Contrary to popular belief and PR mythology, getting placements for clients does not solely depend on having personal relationships with journalists or specializing in the client’s particular area of the business.
Instead, it comes down to three things:
• Developing the story;
• Effectively telling the story;
• Creating a strategy based on the story.
The story to which I refer consists of the factors that make that client’s business distinct and intriguing to the media. Whether it’s a killer app, the CEO’s unusual background, an “aha” moment, or a timeliness that intersects with the news cycle, it’s our job as PR people to explore and excavate until we find that story.
Clients don’t always recognize the story. The right story to effectively convey the company’s messaging might not be obvious—or it can hide in plain sight. Sometimes clients are just too close to it and may not be able to step far enough away from their business to get perspective. That’s why they need you to see, as only a set of fresh eyes can.
One PR myth we all encounter is the client’s concern that your agency doesn’t specialize in precisely its segment of the business or have the right press contacts. The client is doubtful you’ll be able to deal with the trade press that covers its industry or even identify and reach them.
Here’s the truth of the matter: Trade press for any industry is governed by one thing—the need to stay abreast of what’s new in its sector. PR agencies don’t need to specialize to reach them with the latest news; these niche journalists are happy to get it—it’s what drives the trade press.
So once again, it all goes back to the story.
One of my favorite questions is whether we have close personal relationships with journalists in the field. Of course, we can get them on the phone. They’ll listen to our pitch, but if it’s a story that doesn’t work for them, all that access doesn’t amount to much. It’s not about a favor; it’s about finding the right story for the right reporter or editor at the right outlet.
When you’re acting as agency, worrying about the myths of relationships and niche specialists is counterproductive because anyone can create a media list. The important thing: Unearth the story, then create a strategy and platform that promotes the brand.
Ed James is president/co-founder of Cornerstone PR. You can follow him on Twitter @edwjames.