6 Ways To Generate PR When You Have No News

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?

6 ways to build publicity when it’s quiet

Be an expert

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.

Speak up on owned media

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.

Be reactive

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.

Make news with opinion or behavior surveys

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.

Leverage customer success

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.

Do something good

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.

PRs, Don’t Pitch Media On Twitter—Build Relationships

In tech PR, Twitter is as valuable an asset as Cision or Vocus. It’s a strong tool for staying up-to-date on what reporters are writing about and interested in. What it’s not? A tool for explicit/direct PR pitches.

Despite articles that say otherwise, when was the last time you saw a colleague or company successfully pitch media on Twitter or social, in general? You probably can’t recall a single example. It’s that rare. In fact, it’s safe to say that the mishaps—which are often very public—are much more frequent and common.

So, for PR, how can Twitter actually help?

We can use it to build relationships with media and master the “soft sell.” Instead of pitching,  demonstrate that you know a reporter’s beat and are interested in their writing. This helps when you open Outlook or pick up the phone for your actual pitch efforts. They’ll be familiar with you.

But how does one build relationships on Twitter? Here are 3 tips that I live by.

Show you’re paying attention.  This one is simple enough—retweet a reporter’s articles/tweets and favorite their content regularly. This will put you on their radar and make them familiar with you.

Don’t just RT; start a conversation.  Whenever you tweet an article, be sure to include the author’s handle (if you don’t know it, find it), as well as a POV on their piece. If you agree with it, let them know. If you disagree, ask questions. There’s no better way to show that you know a reporter’s beat. You’ll also learn a lot about the writer’s POV for future pitches.

Share information. Another way to show you’re following a given reporter is to share information that’s relevant to their beat or personal passion. This should be totally distinct from a client pitch unless it’s a truly great fit.

Don’t focus only on the rockstars.  It’s great to engage with a journalist or blogger with 100K followers, but don’t ignore those who are less known. Their feeds tend to be less cluttered, and there’s often a greater chance for a real dialogue.

Not everything has to be business.  I find that the most memorable tweets are often the funniest/oddest. That’s why sometimes being silly or quirky is your best bet. In fact, my most meaningful interactions with reporters have come from somewhat bold tweets with an odd remark or funny GIF. This works if you give it some thought and think through the idea. If they respond, great. If they don’t, no harm done.

PR Tips For Talking To Top Tech Bloggers

As an account person at a New York PR agency focused on tech accounts, I spend most of my day trying to reach some of the world’s most savvy tech bloggers and influencers. Bloggers are important in nearly every sector, but those who cover technology are particularly crucial to launching a new product or service, or to building a personal brand for a company executive. Some have deep technical subject knowledge, and all offer strong opinions about their category or product area.

These bloggers can also be some of the toughest cookies in our business. Here are a few tech PR tips I’ve picked up along the way that may help you crack the tech media code.

Do think in context

When pitching tech, it’s easy to be overly focused on your client’s announcement. News is always important, but instead of relying on it as your sole pitch, consider offering context. Provide links to pertinent headlines about similar topics and trends, or offer someone from your client’s end to discuss the trend beyond their news. Media are busy, so regardless of whether you are doing a hard B2B PR push, or just trying for some digital brand PR maintenance, keep your pitches to the point, but set the scene for offering insights, trend data, or forecasts.

Don’t get bloated by buzzwords

Nowhere are buzzwords more prevalent than in tech, and often PR people think loading up their pitch with jargon will give it a “hip” edge. It doesn’t; if you don’t believe me, check out this witheringly critical post of a buzzword-filled PR pitch by David Pogue. Instead, craft your pitch in a way that’s catchy and relevant, and get to the point in the first sentence of your verbal or email approach.

Do offer exclusives

Don’t be afraid to offer an “exclusive” – a first crack at a newsworthy story— to get the conversation started in advance of a company announcement. By responsibly teasing exclusives and off-the-record conversations prior to your news, you establish your client as a go-to source for future coverage. In addition, it gives you ample to time to get all the details ironed out prior to the story’s publication date. Skillful use of the media exclusive is also a great way to build relationships among influential bloggers and journalists.

Do keep it honest

Mistakes happen. And while it is frowned upon to continuously reach out in order to micro-manage a reporter’s coverage, following up with corrections is a must. No one likes to learn they got it wrong. Reach out in a friendly way with correct information (e.g. company background, titles, company claims, product information, etc.). Journalists are generally quite receptive and will appreciate the follow-up as they don’t want to spread misinformation. Consider pairing these requests with a “thank you for the great coverage…” in order to leave no question about the friendly nature of your request.

Think about the long term

Be considerate of tech bloggers or any journalists. Send them what they need, when they need it, and if you don’t have the answer they seek, do your best to get back to them with it. The right coverage is about more than just a pitch, and acting in collaboration with your contact is a great way to not only build bridges but also spawn more positive attention.

PR (Never) Takes a Holiday!

While most people are ready to kick off the 4th of July holiday early, smart PR folks have been thinking of ways to take advantage of the time period on behalf of their clients. They know that a long holiday weekend means a slow news cycle and media who may be distracted or in a rush to get out. Times like these can provide a golden opportunity for getting your clients in the news…if you’re smart and think strategically. Worried about your clients’ news being met by a barrage of out of office replies? Here are some tips on getting your news out during a short holiday week.

Do Your Holiday Homework

Think about what day the holiday falls on and be sure to get your pitch out before the mass exodus. This year, July 4th falls on a Thursday, which means pretty much everyone will begin to check out as early as Tuesday afternoon. Get your pitches out by Monday and send a quick follow-up on Tuesday morning to give reporters time to look at your story. Use the rest of the time to make calls to top-tier press to “close” some stories ahead of the holiday weekend.

No Expiration Date

Reporters are looking for content to fill in news gaps over the holiday, so this is an opportunity for your story to make a splash. Pitch news that doesn’t have a time stamp attached to it. Reporters appreciate evergreen stories, like surveys, because they’re ideal for slow news cycles. After pitching a client’s survey in March, my colleague is still getting emails from media interested in the story three months later.

Own That Holiday!

This is also a good time to make the holiday work for you. Take advantage of this window of opportunity by planning ahead and thinking creatively. Provide reporters with timely content like tips on outdoor decor, or recipes for a 4th of July barbecue, or riffing on the ” independence” theme which can be translated to almost any client product or service and easily be plugged into a story. Make sure your client news owns the holiday. Your efforts will be appreciated and you’ll be building critical relationships for future pitching and PR.

Be Prepared

Now that you’ve pitched early enough, be prepared to work with the media; don’t disconnect from your work email just yet. Know that part of making this strategy work means working bits and pieces over the holiday weekend. Once you’ve got a “bite” – go with it! Take pride in the extra effort expended to get a great placement. This also means preparing your client. Spokespeople need to be available for interviews, and members of the PR team need to be around to facilitate as well. Remember to work quickly and efficiently, and don’t forget to be patient and friendly with bloggers and media. It’s a great time to “bond” and you can be sure that they want to finish up and enjoy the holiday weekend too!
What are your tips for pitching during a short holiday week?

The Seven Deadly PR Pitching Sins

Top PR agencies know what to do, and what not to do, when pitching media. Yet, it’s easy to cut corners under time pressure. Here’s a quick list of the “Seven Deadly Pitching Sins” for PR professionals. Feel free to add your own.

1. Being boring.  A boring or irrelevant pitch will be deleted faster than a pop star’s divorce. If it doesn’t resonate, don’t bother.

2. Spamming.  The “spray and pray” strategy is not only ineffective, it can get you blacklisted.

3. Being unprepared. You only have one shot, so make sure your pitch is bulletproof and think through all logical questions.

4. Being too commercial.  Tell a story, don’t pitch a product.

5. Sloppiness.  Typos, ungrammatical sentences, obvious ‘form’ emails all send a bad message and undermine your pitch.

6. Giving up too easily.  Resourcefulness is key in publicity placement. If a pitch isn’t working, don’t give up; change it and try again.

7. Blind pitching.  Make sure you’re up-to-date on media beats, recent stories, and, if possible, reporter preferences. Never pitch blind.