PR Pros and marketing managers have all been there. The C-suite and sales teams have identified a hot new industry or geography, and they want to start building a brand presence…yesterday.
PR coverage is a powerful force multiplier to help an organization gain traction in a new industry or geography – but Rome wasn’t built in a day, and building a brand cannot be done in weeks!
Here’s how to balance quick wins against building a meaningful brand presence.
- Journalists write about companies they know – from sources they trust
All journalists are human beings, they have a natural bias to cover the companies they know and trust. And how do they establish that trust? The first research of its kind about how journalists view and trust their sources was done in 2020 – with interesting results. The study, published in Communication Research differentiates for the first time between source and message credibility evaluations, based on a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods collected from over 1,000 journalists.
The research found that journalists are able to distinguish between source and message credibility, and, in the large majority of cases, source credibility takes precedence – if a source seems credible, they essentially trust whatever that source’s message is. No surprise when hard-pressed journalists receive hundreds of press releases and pitches every day, there’s no time to read each one in detail. So, the more credible source the higher likelihood of them running the story.
The key question from here is, how do you establish that credibility when you are dealing with a media target in a brand-new industry or geography – they’ve likely never heard of your company, let alone your product, solution or key messaging!
- It takes time to establish an initial relationship and before coverage becomes “newsworthy”
It can take a number of months to start to see real traction from a new campaign, so unless you have a world-changing announcement, set expectation with keen C-suite and sales execs not to expect instant success.
Success relies on having done the prior prep too:
- Identify key media topics in this new industry or geography
- Establish the top technology or industry media targets for a campaign
- Pre-plan and create relevant content
Stuck for ideas? Remember, you may have content on file that’s been used in other industries or geographies, with a bit of editing you can localize for your new market. This could allow you to front-load a campaign and start outreaching immediately to new media targets with relevant content.
With a steady flow of content spanning news releases, thought leadership articles and relevant hot topic pitching – journalists will begin to piece together who an organization is, what it sells, and where its subject matter expertise lies.
- Show don’t tell – Signal Theory and patterns of stories drive organic results
Don’t be discouraged if it feels like shouting into the void at first. There might not be initial interest or bites, but this is a long game. Here’s where the choice of that content flow comes into play. Every piece of content pitched should serve a purpose to educate the journalists you are targeting, herein lies the power of Signal Theory.
Even if a journalist isn’t using initial press releases or responding to article pitches, they are taking note. This is where a carefully laid pattern of activity comes into play – have you got a new hire spearheading your progress in the new target industry/geography? Can you start to build their executive profile of thought leadership copy and timely comments/quotable quotes on relevant industry or geographic topics? Then follow-up with an in-industry or in-region customer win – the journalist responses will start to build and so will your PR momentum.
From this pattern of activity journalists begin to trust your organization and your subject matter experts – we’ve come full circle now. Your organization is now part of their trusted network of credible sources, and over the next six to 12-months you will notice journalists coming direct to you and your experts for input on relevant topics, these organic requests are the hallmark of excellent journalist relationships.
It’s called media relations for a reason
Good relationships with journalists are the building blocks for any PR campaign, especially if marketing teams and PR Pros are under pressure to deliver results and traction quickly. But beware, media relations are not reliant on a personal relationship with target journalists, it’s your content they are looking for – and it has to speak for itself!
Jamie Kightley is Head of Client Services at IBA International.