PR Tips For Announcing A SPAC Transaction

Anyone who has been watching the tech PR space has noticed a huge rise in companies going public through Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (SPACs). For those who aren’t familiar, these are “blank check” investment firms that acquire a company with the goal of bringing them to the public market. It’s not a traditional IPO, but the end goal is the same. Companies like Taboola, Group Nine Media, and Buzzfeed have all either gone, or declared their intention to go, public via SPAC. And, just recently, we here at Crenshaw Communications helped our client Innovid make the announcement of its intention to merge with ION to go public in this way. 

It’s huge news for any company that makes this decision, and the coverage needs to match the excitement! While many elements are the same as a traditional IPO, there are some key differences to consider for SPAC announcements. Here are some tips for PR professionals to plan and successfully execute an announcement around the intent to go public via SPAC. 

There is no quiet period with a SPAC

One of the benefits of choosing the SPAC route is that companies don’t have to follow the dreaded PR quiet period once they file. This means PR can make a big splash on the day the intention is announced and continue to push out news in subsequent months to maintain the momentum in the market. It’s a good idea to plan several announcements after the big SPAC splash to keep media excited about the company- anything from partnerships and new hires to data or product news works well here. This is the time to pour it on.

Start pitching early

Big news is breaking every day, which means reporters are always swamped. To make sure they have enough time to cover the announcement, PR should start pitching at least 72 hours before the release goes out. The goal should be to line up several interviews ahead of the release so the official announcement day starts with top-tier stories that have the executive team feeling good and lay the foundation for more stories.

But be careful with embargo pitching

If you’re pitching your SPAC announcement globally, it’s important to understand that no one can break the embargo. If they do, coverage could be compromised, especially in the U.S. where press are sensitive about embargo times. If that means not pitching certain markets until the day of the announcement, it may be necessary to get the most mileage out of the news. Like many media strategy calculations, it’s something of a tradeoff.

You won’t get every outlet to cover

Some media will only cover a SPAC if they get the exclusive on the announcement– and that’s okay. If one of those publications is high-priority, an exclusive strategy can work to ensure they cover the news. Expectations should be set ahead of time to make sure there are no disappointed stakeholders on the day of the announcement. 

Media training is a must

Even for a CEO who is extremely comfortable with the media, we recommend a refresher session to go over the approved messaging and prepare for any tricky questions. Anything said can now impact stock price, so every spokesperson must be buttoned up, able to articulate the value proposition of the company, and navigate hard lines of questioning to ensure the best outcome. The good news is that, after a series of investor conversations, media prep might actually be easier. Obviously, if you’re going to media outlets outside the business/financial sector, you will want you avoid jargon, acronyms, and other financial-speak to make the story relevant to a broader audience.

Leave time for lawyers to review

It’s wise to have communications material drafted and circulating as soon as possible to avoid delays on media outreach due to legal review. This is a new process for many people, and they don’t realize how much time it can take. (HINT: It takes a long time) Build in extra time for the back-and-forth. 

You need to explain what SPAC is and how it works to media

It’s not as straightforward as you think. Many reporters still don’t understand how SPAC works, and what the advantages are for a company to go public that way. Executive spokespeople should be prepared to walk through the explanation in layman’s terms, pausing often to make sure the audience understands the company’s strategy, the advantages of the SPAC, and the quality of the partners and the backstory.  

If your company is considering going public through a SPAC, we’d be happy to discuss the process and the role of PR and media relations. We’ve also supported the traditional IPO route and can offer objective advice on the pros and cons of each.

PR Advice For Building Better Media Relationships

Every PR agency team appreciates the importance of relationships with key media outlets and personnel. This is particularly true in B2B PR, where we tend to approach the same business and trade journalists on behalf of client executives and their brands. The most successful agencies have contacts ready to go for any type of announcement or story, but making a connection with a reporter is only part of the equation. Building it to ensure a long-lasting relationship is the real trick. That requires thoughtful attention and a strong sense of how media work. Below are 7 ways that PR professionals can tighten those all-important journalist relationships.

Stay up-to-date

Occasionally checking a reporter’s recent work is not enough. The best PR professionals know what journalists are planning before they actually publish the piece. First, have a clear understanding of the reporters you work with most frequently and try to check what they’re writing about, even if you don’t have an urgent media inquiry. Often a journalist will hint at what they plan to cover next, offering the opportunity to give client commentary. It’s also helpful to understand the reporter’s perspective on the major topics in the industry. For contacts you don’t know, this is essential so your spokesperson can understand whether the interview will be easy or could present challenges. But for familiar media contacts, knowing their interests and thoughts on major topics can expedite media opportunities. This is because you not only know what stories they will cover instantly when a story breaks, but how they’re likely to approach, which enables a more targeted pitch.

Understand and manage deadlines

Working at the convenience of the reporter and the client can be a tightrope walk. Often between gathering commentary and trying to meet a deadline, the reporter will be nearly as stressed as the PR person. Offering timely and relevant commentary is a great way to improve a relationship, but we’re often stuck waiting on commentary from a client. Although there isn’t a golden rule, keeping the reporter up-to-date on the status of the information you’ve promised is a good idea and helps build trust.

Be first

Building better media relations means making reporters’ lives easier. One of the best ways to do this is by being the first to offer a spokesperson’s thoughts for newsworthy stories. This can be done through close monitoring of important dates like company earnings reports and major tech events where commentary is useful. Often during major announcements, reporters won’t have time to reach out to their reliable PR contacts, so the onus is on the PR team to be proactive. It’s helpful to make a note of any feedback a reporter shares about the next major story, event or announcement they’re planning. You can then take the initiative to offer commentary as soon as a the story is relevant.

Be transparent

Be honest about what you’re offering, especially if it isn’t a perfect fit with the reporter’s needs. It also pays to be truthful about deadlines. If your expert spokesperson can’t meet a deadline, or even if it looks like they might be late, it’s a good idea to let the reporter know. Otherwise, it’s likely the reporter won’t reach out again as they now think you’re unreliable. Being upfront with reporters will lead to more coverage in the long-term even if it means missing an opportunity in the short-term. 

Think outside the brand

A big misconception among PR people is that they can only offer up a spokesperson to speak about the company’s story of the day. Our job is to think outside the strict product news parameters, and that creative thinking can benefit journalists. For example, a tech company focused on connected TV can offer thoughts about what the company did to keep their employees engaged during the pandemic. While you certainly want to pitch and focus on the areas of client expertise, it pays to expand the definition of expertise beyond self-serving announcements. 

Interact on social media

Interaction with a reporter on social media sites like Twitter and LinkedIn can be beneficial. First, it’s a nice gesture. Social likes and shares will be noticed and appreciated. Successful PRs can also learn a great deal about a reporter’s interests that go beyond simply looking at their recent pieces. Journalists often announce they are switching outlets on social media, providing an opportunity to not only wish them luck on their new endeavor, but also build a relationship with a new publication. It also gives you a heads-up to start looking for new go-to contacts at the media outlet the reporter left so you’re building relationships without losing any. 

Use email well

PR people often struggle to find a middle ground between pitching a reporter too often and failing to pitch them enough. There are ways to work around this dilemma. First, make sure the agency team is coordinating outreach so they aren’t contacting a given reporter too much. Second, make sure to acknowledge or thank the reporter following an interview or inclusion in a piece. Finally, make sure you’re only emailing them about relevant content. This is essential for every pitch, but emailing a contact about a story that clearly isn’t up their alley could burn that bridge and hurt future opportunities. 

Business Leaders: PR Tips To Ace Media Interviews

For any PR agency team, a major media interview for a company spokesperson is a solid win. Nothing is quite as rewarding as securing that one big interview, or even a series of them, if there’s high-profile news to share. At the same time, having a terrific media spokesperson who can nail the messaging, handle tough questions and make business or technical language accessible isn’t always easy. 

Some executives are born to be media resources, and they’re every PR person’s dream. Less experienced leaders may need media training or informal coaching to showcase their subject-matter expertise and serve as an organization’s face and voice. They’re unlikely to be included in sites listing the worst interviews of all time, but most can use some help.

With that in mind, here are some tips for PR pros to help encourage a stellar media interview performance.

Know the reporter and outlet 

Always start with the basics. It’s essential to research the media outlet and their audience, of course. Then move on to the journalist’s goals for the interview, their track record, and personality. Read about the reporters’ background, reporting beats, and previous stories to understand their approach and style. Study their social media to get a feel for personal opinions on issues, followers, and interests. If there are some commonalities between the reporter and the executive, it never hurts to reference them to break the ice. But don’t mistake a media interview for a social discussion. The reporter likely has one thing in mind – a good story.

Think through some interview questions.. but don’t count on them

Once the interview topic and duration are determined, spend time anticipating the questions the reporter will ask. While some may share general interview questions beforehand, don’t count on it. Bear in mind that despite what a reporter or producer tells you, questions might change during the course of the interview — especially if it’s about breaking industry news. Besides the specific topic, the PR team should always be mindful of prepping the execs about any hot-buttons or pressing industry questions to carve thoughtful insights and reinforce expertise. The PR team should also review past interviews with the spokesperson and be aware of all on-the-record comments, since those could come up again in a different context. 

Stay on message and be concise

After gathering all possible details, it’s critical to prepare a comprehensive briefing doc, clearly laying out the key three to four messaging points for an executive spokesperson to reiterate and weave into their responses. We recommend that leadership set aside some time with their PR team to go over the messaging, rehearse the responses, identify any red flags and revise responses if needed. Reporters will have a hard time following if the overarching messaging is filled with complex or technical jargon. Maintain brevity and keep them simple, straight, and easy to understand. Long-winded responses typically fail to deliver the main point and lose everyone’s interest. Additionally, to make the story compelling, back it with supporting facts and data points.

Use examples

A good example can help liven up any interview, particularly one about an abstract or technical topic, and a good story is worth a thousand words of jargon. But make sure the example is well prepared, relevant to the interview, and brief. It’s risky to launch into a story that hasn’t been road-tested before an audience.  

Advise execs to be natural and not rush through the interview

Be it a print, digital or broadcast interview, PR pros should explain that an interview is a conversation between two people – something which is engaging and relaxed, yet professional and informative. Hence, the spokesperson should be succinct without losing attributes that make them unique and natural. Messaging and talking points should only be referenced to guide the interview response, not treated as scripted responses. The executive should be able to connect with the reporter, take a pause occasionally and check in to ask if they’re following through. Most journalists will do their own research ahead of time, but not everyone is an expert on the topic at hand. Expect them to ask questions that may require some extra explanation. 

It’s okay not to know everything

No matter how prepared you are, sometimes reporters pose questions that don’t have ready answers. In that case, it’s fine to say, “I don’t have that information, but we’ll try to get back to you.” A good PR advisor will never let a spokesperson guess when it comes to facts or data. On the other hand, an informed opinion about a relevant business issue is always welcome. 

Reflect and offer constructive feedback

Usually, a PR team member accompanies execs to interviews or staffs every client media interview. This is helpful for identifying areas where additional information is needed as well as constructive but candid feedback. Such measures are imperative to help solidify their position as industry experts and strengthen the client-agency relationship.

Plan for technical glitches in the virtual world

Yes, we still aren’t back in the pre-pandemic world and interviews continue to be scheduled virtually. It’s therefore important to be flexible and prepared for any technical glitches. Make sure to check your lighting, test your computer’s camera and sound quality, disable notifications, maintain proper eye contact, and dress the part, among other do’s and don’ts.

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PR people act as the facilitators and counselors, and with their help executives can take full control of a media interview. With proper planning and execution, it will elevate the company’s positioning, demonstrate leadership, and increase any executive’s chances of being quoted in future stories.

AdTech Pubs Every PR Pro Should Be Reading

As many PR agency teams know, our work can be highly specialized, particularly in B2B public relations. Specific sectors like ad tech, for example, offer a relatively small number of relevant trade publications compared to consumer categories. That’s why it’s especially important for PR people not only to understand the tech, but to follow the key media in the industry very closely. From programmatic advertising to first- and third-party data, there are many hot topics and only so many gatekeepers for the stories we want to tell. 

Thankfully, almost all outlets that cover the business of advertising cover the ad tech sector, and many have dedicated sections for it. Here are some of the websites and publications that ad tech PR people should be scanning every day.

Adweek

As one of the leading sources of news in the industry, AdWeek is the perfect target for breaking news. From major deals and mergers to revenue reports, there’s no shortage of ad tech coverage on the site. And yes, there’s even a video series titled “How S#it Works.” 

AdAge

AdAge, the other ad industry publication of long standing, also covers ad tech news, but it also has opinion pieces. So, if you want a more personal approach to your ad tech news, this is the way to go. Or, if you want to keep tabs on the latest campaigns and creative, check out the Hot Spots column. 

AdExchanger

AdExchanger calls itself “the leading voice in ad tech,” and it’s easy to see why. There’s plenty of content on the site directly from ad executives and representatives of major companies, whether it’s interviews or guest columns. One highlight is AdExchanger Talks, a podcast that features key figures in the ad tech world. 

Digiday

In what other publication will you find a section called “WTF Ad Tech?” or “WTF Programmatic?” It’s an interesting way to explain topics, and it’s certainly unique. But if you want your ad tech news in a more straightforward way, then they have you covered for that, too, with “The Programmatic Marketer”.

The Drum

The Drum covers plenty of different facets of ad tech, from data and privacy to the future of television, even eSports. It has long since expanded beyond its UK roots but retains a certain scrappiness in its editorial tone.  The Drum also features subcategories on different brands so it’s easier to track the news on major companies, from Apple to Amazon. There’s also the Drum Awards that recognize the top performers in the advertising world, including in the ad tech space. What better way to see which companies in the industry are the most recognized?

MediaPost

MediaPost actually has several sub-publications so it’s easy to find exactly what you’re looking for. There’s MediaDailyNews, Digital News Daily, MAD (not the satire magazine!), and much more. There are also plenty of newsletters to sign up for and events year-round. That means it’s possible to get ad tech news delivered directly into your inbox, and have a chance to interact with the biggest names in the industry at conferences.

ClickZ

The first thing to check out on ClickZ is Tech Talks, where executives from different companies go in-depth about what they do and the services they offer. It’s quite different from how reporters talk about companies, so it’s a fresh angle. Articles are categorized under interesting topics, such as “Actionable Analysis,” “Analyzing Customer Data,” and “Digital Leaders,” to name a few.

eMarketer

eMarketer not only has ad tech news, but it also offers plenty of data and reports that dive deeply into the industry weeds – in a good way. Note that it’s part of “Insider Intelligence” that requires a fee, but what doesn’t are the podcasts, especially “Behind the Numbers” and “The Ad Platform.” The latter in particular focuses heavily on ad tech, statistics, and where the industry is going in the future.

Campaign

Campaign is an international brand with multiple specialized sites for countries and regions, so it’s a great tool for keeping tabs on news taking place outside the US. There are opinion pieces where readers can take in many different viewpoints. Campaign takes pride in delving into industry trends and strategies. In its own words: “We help you navigate what’s happening now while preparing you for what’s next.”

Marketing Land

As the name suggests, Marketing Land has a heavier focus on marketing tech (martech), but it’s still a valuable resource for news. In fact, it supplies plenty of resources for those new to the industry, with helpful guides that explain key terms for those who are unfamiliar. 

How To Score A Great Local News Story: 5 PR Tips

Selecting the right journalist for a given piece of news is a vital skill for any PR team. It’s also important to determine whether a story has its best chance of being published as a local media item, or if it warrants a full national media outreach. For example, survey results or breaking news at a national company will be pitched to national media, whereas region-specific news will be offered to local reporters.

Although the number of local news outlets — particularly newspapers — has declined over the past several years, local media still offers clout. A study found that 76% of Americans trust local television news, – a confidence level that’s over 20% higher than trust in national news. This is one reason why local media should be part of any PR plan. There’s also the likelihood of a larger story; if a piece of company news has local or regional relevance, the resulting story can have a large impact.

Clearly, there are benefits to pitching local media. Here are some ways to maximize your chances of success.

Lead with the local hook

If there is no local news angle, the reporter will ask, “How is this relevant to Staten Island?” for example, or simply not respond. Once you have established that it’s appropriate to target local media, determine what type of outlet is best – TV, newspapers, or radio. Show that you’ve done your research and lead with the reason the story is relevant. Include their region in the subject line so they know it’s pertinent, and make sure that local angle is clearly stated in your first sentence. Another pro tip is to sprinkle in a reference to one of their previous stories where they covered a similar topic in their region. Or, if they cover a specific beat / section of the paper, like local entrepreneurs, or community service, be sure to mention it. 

Know when and how assignments are made

This is particularly critical for local broadcast segments. The news assignments for the day can be made very early, with reporters and camera crews often dispatched by 8:00 a.m. to cover the stories their assignment editors have identified. For afternoon broadcasts, naturally, the process happens later. It’s best to know exactly who’s making the coverage decisions and when those commitments are made, so  you can get your story on their radar at exactly the right time.

Don’t pitch too many reporters at the same publication

It’s easy to become over-eager and blast out emails on the same topic to multiple reporters at a publication. But this is never a good idea, and at local news sites, there may be only one or two reporters on a given beat. Reporters covering a given beat at any publication are in frequent contact with each other, and if you send a pitch to a wrong contact, the reporter may forward your email to the correct person. So, it will be excessive (or worse) if a PR person hits up too many reporters at the same publication. It’s far better to send one or two personalized pitches to local journalists. The pitch should be carefully tailored instead of generic.

Have a strong understanding of local news

If you’re a PR person accustomed to placing your company in stories on a certain beat, you may not be reading local news sites regularly. Don’t neglect the research if this is the case. Investigate local issues and topics of interest, and make a point to understand the specific audience of the local news site you want to pitch. A deep comprehension of local news means understanding who owns which company. For example, if you know that Tribune Co. owns both the Los Angeles Times and WGNO-TV in New Orleans, you know one of your contacts at the Times might put you in touch with WGNO-TV to get your company on TV. The longer you work in PR, the more you make these types of connections, and they soon become second nature. But you can always get smart by doing some research. 

Never shut the door on a contact

For your best chance at coverage, be sure to follow up one-to-three times, ideally with new information about the story. And once you have successfully worked with a reporter to place a story, be sure to build the relationship so they’ll remember you as a future contact, whether by sending a thank-you note or promoting the story on Twitter. Every contact is a building block to future stories, so don’t take it personally if you don’t succeed at first. If you get a last-minute call from a producer asking for story commentary from an expert source, do your best to help, even if it’s not relevant to your own clients or company. Chances are, you’ll come upon the same reporter at some point in the future, and they will remember. 

When done properly, local media outreach can secure high-impact placements for your company. A professional approach and a well-researched pitch will make you stand out and help build a foundation for greater success down the road. 

How Jeff Bezos Scored A PR Win

Not every billionaire CEO needs a big public relations team, apparently – just ask Elon Musk. But many successful founders do have an innate grasp of PR and media strategy. Sure, communications skills are learned, and years of experience really count in the PR biz. But when it comes to the hand-to-hand combat of media relations, an instinct for the game surely helps.

That’s the conclusion that Bloomberg Businessweek’s Brad Stone came to about Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and his tangle with the National Enquirer in 2019. In an excerpt from his new book, Amazon Unbound, Stone offers a fascinating tick-tock on the PR melodrama that played out after the Enquirer published salacious photos and texts involving the then-married Bezos and paramour Lauren Sanchez.  The story reads like a thriller. In Stone’s words, “It’s a tale that involves a scheming Hollywood manager, desperate tabloid newspaper editors, and spurious claims of political intrigue and international espionage. It’s also a look into Jeff Bezos’s mind and how he thinks unconventionally and always manages to come out on top.”

Precisely. Now, I don’t agree that Bezos is a PR mastermind in every sense of the word. In the first place, he could have likely avoided the scandal if he had behaved with more circumspection. It doesn’t take a media relations genius to figure that the press would at some point be all over the details of a new relationship that he didn’t bother to hide. But maybe that’s how moguls are.

The fascinating aspects of the Bezos tabloid scandal are instructive. If you unpack Stone’s behind-the-scenes story, you’ll spot some familiar and not-so-familiar PR rules about how to turn around a negative story. And Bezos played them perfectly.

Preempt bad news where possible

“Get ahead of the story” is time-honored advice offered by PR experts to public figures on the edge of a nasty revelation. It nearly always holds up. On Monday, January 7, the Enquirer emailed Bezos “to request an interview with you about your love affair.” Bezos didn’t know it yet, but someone had tipped off the tabloid about the relationship. Sanchez’s own brother slipped it cozy photos of the couple together, screenshots of sexy texts, and details of future assignations so the paper could get its own photos. Bezos had to have been caught off-guard, but he didn’t flinch. He moved quickly, instructing his PR team to announce the news of his divorce by Wednesday morning. He thus gained a measure of control over the story and was able to lay it out on his own terms. The Enquirer, a weekly with a Monday pub date, had to rush out a special issue to protect its scoop. Bezos wasn’t able to stop the stories, but he avoided a reactive announcement of his marital status with a dignified statement about the couple’s decision to split.

Negotiate well

What followed the first flurry of stories about Bezos and Sanchez was a classic tabloid quid-pro-quo. The Enquirer wanted fresh material to move the story forward. Bezos decided to negotiate, but from a point of strength. The tabloid ultimately agreed to stop running the old photos and texts in exchange for an exclusive paparazzi shot of Sanchez in an airport. It was a low-stakes concession by team Bezos. The assurance that no more surprise photos or story angles would pop up — at least for a while — enabled Bezos to plan his counteroffensive.

Exploit your opponent’s weakness

This is a business maxim as old as Machiavelli, but it’s often relevant in a tough media relations situation. When Bezos was originally ambushed by the Enquirer, the tabloid held most of the cards. But it also had a big problem. Its shenanigans around “catch and kill” stories about ex-president Trump had caught the attention of SDNY prosecutors who smelled a possible campaign finance violation. The publication was on thin ice, financially weak and fearful of prosecution. Bezos was able to exploit its vulnerability in his ultimate response. That turned out to be a masterstroke, even though it wasn’t wholly true.

Tap specialist expertise

Suspicious about the leaked photos and worried about what was next, Bezos involved his longtime security consultant, Gavin de Becker, in his media counteroffensive. de Becker was more than a hired gun. He boasts a distinguished career and is a published author and recognized security expert. In an interview granted to the Daily Beast, de Becker fingered Sanchez’s brother as the tipster, which only elicited sympathy for the couple. More importantly, he implied that Bezos was targeted because of Trump’s resentment of him as the owner of The Washington Post. The security consultant’s status lent credibility to the accusation and focused attention on the Enquirer’s reputation as an apologist, and possible bagman, for former president Trump.

Disintermediate the press

They call it “media” for a reason. But today it’s easy for a powerful personality to disintermediate the MSM and go directly to the public with a message. It’s a strategy that arguably propelled Donald Trump – another high-level PR practitioner — to the presidency. Trump famously maligned the mainstream media and used Twitter as his direct platform of choice, and his example wasn’t lost on the rich and powerful. Bezos didn’t need to disparage media as Trump did; after all, he owns one of the most prestigious newspapers in the world. But he responded publicly to the National Enquirer’s offer of a “deal” not just in the media, but in a powerful personal essay on Medium, the social publishing platform. Of course it was picked up by every media outlet in the country.

Change the story

This was Bezos’s slam dunk. After skillfully using earned media to highlight his own version of the story, he went for the jugular in the Medium post. He used emails from the Enquirer’s owner, AMI, to his attorney to accuse the tabloid of extortion. As a coup de grace, he reported on his own embarrassing texts and suggested that the leaks amounted to political retribution. Astonishingly, he implied – without evidence — that the texts and photos were accessed by people with links to the Saudi Arabian government. The theory was that the Saudis were angered by WaPo’s reporting that Prince Mohammed bin Salman was linked to the murder of columnist Jamal Kashoggi. The bold charge that the Enquirer was trying to wreak political payback for Trump, and that a foreign actor might even be involved, was devastating.

It was a pretty cynical move. Instead of a tawdry backstabbing by his girlfriend’s brother, Bezos implied that foreign actors were trying to destroy his reputation for geopolitical reasons. Even today, there’s no evidence of that. But its impact was like a one-two punch. It was a twist on the game that celebrities play to challenge and blame powerful media brands for negative coverage. In this scenario, Bezos is the rich and powerful one, but he deftly turned the tables on the tabloid and used its sleazy past against it. By coming clean about his personal situation, he cast himself as a principled defender of journalism, truth, even democracy.

There’s a lot to question here, because the whole things boils down to a shady little shakedown of an indiscreet business mogul. But it’s also a pretty impressive master class in PR and media relations, or at least, tabloid relations. Bottom line, the whole messy episode is a footnote in Bezos’s life and career, and his reputation has probably never been stronger. That’s power.

5 PR Tips To Boost Your Company’s Media Appeal

In B2B public relations, we’re always trying to find ways to drive business and trade media interest for clients. Yet as every PR person knows, there isn’t always a timely newshook for the story you want to tell. And not every business is a household name. When gaining media traction is challenging, how can PR pros generate media attention for the stories they want to tell? Here are a few shortcuts that can help B2B PR pros spiff up their pitches, think creatively, and drive media coverage.

Look globally for reactive news

U.S. headlines can be a gold mine for reactive news opportunities, where a company latches on to a breaking news story with a smart take or point of view and gets coverage for it. But with many companies doing business internationally it’s smart to look outside our own media market for openings. PR pros and comms teams should consider developments in relevant international regions as a way to expand thought leadership for company executives. Moreover, given how interconnected the business world is today, international news stories, trends, and policy changes often have ripple effects that impact the U.S. market. Just because a political or economic movement was rolled out in the EU doesn’t mean that it won’t impact your stateside business or client.

Broaden the narrative

When it comes to offering content and commentary, most companies focus on a certain aspect of their industry. Yet, the knowledge pool within their organization likely extends far beyond that one area. For example, a retail tech business may focus on price optimization technology, but it may have executives who can speak to broader trends within certain retail verticals or retail as whole — trends like multichannel retailing; micro-fulfillment; or artificial intelligence applications. By looking to leverage diverse knowledge, PR pros and internal comms teams can dramatically raise the thought leadership profile of an entire organization and also generate new ideas for content and pitching. The key is to choose a relevant area and bridge back to your core product or service.

Don’t fear the vertical

It’s always great to generate coverage within top-tier technology publications like TechCrunch or VentureBeat. These outlets, however, tend to stick closer to high-level announcements or end-user benefit stories versus the nitty-gritty aspects that potential buyers study before making a significant B2B purchase. So it pays to go to overlooked areas; one of those within tech media, at least in my view, is developer and IT media. Granted, the data integration capabilities of a digital transformation tool may not be at the top of most executives’ reading lists. However, if a client is producing breakthrough technology and results — and they likely are — developer and IT media publications can really resonate with CIOs and work wonders when it comes to product reputation. Vertical stories can be powerful sales tools, and higher-order tech media tend to follow the key sector publications. So don’t be afraid to build pitches and content around the nuts and bolts specs of a product’s technology — they may be way more interesting to media than you think.

Use data and assets — or create your own

Whether in business, technology, or professional services media, one hugely attractive asset that can really bring a story to life is data. Almost all businesses are sitting on data that can be used to position themselves as a key media resource for information, trends, and forecasting. And if there’s not enough current data, it’s easy to create fresh assets by investing in a proprietary survey. Beyond just the immediate media benefits, data insights can be parlayed into white papers, supporting points for awards submissions, and bylined pieces that work to raise executive and brand visibility as well. 

Content, content, content

No one gets hits for every pitch they throw, and “no, thanks” is a common response in the PR world. But just because a journalist may not want a briefing with a company spokesperson doesn’t mean that a story or company point of view is weak. Instead, it actually opens up a whole new avenue to explore with a given pitch: bylined content. It’s true that bylines need to be “vendor- neutral” – that is, they can’t boast about a company’s product or service. The point of a good bylined article is to express a smart opinion on an issue of relevance to its customers, or offer solutions to an emerging problem or challenge. A deep-dive, long-form POV that a business spokesperson can offer is sometimes just as valuable — if not more so — than a quote or two in a broader media story.

Cybersecurity Pubs Every PR Pro Should Be Reading

Most of us who work at tech PR agencies stay glued to various media to track breaking news and inform reactive pitching to promote visibility for our clients. Yet our main goal is not always to secure top-tier media coverage, although that’s always a win. We may also work to earn media coverage that will be read by a rarefied audience that ranges from senior executives to CEOs. Often we work with trade journalists who cover highly technical categories and need commentary and background from specialized experts. 

Cybersecurity is one of those categories. From data hacks to new ransomware, PR pros who work in the cybersec space need to stay connected to developments and track trends in the business. Trade publications can be just as important as top outlets like The New York Times or Wall Street Journal. They often break news before anyone else. In fact, if you work in cybersecurity PR you should be reading these top publications on a daily basis.   

Dark Reading

Dark Reading is perfect for enterprise IT and network security professionals, providing the most up-to-date information about products, management strategies, architectures and security policy. It acts as a security dashboard for IT professionals who don’t have the time or the luxury of combing wirefeeds, multiple bug feeds or vendor sites to find out what’s new or how well it works. 

Wired: Threat Level

Threat Level, a subsection of Wired, offers insight into the latest news and happenings related to hacking, cyber crimes and new methods to protect personal data online. PR pros will also enjoy the in-depth stories with an insider’s view on cyber attacks.

ZDNet: Zero Day

Looking for new research on tech and IT, while reporting on the latest threats and vulnerabilities in the cybersec space? ZDNet’s Zero Day covers that while providing technical in-depth pieces which professionals will appreciate. 

CSO

Aimed for high-level security professionals, CSO offers content on security-related products and services to assist CSOs in the decision-making process. Their goal is to underscore the need for security personnel while building a high level of trust among chief security officers and tracking the tools and techniques they need to make smart decisions.

InfoWorld

InfoWorld is published for IT leaders who hope to bring their companies a competitive edge through understanding emerging technologies and advances. It focuses on personal computing in enterprise and offers reliable product information to corporate volume buyers who are purchasing for client-server environments. 

ThreatPost

Threatpost covers Internet and computer security news on virus alerts, new hacker threats and attacks, and advances in security research, webcasts and white papers. It’s also a great source for breaking news with expert commentary. 

SC Magazine

SC Media gives info security professionals the in-depth business and technical information they need to tackle the countless security challenges they face and establish risk management and compliance postures that underpin business strategies. It’s also a great place for in-depth op-eds by industry leaders on current trends and topics.

Krebs on Security

Founded by investigative reporter Brian Krebs, Krebs on Security provides content on day-to-day software and information technology, executing daily internet tasks and also good security practices. He also offers articles for not-so-savvy cyber pros by breaking down the latest cyber attacks and helping explain their impact.

CyberSecurity Dive

Under the Industry Dive umbrella is Cybersecurity Dive. It provides in-depth journalism and insight into the most important news and trends shaping cybersecurity, like breaches, vulnerability, threats, and more.

InfoSecurity Mag

Infosecurity Magazine has given readers over ten years of insight into the information security industry. It focuses on hot topics and trends, in-depth news analysis and opinion columns from industry experts. It’s also a great place for webinars and other free educational content!

Bleeping Computer

Bleeping Computer aims to serve as a helpful resource for novice computer users to learn the basics of computer tech. It’s also a good forum for discussion of trends, tools, and hot topics.

TechRepublic

TechRepublic serves as the ultimate professional resource and community for members of the IT sector, from CEOs, to IT professionals  and everyone whose job requires making decisions about technology. It includes a family of virtual communities called republics, which organize editorial by job function, providing expert niche content, as well as peer-to-peer advice. 

infoRisk Today

infoRisk Today covers topics in risk management, compliance, fraud, and information security. It provides credible, timely information that security leaders can use as they craft comprehensive information security strategies so critical in the industry.

How To Convince A Reporter to Cover Your Story

One of the most frustrating parts of working in PR or media relations is getting the “too busy” response. You have a solid pitch or a compelling announcement, but the feedback from media is that they have too much going on to cover this story. While breaking news will often take precedence, skilled PR teams will do everything they can to nail that interview or story.

People who move up at PR agencies know the best tips and tricks for persuading media why a story is newsworthy. We know what makes the perfect pitch. Still, we avoid using words like “guarantee” or “definite” when predicting media coverage. In the end, it is up to the journalist or their editor if our news is worth their time. 

What can PR pros do to convince reporters to cover their story when they claim they are too busy?

Show them how the story fits with their audience

Why is this newsworthy or timely? Put yourself in the shoes of the publication’s audience. Who is reading this potential article, would it be interesting to them? Give useful information for their readers will want to know. We want to keep and form relationships with key media. Help guide them on the possible story you’d like to explore. Grab their attention with that snappy subject line and prove to them in the pitch why you are a credible news source. We know everyone is busy in the news world but with the right attention grabber, you’ll never have to worry about someone being too busy for your story.    

Have supporting assets 

They say a picture is worth a thousand pitches. You don’t want to miss out on that opportunity if a journalist asks for additional assets like images or graphics. When preparing to pitch this story, think about what assets the media could use in addition to commentary. For larger announcements, create a Dropbox file with anything media could use in addition to the usual executive headshots, visuals, and company logos. Journalists are often juggling several stories, and sometimes great visuals can make the difference.  

Be flexible 

Are you pitching a timely story or trend that won’t be relevant in a few days or a founder story that can be discussed at any time? If it’s the latter, consider revamping the timeline for a quieter news cycle. Any good PR pro knows when not to pitch company profile pieces. If a journalist says no, tell them you understand and ask if you could check back in a few weeks to revisit the conversation. Work with them and keep them on your radar for a better time.  

Shift gears as a last resort 

If after all, your PR tricks for convincing journalists don’t work but you feel strongly that your company is a great resource, offer your spokesperson to talk about another topic within their area of expertise. Gauge the journalists’ attention by asking what else they’re working on and how you can incorporate your company into that article. As PR pros, we understand the value of the “thought capital” that executives and subject-matter experts offer. We should bank a full roster of topics that they can easily discuss with media with little prep time. Just because a journalist said no to the topic you originally pitched them does not mean no to future conversations. Try to convince them that you have new data coming out soon that you’d love for them to get a first glance at, when the time is right, or tease an exclusive story to them. Journalists love having the opportunity to break a story first and by dangling something in front of them, you may have them on the hook for your next story. 

How do you work with media in covering your story during a busy newscycle? Let me know on Twitter @colleeno_pr

5 Reasons Your Story Wasn’t Picked Up: A PR View

Every experienced PR person has had their share of media opportunities that looked promising but never resulted in coverage. In fact, most can recall a particular occasion where everything went right, whether it was a full interview or a quick comment, and nothing came of it. Although there’s no magic to guaranteeing a 100% coverage rate, there are ways to maximize your chances of seeing your company’s quote in a story. Below are five reasons why the story didn’t materialize.

The spokesperson wasn’t prepared

Even if your spokesperson is an expert in the field and on the subject at hand, they will need a thorough briefing. This should go beyond a topic and journalist bio. A PR rep should get as much information as possible, pressing for detail on the proposed discussion and the story’s slant. You will not get specific questions, but pulling together a predictive Q&A is useful. In addition, structure is just as important as content. Often your spokesperson will review the briefing document during the interview, so creating an easy-to-scan guide they can review and absorb in real time is critical.

The quote lacked color

For a quote, context and color are often the major factors for inclusion in a story. Make sure your spokesperson is providing new and intriguing insights instead of reiterating what the reporter has likely heard, especially since they might have multiple quotes to consider. A quick brainstorm for unique points and turns of phrase can prepare your spokesperson to offer something new to the journalist. In addition, make sure every insight is relevant to the story and topic at hand. Don’t be afraid to go for a contrarian angle or quote, but make sure the opinion is authentic, and that the spokesperson is comfortable with offering a point of view that’s outside the mainstream.

The interview was too late

Reporters are always on deadline and they often need to speak as soon as possible. It’s important to lock in any opportunities quickly. If your go-to spokesperson is busy and can’t talk right away, consider other executives or experts who might be qualified. There are also circumstances where a pre-prepared quote or comment may be helpful, especially in situations that are anticipated, like the release of government unemployment numbers, or an announcement by a competitor. Also, a quick follow-up with the reporter is helpful. A journalist will often request more information or confirmation of details, so quick responses are warranted and appreciated.

The spokesperson wasn’t the right expert

As helpful as a thorough briefing document might be, it’s also essential for any media spokesperson to have real and relevant expertise on the subject at hand. This is why it can be advantageous to have a matrix of spokespersons, whether in-house or outside experts, on hand for multiple opportunities. Trying to shoehorn a vague or irrelevant comment into a story that needs informed expertise is almost always a waste of time. But when the situation calls for an opinion as opposed to an insight, a colorful metaphor or analogy can win the day.

The comments were too promotional

The quickest way to shut down a journalist’s interest in an interview is to turn it into a sales pitch. Any company spokesperson or third-party expert should avoid jargon, especially comments that talk up a product or service that’s not the point of the story. A good PR rep will coach their executive on ways to demonstrate expertise without devolving into sales-speak.