Media coverage is not a given

NewspaperRoll_optI have the opportunity to review many business plans and one thing that always causes me some concern is that every business owner believes that they can generate a significant amount of marketing exposure by getting media coverage.

They pepper it throughout their plan because to them, it feels free and easy to get.

I  hate to tell you, but media coverage is not a given.

My concern comes from how unrealistic business owners, non profit directors and business leaders are about the type and amount of media coverage they’re going to be able to garner.

Here’s the reality check most need:

  • Most of what is newsworthy to you, is not newsworthy to the rest of the world.
  • Most reporters/editors are bombarded with news releases – yours has to stand out to even catch their attention.
  • Blinding sending your release to everyone is a sure to annoy most of them and reduce the likelihood of receiving any coverage.
  • Good manners go a long way.

Let’s dig into each of those reality checks to see if we can identity some best practices that will increase your chances of getting the coverage you want.

It has to actually be newsworthy: Earning media coverage can be daunting. Journalists have a finite amount of space/time and they have to decide which stories are going to be of value to their audience.

As you consider pitching a story, ask yourself – how would the reporter sell this story to his editor? What benefit or value would the reporter’s audience get? What could make this story so compelling that someone would share it with someone else who hadn’t seen the news coverage?

If these questions have you stumped, odds are the story isn’t newsworthy and you shouldn’t risk damaging your credibility by pitching it.

You have 3 seconds to peak their interest: Reporters and editors get buried in pitch phone calls, emails, faxes and snail mail releases. They can’t possibly read all of them thoroughly. They’re going to read the headline and scan the release, so you need to write it with that in mind.

Your headline will make or break you. If it doesn’t grab the editor’s attention, you’re headed for the “thanks but no” pile in a hurry. Make sure your headline makes them want to read more and tells them exactly why this is something their audience needs to know about.

Don’t let your laziness or ignorance cost you coverage: Because of my blog, I get pitches from PR pros and business owners every day. I’m often embarrassed by their efforts. They clearly got my contact information from some list – but have no idea what I write about.

Before you hit send be sure you’re sending it to the right reporter and the right publication. Take the time to review the last few issues/shows and get to know the kind of content they routinely cover. Don’t embarrass yourself or irritate the reporter by waving your laziness under their nose.

Say please and thank you: Never forget the importance of having decent manners. Be helpful, be available and be grateful if they tell your story.

More important than just simple good manners – don’t be a pain. Don’t call them incessantly to see if they got your release or if they’re going to use it. Don’t get ticked when they tell you “thanks but not this time” or it will be the last time. And if you really want to earn their appreciation and trust – you might give them a story or two that don’t involve you or your clients.

Earning media coverage takes some time, some preparation and some forethought. But most of all – it requires you take an objective look at your “news” and only pitch it when it’s worth pitching.

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Direct mail is the hot new media

Direct mail is the hot new mediaWho would have thought it?  People have been predicting the death of direct mail for over a decade.  And yet, here we stand in 2013 and have to admit — direct mail is the hot new media.

As everyone flocks to spending more time online, a curious thing happened  Our mailboxes got a lot less crowded.  Which means that we pay more attention to what shows up every day in the mail.

Which doesn’t mean you don’t still have to do it well.  Many people sort their mail over the wastebasket and if you don’t catch their attention in those few nanoseconds, all could still be lost.

Here are some of our favorite ways to make sure McLellan Marketing Group‘s clients get noteworthy results from their direct mail efforts.

Be odd:  Odd sized mail is always noticed.  Or use a translucent envelope with a bright colored piece of paper inside.  Think texture too — maybe the envelope feels interesting or different.  The point is to get noticed before they even open up the piece.

Be lumpy: Want to get opened for sure?  Be 3-dimentional.  Lumpy mail gets opened because no one wants to accidentally throw away something of value. And better yet — no admin or secretary is going to open a package addressed to their boss.  So you can dodge the gatekeeper with a bit of bulk.

Be late:  The focus has shifted from drop date to in-home date. Studies have shown time and time again that the end of the week to be most effective for delivery. This is based on the tested and proven theory that many people spend time on the weekend going through mail that was put aside to look at again. Having the mail piece arrive closer to the weekend puts your mail on top of the pile.

Take advantage of the fact that direct mail is the hot new media — start showing up in your customers’ and prospects’ mailboxes but do it smart.  Be odd, lumpy and late and you’ll get opened every time!

 

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Hey media rep… do it like this (please)

listentomeI totally get that you are trying to make a living and that someone at your radio station, newspaper, TV station, magazine etc. says that my client should be advertising with you.  And maybe they should.

And I know you’re just trying to do your job.  But you need to understand that sometimes you trying to do your job is keeping me from doing mine.

Which does not make me love you.

So here’s my top ten suggestions for media reps trying to get an agency’s attention:

Reach out and introduce yourself when you aren’t trying to sell something.  Just let me know you’re there, you’ve been assigned to my client’s account and that you know we are the agency.

Acknowledge and honor the relationship I have with my client.  That means you don’t write or call my client.  Even if you’re having trouble getting through to me.  Ever.

Understand there’s one of me and a ton of you. I’d love to have coffee or a beer with all of you.  I’d like to get to know you. I’d be happy to hear about every new idea you have.  But, I can’t.  I simply don’t have enough time.  It’s not you.  It’s that there are a lot of you.

Find out how I prefer to communicate.  Phone, text, email, carrier pigeon.  And talk to me that way.  It’s not that I am ignoring your efforts to reach me.  It may just be that the demands on my day make it impossible for me to return a call or email, but I could text you back etc.

Trust that I know what I’m doing. I know about your media’s offerings and when the time and budget are right — I will reach out to you.  I’m not dodging you or your products.  It’s just not the right choice right now.

Stay in touch but do it gently.  Don’t send me every sales flier.  And don’t only contact me when you have something to sell.  You say you understand my client?  Prove it.  Send me (and only me) an article you think is insightful and that my client and I might value.  Be helpful and I will remember that.

Know that there’s a lot you can’t know.  Clients come with their own baggage.  It might be a budget issue we’re not allowed to talk about.  Or a leadership change or board edict that means there’s something big coming that is impacting our choices.  I won’t ever violate my client’s trust so I’d rather you think I am obtuse or stupid than say something out of school.

Don’t make me the enemy.  If you mess up, tell me fast.  If you gave me bad information, fess up.  Missed a deadline or forgot to follow up — just say so.  I get it, we’re all human. I’ll forgive almost anything. But, if you do an end run around me to the client – I’m going to find out. And that’s not going to end well.

Stick around.  Remember when I said there were a ton of you?  Well, there are.  So be sure you reach out every so often, so I don’t forget about you.  (by the way…every so often is probably once a quarter at the most.)

Care about what I care about. There are media reps that I do stay in touch with, grab a beer or coffee with etc.   They’re the ones who have sent me a new business lead, served on a board with me, suggested me as a source to a reporter who was doing a story, connected with me (genuinely) on Facebook or other social networks, or found some other way to actually create a relationship with me that isn’t just about selling me something.

I know it’s a fine balance and there are probably days that you’d like to wring my neck, but we both need to make it work.  After all — ultimately, we’re both committed to helping our clients.

And although I’m sure you’d rather it was someone else — I’m yours.

 

 

Stock photo courtesy of www.BigStockPhoto.com

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Bring your marketing to life

image[1]For the past decade, we’ve been talking about experiential marketing. It’s not enough to create an awareness of your product — you need to, when you can, connect with your consumers (B2B or B2C) in as tangible and memorable a way as possible.

So it shouldn’t really surprise us that TV spots are literally living the flat screen and moving into our 3D world.  And the TV spot component of this isn’t the mandatory part.  You could create this sort of experience off a trade show booth or product launch in lots of different ways.

image[4]A great example is what the folks at Axe have been up to.  They’re launching a new line of product called Apollo.

Yes, the did the obligatory TV spot, which you’ll see during the Superbowl (watch it below). But they also came alive in a couple ways.  First… Axe astronauts are showing up in crazy places, like Times Square and the subway.  They’re handing out products and a chance to win a trip to space. Yes… a real trip to space.  You can enter at by clicking here.  They even held a press conference with Buzz Aldrin to announce their Axe Apollo Space Academy.

Check out their TV spot:

What makes all of this so interesting is that — a TV commercial isn’t enough anymore.  Even a Superbowl TV spot.  You’ve got to be able to breathe life (literally) into your campaigns so they capture people’s attention, imagination and ultimately, interest.

So how can you, who probably don’t have Axe’s marketing budget, do the same thing?

Go where your customers go — and stand out:  Don’t just be at the tradeshow in your logo wear and expect them to notice you.  You’ve got to take the risk and be a little outrageous.  Gauge it to your audience but do what most people would call “a crazy idea.”

Extend the campaign into your prospect’s lives:  You need to hop off the webpage, printed page or TV screen and “come alive” in some way.  Do you need to don a space suit and walk around Time Square?  Hardly.  But figure out ways you can take some 3D form in their world.  Maybe it’s as simple as providing them with a tool they’ll use every day.

Know your audience: Axe knows their 15-25 year old male audience and plays to them perfectly. If your audience was female attorneys 40+, you probably wouldn’t be giving away a trip to space.  Experiential marketing is not a one size fits all deal.  You need to tailor fit your choices.

How might you bring your marketing “off the page”?

 

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The new phone book is here — where’s yours?

photoNormally at MMG, we caution clients to be careful of the “I don’t listen/watch/do therefore neither does my target audience” trap.

We usually do not represent our target audience and even if we are like them — there are plenty of exceptions to the rule.  And sometimes the exception is you!

But in this case I will say — how you (and I) use our trusty, dusty phone book is probably pretty similar to how the rest of the world responds to them as well.

Mine?  It went from bag on the lawn to recycling bin in one fluid motion.

If you are still spending money on phone book ads — unless you know that your target audience still uses them (pretty much the 65+ crowd), there are better places for your money.

P.S.  And don’t let the “how did you hear about us” question fool you.  TV and the phone book are the usual answer when they respondent either doesn’t remember or doesn’t want to say.

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Video can make a prospect’s concerns go away

Video is a very useful medium that most companies underuse. But when they are used…they’re typically used to sell or teach.  All of that is well and good.

But I think you might be missing the boat on an opportunity to make your prospects concerns go away.

I’m in Arizona for 10 days — a mix of working with clients and speaking at a conference. I didn’t want to pack enough clothes to cover all 10 days so I decided to pack for 5 or 6 and hit a laundromat on my day off, in between meetings.  I know…the glamours of business travel!

So now it’s Saturday and for me, it’s “find a laundromat” day.  I’m in a city I don’t know and I’m heading to a laundromat, which is usually not a high end consumer experience.  So I have some concerns.

  • Will it be clean?
  • What hours is it open – can I go during daylight?
  • What’s the neighborhood like?
  • Is it crazy expensive?
  • How many machines do they have? Will I have to wait?

So I turn to the digital yellow pages.  Now I am really flying blind. But, on one of the listings — the laundromat had a video. They showed me how clean it was. They showed me the neighborhood.  They demonstrated that there’s always a staff person on-site.  They even showed me how much the detergent etc. would cost.  Their video made my concerns go away.

It wasn’t the closest laundromat. But, because of the video I was happy to pay for a longer cab ride to go to Ginny’s Washhouse. Why? They’d nullified my concerns.

All the laundromats had text in their ads that said they were clean and safe. But only Ginny’s proved it to me by showing me that it was true.

How is this relevant for you? Your potential customers have worries about you too.  They might worry that you’re too far away or hard to find. They might be concerned that you’re too expensive or you don’t understand their industry.  But deep down inside, every prospect has a worry or two about you.

Some of them will show up anyway.  Or pick up the phone and ask about their concern. But many will simply fade away, not ready to proceed with that nagging worry in the back of their head.

The old marketing model would have been to put the spotlight on all that you do right and ignore those worries, hoping they’d go away. Today, we know better.

Attack those buyer concerns and worries.  Pull them out into the light and deal with them.  And a really powerful way to do that is with video. Our brains may believe bullet points and text but our hearts believe what we see.  Video packs a multimedia punch that can use emotions, strong visuals and even music to create a tone of reassurance and confidence.

Keep in mind that sometimes their fears aren’t as easy to visually deal with as whether or not the floors are clean.  You may need to use a testimonial approach where a current client looks into the camera and says, “I thought AB&C was going to be way out of my budget range so I was pleasantly surprised when I found out it only cost $X.”

Get creative — but get to their worries and answer them right up front.

 

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