Many businesses think what they do is too boring to be of interest to the media. Or they think it’s just too hard. But every business has expertise to share, and, more importantly, a story to tell. However B2B and professional services PR is different to consumer and big corporate PR, and that’s why it’s good to work with a specialist.
The business of generating positive publicity is really unlike most other activities that take place within a business organisation, particularly a B2B or professional services business. It should of course be an integral part of the overall marketing strategy of an organisation, but in practice is often completely left out and, if it happens at all, is done on almost an ad hoc basis. There are a few reasons for this:
1) Unlike paid advertising, there’s no guarantee that any publicity will actually appear. It is totally up to the publications and the journalists as to whether they think your story is interesting enough (if a journalist refers you to the advertising department, you know you’ve failed to spark their interest)
2) Once you have put your message out there, you are no longer in control of the story. Journalists often, in fact frequently, misquote you and make mistakes or have an angle on a story that you did not intend. No journalist will run a story by you before they publish. That’s not journalism, that’s advertising.
3) It can be quite hard to measure the impact of publicity. One, now considered outdated method, is to try to put an advertising value on it, that is, how much would it have cost to advertise wherever the coverage appeared. This figure would also be subject to a multiple to represent both the additional costs of putting together an advertising campaign and the greater impact of editorial coverage as against simply paying for an ad. You must have a clear idea of what you are trying to achieve before you embark on a publicity strategy.
These reasons shouldn’t however put you off engaging with the media, as positive media coverage is very beneficial. In some cases it can effectively launch a business to a completely different level. Here are a few reasons why you should engage with the media:
1) The most obvious reason is that it is, in effect, free advertising, if you can cope with the loss of control of the message referred to above. So your product or service gets in front of the viewers/readers/listeners of that specific media outlet at that one point in time
2) Interestingly, in many cases it’s not the people who see/read/listen to your coverage who are your likely next customers (unless you are selling a reasonably affordable consumer item) – it is your current contacts, when you tell them via your website/email marketing/other marketing that you were featured in/on a particular media outlet. This is third party credibility which in fact makes them think about you differently (see The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR by Al & Laura Ries for more on this)
3) Once you have an established relationship with a journalist or a publication, you may well be approached by the media for comments/assistance, leading to more coverage and eventually, maybe, ‘expert’ status. This doesn’t happen overnight though.
The thing about publicity is that, if you are not engaging with the media, it is highly unlikely that you will get any coverage at all. But it is a little like sales (a field your author started in and is still in!), in that you have to put in the hard yards and get to know the media people in your field. You may score a publicity home run at your first attempt, but many publicity success stories which might be seen as overnight successes are far from it. Much like successful celebrities and successful businesses, there has often been a lot of hard work over quite a period of time before they have been able to earn the mantle of ‘overnight success’.