Updated: May 31, 2021
When you hear public relations, you might assume it's just journalists and PR professional schmoozing. Well, there’s some of that. Not much. A lot more that goes into a public relations campaign.
The simplest way to define what a public relations campaign is, in particular, media relations -- comes down to three buckets of activity.
Crafting the actual story you want to tell.
Media targeting and list-building.
Doing the actual outreach to journalists to get results.
You can work up a broad-brush brand story for a given company fairly quickly -- but then you need to craft every aspect of it. How are you going to phrase the press release?
Can this story be related to a swarm of news already being discussed in the media world? That strategy is called newsjacking -- tying into something that’s already in the public eye. As we've said before:
“The simple way to define what a public relations campaign is, in terms of media relations -- it comes down to three buckets of activity. I would say the first bucket is coming up with the actual story. The second part is the media targeting and list-building. The third part is doing the actual outreach to get results.”
You can work up a broad-brush brand story for a given company fairly quickly -- but then you need to craft every aspect of it. How are you going to phrase the press release? Can this story be related to current events being discussed in the media world? Let's look at the basics of what goes into a PR campaign.
Public relations campaign step 1: crafting your story
One thing about PR is that you’ve got a company, a client, just going along and taking care of business -- and you think, well, not a lot of news coming out, is there? No new round of funding. No major product launch. It’s… business as usual.
Where are we going to find a hook that’s going to make reporters, and people in general, interested?
We’ve found, have we not, that there's always a hook. There's always a story. Sometimes, you just have to dig deeper. Remember the car-rental service Avis’s underdog “We try harder” tag line that they used for decades. You do need that attitude. Stories don’t craft themselves.
A common starting point for narrative generation is the actual story of the company (as opposed to the brand). Did the CEO face tremendous adversity in building the company?
Is there a record of customers memorably expressing how much they love the product? Why are they saying so?
Have you got a competitive advantage in the marketplace that no one else can top?
What are the milestones that your company has hit this year, which won’t seem like “inside baseball” to outsiders?
Have you surveyed your customers -- and now you’ve got your hands on statistics no one else has?
What benefits does this company provide through their products and services -- which might even be old news around your water cooler? If you haven’t been talking it up with media, they might not know. As you craft your stories, adapt them. Re-use, recycle. Let those story ideas evolve and adapt as you get feedback on what’s actually getting pickup from reporters.
Public relations campaign step 2: media targeting
In a PR campaign, you need to look at what media matters, from TV and radio through newspapers, magazines, podcast and everything in between. Check their circulation, frequency, and overlap with your target audience and brand themes. More importantly, you have to track what their editors are looking for -- and that means actually reading, watching and listening to a good sample of their content.
Now that you’ve got media outlets selected, you need to dig down deeper, to individual journalists.
For reporters in your segment, you’ll want to find out what they’ve been writing lately, who they write for and how they prefer to be approached (most journalists are very clear about this).
On Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Instagram what are they interested in? What is the run of conversation that connects with the stories you want to tell?
If you don’t have software to quickly sift through a database of a million or so journalists, then do it the hard way: Googling. Not just with News searches. Use the general Google search function to find articles and other types of media that might not get picked up in a pure News search. Again, this takes time. But the better targeted your list, the less pain of rejection you’re going to feel when you start reaching out.
Public relations campaign step 3: media outreach
You’ve got your stories. You’ve got your media list. It’s time to make the magic happen!
If you’ve got a giant list of hundreds of reporters, customized, personalized outreach just isn’t practical for everyone on that list. It’s not going to happen. You’re going to have to figure out who are the high-value targets for your media campaign: journalists who are just a perfect fit for the story you’re hoping they pick up. This is not a pure science -- you’re going to weigh their profile and the value of the publication they work for, alongside factors such as your personal relationship with the reporter. It’s rare when you get that perfect combination of a reporter covering the exact beat you want -- and they know and like you. But it does happen.
Of course, you’re not relying on relationships. Not entirely. You’ve got a process. So you’re going to separate out that list of high-value journalists, eBlast the rest and then follow up in a systematic way over the coming days and weeks. The truth is, sometimes, reporters just don’t see your email the first time. Get them on the third pass.
If you’ve read all of that and think, “wow, that’s a lot of work” -- yes, it is. That’s why companies hire PR agencies in the first place. It takes time, effort and a thick skin to deal with rejection. But when it works -- and you notice your story got picked up in The New York Times, Forbes, Entrepreneur or some other excellent outlet - you’ll know it was worth it.
Need help getting media coverage for your innovative tech company? Contact our Vancouver tech PR agency