environment which is defined as Unconventional PR.
However, there is a risk involved.
Not every PR is good PR, and the simple fact that someone is talking about you does not necessarily improve the perception of what you do.
PR stunts are risky when they are too unconventional and offend the public morality.
For example, always stretching the dissertation to its extremes, a terrorist attack isn’t a great idea as a PR stunt.
Illegally painting the historical monuments of your city to promote your own creative agency isn’t going to positively increase the quality perception of what you do. It is going to attract media coverage for sure, but the way the press will portray you is the idiot who has ruined the historical heritage of his community (and you will also probably end up in jail for a short time).
Not all creative ideas are good ideas.
If, for example, you aim to promote your company by starting a contest where the winners will get a fat check, that’s how you attract curiosity and how you can positively impact the value perception of what you do.
For this reason, I am going to give you advice you will rarely hear from someone (like me) who is religiously loyal to methods that bring consistent results: get creative!
Brands are built with PR. If you are not in the process of becoming a brand, your chances to stay in the market are as high as your ability to sustain pressure on pricing. Once the pressure on pricing becomes unsustainable, the abyss will inglobe your brightest hopes.
Do PR. Become a brand.