The PR plan has clear visibility objectives that call for earned media or branded coverage — and there’s news that will help tell the company’s story. But after the initial executive moves, product launch, or funding announcement, then what? How does a PR team keep the momentum going if things get quiet?
Media need experts every day to fill out stories with quotes and commentary. Expertise is the gift that keeps on giving, particularly for large stories about complicated issues, important trends, or previously obscure developments. From the investment expert who weighs in on a stock market dip, to the child safety author who shares Halloween advice for parents, expertise makes the media world run. And as every PR professional knows, sharing a client’s expertise is a strong way to build media relationships.
One way to be in the public (or industry) conversation is to start it — with relevant content. It’s another strong way to share expertise, of course, but content can also run on informed opinion. Any CEO who hasn’t yet weighed in about industry issues in thought pieces on a blog or LinkedIn should consider cultivating a strong point of view. An interesting bylined article or blog post can make its way around social channels and be picked up by a trade or business outlet. Guest blogging on a prominent vendor, customer, or partner’s channel is another way to expand the reach, and a good method for grabbing visibility when hard news is scarce. To gain traction, the content should be memorable: calling someone to task, advocating a new approach, or advancing a distinct point of view. For most B2B companies, it’s part of a proactive content campaign that raises brand awareness, boosts searchability, and even helps generate leads.
Proactive marketing of expertise is the first line of defense of course, but given the opportunity, a quick way to generate relevant news is to capitalize on breaking news stories relevant to customers. Watch for stories about competitive moves, big industry developments, financial market changes, or mergers in a given space. If an industry expert is offered for commentary within the short window of opportunity that follows relevant news, it’s a win for everyone involved. As we mentioned in a previous post, every PR team should have industry monitoring in place to identify reactive pitching opportunities. While this doesn’t always pay dividends, it’s one good option to generate publicity in news voids.
Most PR plans are informed through research, even if it’s general customer information or category analysis. But an hoc data-driven story is a good option for pitching the media during lulls. Many companies have market research or category data that has nuggets of valuable, even newsworthy information in it, but no one realizes it. Often it can be mined for stories. And for those who don’t have usable research, they can create it easily through an omnibus survey or flash poll. The key is making the data tell a relevant story, gaining points as an industry authority, or promoting a common pain point or question that customers have. Nearly any issue can be turned into a data-driven story that initiates a brand new conversation — a story that your firm may be well positioned to tell.
This is a tried-and-true tactic for getting trade media visibility, of course, but it can also work outside of trade channels. An artificial-intelligence-driven analytics company may not have news to announce, and its story might not resonate beyond narrow tech blogs. But if that company is helping another business like Blue Apron or Peloton serve customers or boost revenue, the story becomes more appealing. Even if a B2B service has helped a smaller up-and-coming brand, it may still be relevant to local press, specialist media, or social discussion groups. Case studies are some of the most powerful tools a B2B company has, and they can be used and repurposed in a variety of ways to fill in those news gaps. The challenge is to get customers on board in advance; some of our clients find it useful to make testimonials part of the deal when negotiating the business agreement with new customers.
If nothing dramatic is going on, why not make something good happen? A full-blown CSR program might be ambitious for some businesses, and a thin commitment made for PR purposes is never a good idea. But any company can create legitimate local news through a commitment to a community cause, for example. Or, it can test-drive a philanthropic campaign through pro-bono work for a not-for-profit, or a pilot to benefit an underserved consumer segment. Sometimes it’s a demonstration of corporate values. When WeWork announced it was “going meatless,” major media covered its move, in part because it was controversial, but also because it was an unusual demonstration of the company’s commitment to its own principles.
PR teams and agencies strive to drive a steady drumbeat of coverage, but tech companies of all sizes run into occasional news droughts. With a little ingenuity, the drumbeat can continue even when there’s little to sing about.