- Old school: Unlimited marketing budgets.
- New School: Smart and cost-effective ways to get noticed — despite an over-crowded market.
It’s no secret that when there is an economic downturn, advertising and marketing budgets — even in big businesses — take a knock. Most SMEs have much smaller advertising and marketing budgets, and we need to constantly find creative ways to build trust and credibility with potential clients, as well as increase our share of voice in our industries.
One way to do this is to build credibility with the media and generate exposure for the business to increase visibility, which in turn can translate into sales.
Where would you start?
1Follow and listen
Seeing your company’s name grace the glossy pages of your favourite magazine or your spokesperson appearing on your favourite business show can be very rewarding and lead to more opportunities.
The reality is that media outlets, editors, journalists and producers are bombarded with more stories than they can work on and most of those stories are irrelevant.
The key to increasing the likelihood of your business story being featured starts with understanding your chosen media. This includes drilling down to a specific journalist and the editor on whose platform you would like get coverage.
Do your homework, find out who their audience is, what sort of features they publish, and who they view as thought leaders. Start by investigating what the chosen platform is likely to focus on to ascertain whether or not what you have to share will be relevant and appealing to it.
Just as you researched your market before you tried to sell to it, learn who their target market is.
Editors and producers balance audience interests around their platforms, which is critical to their growth, and they also need to remain relevant in a crowded marketplace to increase advertising in an era of dwindling advertising spend. Aside from being featured by the media, listening to existing conversations and following target platforms is significant if you and your business story are to be relevant.
2Share industry changes and stories
The advantage of living in this era of information and content overload is that information and data are everywhere. But, most of it is not well organised. The ability to organise information in ways that make for interesting and insightful reading can turn media attention towards your business.
How often have you read a story and found comments from people who are industry experts? Sharing knowledge and becoming the go-to industry voice builds credibility and positions your business as a team of experts, and most people would rather buy from companies that are specialists in their field.
3Share your progress
Part of the challenge of starting and building credibility with the media is the lack of ‘story’ behind the business and the new idea. A silver lining that emerges from the sad finding that nine out of ten start-ups fail is that when small businesses make progress, it is worth celebrating.
This may not always be a cover story or sought after article, but making contact with key media about progress in a year or two sometimes leads to mentions and these can attract more coverage.
4Review a relevant event
Industry and business events tend to have interesting nuggets of information that sometimes go unnoticed and if you attend these events, there could be interest in a post-event write-up. One of the stories that we shared which garnered solid traction was about various speaker’s insights from an overseas conference that we attended.
The African continent is becoming more interested in local voices, in developing what the continent has to offer as solutions. Some of these solutions emerge at events that are not attended by media, which can give you the opportunity to write a publishable opinion piece.
5Share an industry success story
It’s tempting to write a press release that focuses on your business and hope that the spotlight lands on you. It’s like putting up your selfie in a public domain, but with the potential to be seen on TV or in print. Avoid at all costs.
Similar to sharing your progress, talking about an industry colleague — without overly marketing them or the competition — can make you the source of relevant industry information. Most industry commentators whose insights are sought after, are perceived to have relevant industry information and this also leads to more coverage linked to your business. Position yourself as the insiders with insights to share.
6Make it newsworthy
For your story to attract attention, it should interest the editor or the journalist and must be newsworthy. Unless you are someone important, and can offer an audience a new perspective, a personal story without a newsworthy angle increases the probability of your email address being redirected to the spam folder.
The notion of what makes news varies from one title to the next, from one show to another and listening to what is important in a handful of chosen platforms increases the chances of becoming a story that is worth telling.
As you build your credibility in the marketplace, foster relationships that will be valuable over time and build them by offering useful content that separates you from industry peers. After all the people with whom your business interacts and builds value can be its greatest asset.
5 Reasons Your Start-up Isn’t Getting The PR You Need
Understanding and working with the requirements of journalists covering your industry will go a long way toward increasing your company’s visibility.
Getting press coverage for your start-up has become increasingly difficult. With an average of 550 000 new businesses starting each month, you’re facing some serious competition to gain traction with your audience. If you don’t take the right approach to PR, you’ll see your competition pass you by.
Exposure doesn’t happen by chance. Behind every great brand story you see in the media, there is a great PR strategy.
Let’s look at some of the most common mistakes that prevent startups from getting the press coverage they desire.
1. Not taking blogging seriously
Blogging on a regular basis is one of the best ways to impact mainstream discourse. A growing number of journalists and reporters are constantly looking for new and interesting story ideas in the blogosphere. You can make your blog a fresh source of news stories by writing about your story and your industry, and by commenting on different aspects of your business.
To get the right press coverage by blogging, ask yourself why your company exists and what problem your product or service solves. Present your story as human and relatable and make sure it is compelling enough to grab the attention of the media.
2. Not networking with relevant journalists
Networking allows you to build a quality relationship with relevant journalists whom you might not have encountered otherwise.
To get quality press coverage, you need to focus on networking with journalists who cover your niche, and to learn what they write about and what their audience likes to share.
Once you have built a connection, you can pitch them the story of your business.
But before you jump in, keep in mind that journalists hear pitches all the time. If you’re sending generic pitches that focus on only yourself, most likely they’ll ignore your proposal. To make your pitch stand out, tailor your story to fit with their beat.
3. Not making your story exclusive to each journalist
Exclusivity is a strong enticement for a news outlet. Not only will it make them more invested in the story, but it will also entice them to get the jump on their competitors.
Assuming you have exclusive-worthy news, the next thing you must decide is what outlet to offer it to so that it has the best chance of reaching your target audience. The goal is to not always reach the broadest audience but to get your news in front of existing and potential customers.
4. Not using the right tools
To build and maintain a great PR presence, you need to use the right tools; ones that help you amplify and monitor your business’s public appeal.
Some of them are:
- Help a Reporter Out: HARO is one of the easiest free tools when it comes to pitching the media. It lets you gain access to daily emails from journalists seeking interviews.
- Google Keyword Planner: This free tool helps you plan out your blog posts with relevant keywords that people are searching for. Careful word selection will help your blog show up higher in search engines returns.
- BlogAbout Title Generator: My favourite free tool to help me brainstorm catchy titles for reporters.
- Google Alerts: This is a free tool that sends you alerts when your company or competitor is being featured in various media outlets.
5. Not being authentic
Reporters are consistently getting pitched stories from entrepreneurs that want press. To make your pitch stand out, be authentic. The reporters covering news in your industry want to hear your story.
Keep in mind that they need you as much as you need them, and they are actively looking to build relationships with entrepreneurs. So, don’t be afraid to reach out to them. To get your story covered, you need to find the right reporter and the right publication at the right time and to be authentic.
No matter how good your product is, it may fail if it doesn’t make its way into the public eye. To get the right press coverage, you need to build a strong network of journalists and bloggers writing about your industry.
When you send a pitch, ensure that it stands out and tailor it to fit it with the reporter’s beat. From this list of errors, you can avoid the mistakes preventing you from getting the PR you desire. Fix it and you can increase the visibility of your start-up.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
How To Use Mistaken Inquiries To Drive Awareness Of Your Business
Whether this is a walk-in, telephonic or e-mail client, be sure not to regret your interaction with them, have a plan in place, how you will deal with such situation.
At times, we receive inquiries or communication from people seeking products/services that aren’t in our line of work. It can also be someone who has mistaken you for a certain company that you’re not. It’s easy to dismiss such inquiries, by simply saying you’re unable to assist the person.
Don’t miss an opportunity to publicise your company, treat the enquirer as one of your clients. Take a proactive approach, use this as an opportunity to inform them about your company and the services/products that you offer.
In doing this you are building a reputation for your brand, and introducing your corporation to someone who might have never known about. It might happen in future, that the said person needs your products/services when they remember how you professionally assisted them, then they will come to you.
Another possibility is that at that moment they are connected to someone who needs your services and they don’t know anyone in your field. Should you play your cards correctly, you might gain a client for the future or the present.
Whether this is a walk-in, telephonic or e-mail client, be sure not to regret your interaction with them, have a plan in place, how you will deal with such situation.
Your response should be structured in a manner that will make the enquirer feel respected and not embarrassed about the mistake they’ve made. When responding to emails ensure that you do so quickly. Sympathise that you cannot assist them because your company only specialises in different services/products. State clearly what is it that you provide and how you do it.
2Show how you solve problems
In the process of explaining your services/products, demonstrate how you can solve people’s problems or meet their needs. This means that you describe your products/services in detail. However, your description should be a comprehensive summary, consider that the enquirer has a life to live.
3Make your brand visible
When responding to emails, remember to include your logo, motto and other things that your brand is identified by. Your offices should be designed keeping this in mind when someone walks in, they should immediately see your identity.
If you have samples to give, kindly offer them to the enquirer. Should you have demonstrations/presentations that you do, politely inform the enquirer about them. Let them know how they can get hold of this.
Related: How To Impress The Press
5Provide them with an opportunity to come back to you
You can share your business card with someone you meet, this should have all your contact detail, i.e. telephone, fax, e-mail and social media details. In an email, these should be nicely positioned at the end of your email, as part of your final greeting.
6Refer them to a relevant business
Should you know of any company that offers the services/products they need, refer them to it without hesitation. If possible, provide them with contact details and a contact person to assist them.
How You Can Avoid The ‘Facebook Effect’
Don’t let perceived realities – of your business or those of your competitors – derail your strategies.
As a young entrepreneur, I received my first bit of publicity from a daily in Durban. It was massively exciting and stroked my ego tremendously because after all, what I had achieved was considered newsworthy enough to be published in a newspaper.
There was a big photo of me on page four, with my interview where I talked about the success of a promotion I had conceived and implemented. My friends saw the article and called to congratulate me, and in my distant social circles people discussed my story and congratulated me too.
Perception versus reality
What they didn’t know was that my business was barely breaking even at the time. The perception of my success was very different to my reality. I proudly showed the article to my mentor (naively expecting a pat on the back) and instead he asked: “Do you believe what they say?” “What do you mean?” I said. “Do you believe all the things the journalist has written about you in the article?” he asked again.
I didn’t answer him because I knew deep down that they weren’t all true. I wasn’t the hugely successful businessman that I was portrayed as in the article.
“If you believe all the good things the press write about you, you’ll also believe all the bad things they say. Be grateful for the press, but do not let it govern your emotions.”
Beware curated reality
In today’s era of social media, fake news, memes, and overly filtered photos, it’s very easy to become envious of the perceived lives that others showcase.
Much like the envy we experience when scrolling through our friends’ posts of their expensive destination holidays — where they can be seen showing off their tanned, ripped bodies while sipping expensive champagne — the same type of envy occurs between business owners when they scroll through competitor’s company timelines and witness their competitors winning great awards, attending glitzy launches and receiving kudos from the press.
In my experience, the perception created by these often-boastful social media posts is seldom close to reality. Like the article on my Durban business, what my friends perceived was nowhere near my financial reality.
Be cognisant and sceptical of this curated reality, so that you as a business do not react in one of two ways to a competitor’s posts:
- Don’t try to emulate their strategy based on what seems to be working
- Don’t end up feeling depressed based on your jealousy of this curated reality.
Instead, your reaction to witnessing these posts should be to:
- Frame your competitors’ posts simply as marketing. They have carefully curated these posts to only show followers the great things about their businesses, products and services. The ‘make-up’ hides the imperfections.
- Use your emotions to make a change. Use the energy their posts ignite inside of you — not the content they project — and pump that energy into YOUR strategy to reinforce it.
- Drive your differentiator harder. Make sure your business stands out as being unique and a thought leader in its industry and not one attempting to copy others. Your differentiator should not be influenced by what you are seeing either positively or negatively.
Always remember, your competitors’ posts represent selective truth-telling because they curate what they want you to see online.
They will never post when times are tough and they are losing clients and not making a profit at the end of the month. Don’t believe everything you see, and most importantly, don’t let these ‘perceived realities’ affect you or your business strategy in any way.