In case it hasn't dawned on you yet as a founder or executive, the lion's share of your media success in the current economy is dependent on you. That's right; it's not your agency, your ad guy, or even your content marketing team or social media intern. As a leader, it's you who has the vision, the passion, the energy, and the value-add information your partners, employees, investors, and prospective customers want.
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That's actually good news. With a few tweaks to the way you're thinking about content and media, you can improve your public relations (PR), and increase your reach and revenue substantially, with little to no additional expenditure. And the results can start happening as soon as today. So, here goes.
As someone who's been working with the media since the near-beginning of technology time, I've earned every gray hair I now cover. Like most of you, I learned most of my media lessons the hard way. But to keep you from tripping into the potholes I've entered, I've assembled five of the fastest tips you can follow with ease.
1. Get—or Create—a Blogging and Spokesperson PolicyMake sure your employees understand it and read it. It's stunning how many PR accidents are the results of well-intentioned mistakes. For example: "I wanted to defend the honor of my company so, yes, I took that editor's call and I set her straight." As my great editorial friend Wayne Rash has said more than once, "Stupidity has no upper ceiling."
So, who should speak to the press? What's the process? If an employee is blogging, speaking, or simply speaking out on social media as an individual, what are the rules? Yes, I have some opinions on this. But if you don't have a policy yet, go out to Google and pull down an example. Or reach out to me and I'll send you a template. Perhaps I'll even post one here in a future column. But don't leave your company exposed to people's naivety or good intentions by failing to get at least a basic policy in place by the end of today (or at least by the end of the week).
2. Create a Brief and Consistent Company MessageIt's amazing how many otherwise brilliant companies haven't done this or won't. So think about the rule of threes: When you've appeared in the press 2-3 times in credible locations and the position and message of your business is consistent in each, you've moved the media needle. It's like magic. This is no longer you repeating what you'd like to be heard about your company, it's the press who reported it. Now it's the law. (Even those of us who are in the media business tend to psychologically believe that it's true.)
But now imagine the messages are random, or worse yet, conflicted. Now the reputation and brand you hold is messy, conflicted, or all over the map. Or because you weren't able to articulate what it is you're about and for whom, you never got up to the plate. It's amazing how many executives, when asked what their business does, will respond with things such as, "It's magic" or "If we had an hour I could tell you, but anything less would be selling it short." Or my (non) favorite, "There are no words."
Believe me, from the writer's side of the desk, the listener's brain is assuredly thinking, "Yes, there are, and you'd better come up with them fast or I'm outta here." Here again, get a template—get a little guidance if needed—but for the sake of all about your firm that is holy, think it through now and get your messaging down.
3. Every Media Message Should Be "Value-Add"Legions of executives begin their media postings with, "We need to tell our company story." No, you don't. You need to tell your audience the things they are dying to hear. "How do I back up this server?" or "What happens when the Apple iPhone SE I'm traveling with suddenly quits?" Your audience could care less about your company story, until they know you cared enough about them to share a bit of your expertise about the things that keep them awake in the dark. They'd like to be enlightened, inspired, intrigued, or even a bit entertained.
This is a fun exercise I do with clients: As they talk about their media topics, every idea that starts with, "We need to tell the piece about how [our company]..." I stop them cold as we begin the routine.
"That's still about you," I say."No, it's about our team; I couldn't have done it without them," they reply."Still about you.""But it's such an inspiring story.""Still about you."
When an executive is finally able to get inside their customers' desires and motivations, there are likely a myriad of stories they have that can ease their customers' pain or inspire them. Then, and only then, will the audience of prospective readers and listeners care about you.
4. Not Sure What Keeps Your Customers Up At Night? Ask ThemAsk them as part of your email marketing campaign. Ask them at lunch. Ask them in your social media posts. Invite them to tell you about their stories. It's amazing how many great posts emerge from the questions people have raised in their comments. If you engage, they'll continue to seek your materials. You'll have them begging for more. Get the picture?
5. Give Your Fellow Executives Material to ShareHere's a true story: The incoming Global VP of Communications for a great Utah-based company was stunned, upon joining her new firm, to discover the sales VPs of the newly public venture going rogue by writing long-form posts on LinkedIn. Why? Not because they craved the time it took or the personal attention it got them. But because it worked, by giving them a means to find and really engage with the people who would then be more interested in hearing about a solution from them.
So why not do what this VP did and give the willing executives a little material to use, a little training, and a little guidance? Now they'll have ways to get this tremendous advantage while staying consistent within the company's brand (and the SEC's regulations), without having to re-invent the wheel every couple of days. Yes, they are salespeople. But now the media power you've amassed has grown many-fold as their willing voices emerge in a more harmonic effort. They get leads and customers. You get additional reach and PR.
Are you beginning to get the idea? Now everybody in your company can assist to one degree or another in advancing PR. Yes, they'll need a little help. Yes, they'll require some guidelines. But, by putting a little focus on your message and sharing your materials and guidance with others, you'll accomplish the golden rule of business: By helping others (customers, salespeople, over-stressed executives) get what they want and need (tools, ideas, education, more customers), you'll get more of what you need (audience reach, media coverage, and a more meaningful and consistent message) from PR. Everyone wins.