All of us face the daily task of getting things noticed, and we find that the task has been reshaped by technology. Simple refinement of skills allowed us to craft the perfect subject line in an email, work with digital databases, and master the art of newsjacking.
These are helpful, but often aren’t enough to secure attention from a dwindling number of journalists who face the double duty of creating physical and virtual stories.
How can we help reporters and score media coverage at the same time? By working with clients to ensure that their online presence is clean, clear and easily discoverable.
Journalists are multi-taskers who instantly switch to their search engines to hunt down details on your client, often while you pitch them. Does a search on your client produce results on Google’s front page that has anything to do with the topic or activity you’re promoting? Does it include or reflect the client’s expertise in her field?
Here’s why it should: Reporters increasingly look online as they report and search for sources. A 2010 Cision/George Washington University study showed that 89 percent of researching journalists look to blogs and 65 percent turn to social networking sites.
More and more journalists take a “don’t call us, we’ll call you” attitude to PR pros. The message seems clear: Create a compelling online presence and media attention will follow. Except that often it doesn’t.
The Internet puts up an endless canvas for content and spawns social media tools that anyone with a keyboard and internet access can use to make themselves known, but it has also created a ruthless filtering system. No amount of tweeting, posting and updating will hide the fact that the information that rises to the top can be riddled with inaccuracies, be misleading or include confusing or conflicting reports about who your client is and what he or she knows and thinks.
When that happens, the overtaxed journalist moves on to someone or something that meets her needs. What can you do?
Focus on a handful of key elements in their online site rather than fixate on “frequency.” It helps if the last blog post was not written in 2010 and the Twitter account has not been dormant for 14 months. Make an effort to ensure that what is discovered by hungry journalists is up to date, accurate and inviting. Here’s a check list of where to begin:
1. Create compelling, timely content.
There is no substitute for interesting content as your campaign gets going.
Work with clients so that they write well about what they know. Follow the news cycle closely and urge your clients to contribute posts to their own blogs or in publications. Write on subjects that are getting attention right now—either nationally or in their industry.
Be smart about newsjacking. Use your objective eye to decide when there is an appropriate connection between your client and news stories. Post as quickly as possible and pay close attention to keywords and trending topics, so the new material has a greater chance of being found by a journalist on the hunt.
2. Bypass the contact form.
A generic contact form is a big turn off to roaming journalists. If they’re interested, they want to be in touch now.
The easy access to so many experts means that reporters move on rather than fill out something online and sit back and wait for a response. Be sure your clients have your email and phone number as a contact on their website and LinkedIn profiles. If they list their own information, make certain it connects to a channel that they check often.
If clients insist on a blind box for business requests, ask them to create a second button on their press page or bio with your contact info. The faster the response, the better the chance your client will be quoted, referenced, or used as a background source.
Educate your clients! Even if they aren’t quoted or included in a story, they’ll understand the value of landing in a reporter’s rolodex where they may be tapped in the future.
3. Don’t let social media infrastructures languish.
Few things look worse to reporters than a social media extension that hasn’t been updated in months or has a lot of off-topic content.
Create accounts for clients only if they or you intend to engage there and provide consistent, valuable content. Revise and update the biographical information on all social media accounts so that it represents what the client promotes today. Cancel and close any accounts that aren’t tended.
4. Have an opinion.
Be sure your client can do more than parrot conventional wisdom. When you write your campaign messages, include engaging thoughts, preferences and opinions from your client.
These are much more likely to interest journalists than pleas for coverage of a new product or service. What pain does it relieve? Why does your client think her remedy is the best solution to a common problem? Urge clients to be opinionated. Get them comfortable expressing opinions.
In On digital platforms, too many people take their content, photos, video, podcasts and innermost thoughts public without considering what reporters really want. Construct your client’s platform, or tweak an existing one, to make it easier for members of the news media to discover that big story and give it momentum.
Barbara Cave Henricks and Rusty Shelton are the co-authors of “Mastering the New Media Landscape: Embrace the Micromedia Mindset.”. Henricks is the CEO and founder of Cave Henricks Communications. Shelton is the founder and CEO of Shelton Interactive, a digital marketing and PR agency based in Austin, TX. Learn more at www.masteringthenewmedialandscape.com.