Scott Monty - Strategic Communications & Leadership Advisor

Scott Monty - Strategic Communications & Leadership Advisor

[Guest post from Conrad Egusa - Ed.]

To begin, many thanks to Scott for the opportunity to guest write this article.

Today, PR for companies large and small is arguably more important than it has ever been before. In this article, my aim is to deconstruct the PR process, with the hopes that you can better optimize your company’s opportunities for PR going forward.

This article comes from experience as a writer for VentureBeat, as the Co-Owner of the largest English news publication in South America, Colombia Reports, and as the founder of the marketing firm Brownstein & Egusa. If you have any questions, I am happy to answer them in the comment section.

Overview of the PR process

When a company has an announcement it is looking to make, it notifies the media through a press release. A company will either send this to the email address of a journalist, or will contact a general publication address, as an example tips (at) techcrunch.com.

The challenge for a company is, in the course of any given week, a reporter may receive dozens if not hundreds of pitches from companies looking for the same exposure.

Before your company can reach its target audience, it is your job to get past the person on their computer, overworked, stressed and tired of reading emails that are often not targeted nor relevant.

In this article, we’re going to explain how you can best do this, and how you can get your company featured on top publications. As an overview, with this PR process the following structure applies:
  1. Recognize which stories to reach out to journalists for
  2. Create a compelling press release (starting with the first line)
  3. Secure an exclusive from a top publication
  4. Email hundreds of other publications to further coverage
  5. Repeat this process every 3-4 months with a new announcement

Not all news is press-worthy

When you are first beginning to approach PR, it is important to identify a story announcement that you will reach out to journalists about.

Unfortunately, it is rare that a journalist will want to write about everything that is happening in your company. As an example, although there are exceptions, if your company re-designs its Home Page, it is unlikely that TechCrunch will want to cover this.

Maintaining an active presence in the press is important, however you can lose credibility if you reach out to journalists with stories that are not likely to be covered.

The announcements that most often get reported on are below. If you do have any of these announcements, we recommend you make sure to capitalize on them for PR:
  • Company launches
  • Fundraisers
  • Product launches
  • Acquisitions
  • Market benchmarks (e.g. 250,000 mobile downloads)

It starts with the first sentence

After you have identified your story, it’s important to begin developing your press release, which is the medium used to explain your story to journalists.

When your company is looking for press, what is important to remember is that your email and press release needs to sell the journalist the story, in order for him or her to write the article to an audience.

In life, however important the first impression may be, you will have the opportunity to make up for failure. This is not true with press releases.

The first sentence needs to encapsulate everything that follows it, because if it fails to do so in a convincing manner, the chances the rest of your press release get read are slim to none.

The first sentence of any press release needs to answer: Why should the reader care? This is what is referred to as the “storyline,” where a company explains what about itself or its product is important to an industry and a readership and why.

An example of a storyline is the following:

After 2 Years Of Development, Stanford PhD & Partner Raise $500K For Lingua.ly, Aim To Change Way Languages Are Learnt Online.

The key is to be bold and gripping: Not overly vague, however not overly specific. Remember that you are trying to captivate that tired guy scanning his emails for compelling story material.

In one sentence, a reader/writer needs to know whether there is anything worth writing about, and whether there is a good enough story behind it to justify reading it.

Social proof

One of the most important factors in your success is your ability to provide social proof in your press release. Remember to assume that journalists know nothing about you or your company.

If you graduated from a well-known school (Stanford, Harvard), worked for a certain company (Facebook, Twitter), received a certain award, or have anything remarkable about your background, you should include early on.

You can see from the story line above, that we led with the fact that this company’s founder was a Stanford PhD. Your aim to grab a journalist’s attention as soon as possible.

It ends with a lot of information

Nothing will help a writer more than if he or she feels he has all of the information needed to write a quality story (and that he or she will not need to spend additional time finding other data points).

Once you’ve provided an outline of what you think should be emphasized, you job is to provide information. As much as possible, if you provide this in an un-biased format, a journalist will consider your information more credible. If you’d like, we breakdown a specific example press release here.

Approach PR with an exclusive

Modern news is a cutthroat, hectic industry, in which every publication is competing to break stories.

If you’re most companies looking for press coverage, we recommend you offer one of the more well-read outlets exclusive access to your story announcement.

A tired, overworked writer checking his email is not going to jump on any story he senses is being shopped around to 20 other tired writes just like him. However, offer him the sole chance to break a piece of original content, and you can better have his attention.

For most companies, exclusives provide the opportunity to raise profile and get coverage from the right sources.

Think of public relations like a domino set. Knock over the wrong one, and nothing happens. But get the right outlet to publish your story, then smaller ones will follow. If you’re lucky, a mainstream media outlet will pick up the coverage from the industry-specific sources they use as feelers.

Continue coverage

Once an exclusive is secured and the article is online, we recommend you email hundreds of other publications to further coverage. If you’d like, we spent 100 hours collecting a free tech reporter contact list, with emails and Twitter handles, here.

Your aim for PR is to have something important to report at least every 3-4 months. If you can do this, you won’t be in the top 10% of companies for PR, you will be in the top 1%.

Many thanks again to Scott for the opportunity to write this guest post. If there are any questions I can answer, please post in the comment section or feel free to write me at conrad (at) brownsteinegusa.com.

Image credit: Wikipedia

Post a Comment