By Hale T. Chan
Taking three steps, and supporting them with enough effort, can gain valuable media coverage for your firm.
I have spent much effort trying to identify that magic methodology to get my firm noticed in the media. I have read media how-to manuals, attended public relations workshops, attended meetings with editors and reporters, and participated in journalistic events hoping to find insights that will allow my firm to rise above the media clutter. From one professional to another, I am willing to share that magic methodology with you.
As you may have suspected, the methodology is not new, nor unique, nor does it guarantee success without your putting effort into it. But it is effective. I can show results, ranging from having our managing partner, with photo, in the featured article of a major city newspaper’s business section, to getting another partner in a “Top Executives List,” to national radio interviews for other team members.
That methodology is based on my experiences of what has worked and what hasn’t. And to add more substance to this article, I have been fortunate enough to tap into the experience and insights from two leading reporters from two leading publications:
The Magic Methodology in Three Steps
Step 1—Do Your Homework. Cover the Basics. Decide What Messages You Want to Convey.
1a. Make sure your spokespeople are properly media trained.
1b. Keep it simple; keep it obvious.
“The best media relations professionals have adapted quickly to the technology age,” said Evon. “They don’t call you, but send e-mail instead. They send press releases pasted into an e-mail instead of attaching a word file—which may contain viruses.” This is part of the basics—finding out whether the reporter likes to be contacted by e-mail, fax, or phone. How do you find this out? By using publications such as The National PR Pitch Book, by reading their bylines at the end of articles, by attending meetings where they are speaking and asking them, or by asking them directly during your first contact.
1c. Keep it targeted; keep it focused.
“Tell the reporter what’s important in the beginning of your e-mail, what’s unique, compelling, why your story is important,” said Kaiser. He notes especially that when sending press releases, you should state why the reporter should read the release in the cover letter or in an introduction to the release itself.
Here’s another way to establish or solidify a relationship with the media: Trust them enough to give them embargoed information and allow them to complete interviews by the release date.
2b. Networking or not.
Step 3—Follow-Up and Contact Maintenance
For following up and maintaining relations with a reporter, I might include sending them (depending on how they want to be contacted) substantive information. This might include a change of leadership in the executive ranks of your firm, a heads-up on an impending name change or merger, original research information that your firm has just developed, or suggestions (with supporting materials) for a story idea.
Evan says, “I have some favorite PR people—they are favorites because they provide breaking news and instant access to their broad array of clients.” She suggests that other desirable attributes include the ability to find the CEO and set up an interview in a matter of hours or less. Reporters are almost always on tight deadlines. Having already identified the appropriate spokespeople at your firm helps you to be responsive to the media. And truly competent public relations professionals are knowledgeable enough about their industry that they can refer the media to other experts in other firms, if the situation requires it.
The bottom line is that it’s a matter of being helpful, honest and respectful of the media. No magic here, but it is effective.
Hale T. Chan is the marketing communications director for Willamette Management Associates, one of the country’s oldest independent financial advisory firms. He can be reached htchan@Willamette.com