“Press” – while a small piece of a holistic communications plan, it is usually the first outcome that entrepreneurs ask us about. They want press mentions and they want them now, imagining it a simple task to evoke a well-placed media story in a high-impression publication. If only it were that easy…
At Radix, we often advise prospective clients to undertake media relations and public relations functions in-house before hiring an agency. We do this for a couple of reasons – it educates entrepreneurs on the required time and resources necessary for an effective media relations campaign and it also helps founders build an appreciation for media stories that drive actionable results.
For those entrepreneurs brave enough to take on the challenge of DIY media relations, here are a four helpful tips to help you get started:
Relationships over Results
The first order of business is understanding how media relations works. Unlike sales, media relations is not a transaction. Asking someone to write your story is an amateur move – don’t do it. Media relations is predicated on relationships and like any relationship, you should be focused on giving, not taking. Give your insights, give your story, give your observations, give your opinion. The best way to make new friends is to be interesting – the same holds true for media relations.
Offer something of value – an interesting story, a new perspective on a key industry trend, or even a comment on a recent technology development. Make your story so interesting there is no possible way they wouldn’t want to hear more. The more you focus on forming new relationships with media influencers, the more success you’ll achieve and be able to sustain in the long run. Who knows, you might even make a new friend in the process.
Do Your Homework
Have you ever tried to sell your product to the wrong audience? If you have, you know it doesn’t yield great results. The same is true of media relations. If you try to reach media influencers who don’t cover your industry or have any meaningful connection to your market, you’re just spinning your wheels.
Do your homework by researching journalists and influencers who write and blog about your industry or have some connection to your market. Furthermore, read their stories, bios, and even twitter feeds – they will usually tell you what they are interested in learning more about.
Here is a good checkpoint before you reach out to a journalist – can you accurately summarize and comment on the person’s past 3 stories? If not, go back and do your research to make sure you’re targeting the right person.
Plan, Measure, Refine
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking all press mentions are equal – they’re not. While press stories can be a great boost to your businesses, they can can just as easily be forgotten stories that fail to drive any type of meaningful results. In order to make your media mentions meaningful, you must plan, measure and constantly refine.
First, determine what type of goal you are trying to achieve and which audience you must reach to achieve that goal. Are you looking to secure new funding? Then you should target mainstream businesses trades that investors typically read. Trying to boost new leads? Why not ask your customers what they read and start there. Second, examine each media story about your company and measure which goal it achieved, which audience it reached, and to what level of success. Did the story drive the outcome you were looking for? Finally, tweak your strategy by refining which outlets are best for future campaigns, based on your past results. If you use this type of iterative strategy, each new media story should be more effective for your company than the last.
Know When to Outsource
Just because you aren’t paying an agency does not mean your media efforts are free. Here is a simple equation for you: Time = Money, PR = Time, thus PR = money [thank you transitive property].
The best entrepreneurs know where their time is best spent. Determine how big of a priority media relations is and budget hours responsibly. Remember, time spent on media relations is time taken away from other critical startup activities such as sales, customer service, and product development. There is no way to get around the fact that media relations will cost you, you will either be paying an outside agency or paying in the form of your own hours. The key is to know which method holds more value for your organization.
At a certain point, you’ll reach a media threshold that you cannot surpass without “scaling” by devoting more hours or hiring more people to media relations. At this point, we hope you’ll come back around to a communications agency with a firm understanding of how media relations works and an appreciation for the task at hand.
Don’t be shy about leaving your opinions and experiences in the comment section! If you’re still interested in learning more about DIY PR, here are some other opinions on the subject: