It might seem strange to be in the midst of the dog days of summer talking about landing coverage in target media outlets in January, February, and March of next year, but the truth of the matter is now is the time to ramp-up PR and media relations efforts to achieve the greatest success. As I am fond of saying in articles and presentations, public relations is not brain surgery, BUT it does take planning in order to achieve the greatest return on investment. Unfortunately, a lot of times business executives without experience utilizing PR think of it as a push-button type of tool like advertising, wherein you simply buy ad space, slap an ad together and get it published. Like most things in life, the easiest efforts don't always achieve the greatest results. If you're serious about securing meaningful editorial coverage for your business, product, or service in trusted third-party media outlets your prospects and customers rely on for news and information, it will take a little more effort but the payoff will be much more significant.
October surpriseThe main reason to ramp-up your PR efforts in July and August is to prepare for October, which is the month in which the vast majority of industry trade publications -- four-color glossy monthly magazines and other influential publications with tens of thousands of subscribers -- publish their editorial calendars for the coming year. They do this primarily to capture advertising revenue, offering significant discounts for pre-ordering ad space. In order to entice advertisers, these publications produce editorial calendars with monthly topics they will be covering, something PR practitioners seize upon to figure-out where their particular clients offer the most substantive informational resources for a publication's readership.
Why summertime outreach?In order to convince a reporter or editor of the benefit to readers of using the client as an informational resource for an article or as the subject of a feature piece, a PR practitioner needs to first build a relationship with the media contact wherein he or she clearly explains the client's legitimacy as a thought leader. Unless the client is unveiling a ground-breaking, never before seen widget that's going to revolutionize a particular industry, this relationship building will take a little time.
How much time is necessary depends upon the activity and notoriety of the client. If the client is extremely visible in a particular industry speaking at conferences, serving on influential boards, or is already pretty well-known due to his or her various professional or personal activities then it shouldn't be that hard to position them with media. If, however, the client has a successful business but is mostly consumed with running the business instead of actively participating within an industry it usually takes several months of outreach to targeted media outlets to get a reporter or editor comfortable enough to seriously consider them as the subject of an article or as a potential thought leader to quote as an expert. That said, if the client is looking to start the next year off with a bang by getting in front of prospects and clients in January and February, and those months' editorial topics are shared with the public in October, then one or two press releases per month in July, August, and September to targeted reporters and editors (along with strategic media relations follow-up and ongoing conversations) is ideal.
The makeup of a publicity pushFirst and foremost, define your Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 target media. Go to each publication's website or pick up a hard copy and look at the masthead to find the reporter or editor who covers your client's particular industry. Reach out to these individuals by phone or email to ask the preferred method for receiving news about your client with a succinct description of who they are; this usually will be along the lines of, "I represent so-and-so, a technology business specializing in this-and-that. I'm calling to check which email address you'd prefer we use to send updates and press releases, or if you'd rather I call you with fresh news and information." As a former newspaper editor, I can tell you that journalists greatly appreciate this type of effort, which goes a long way to getting the relationship off on the right foot.
As you are building your media list you should also be putting together strategic messaging clearly defining the client's value proposition. This usually takes the form of a boilerplate paragraph of 3-5 sentences which always appears at the bottom of a press release. Those 3-5 sentences can then be broken out into individual themes with more extensive supporting content which will over time be disseminated to target audiences within the text of press releases, op-eds and interviews given by your client.
Taking into account the client's activities and plans along with the target media outlets and their particular slants, build a PR topics list to drive the creation of individual press releases containing the aforementioned strategic messaging. Start distributing these to your media contacts you've reached out to, and also make sure the press releases get published online in multiple outlets in different channels to help with search engine optimization (for when, among other things, reporters Google your client's name for background info; they'll then come across these press releases containing the strategic messaging). Don't do more than two press releases per month to the same media contacts or they'll start to think of you as a spammer and your email address could end up being blocked.
When October rolls around, your target media outlets should have significant information on your client's areas of expertise. Once those editorial calendars hit, you can see where the right fit is to pitch your client, usually two or three months ahead of time. Remember, December is usually full of down time for media professionals with multiple holidays and vacations, so most of their work for January magazine issues is being done in October or November. If you see a fit for January or February, get back with your contacts in October or November and pitch them on using your client.
Come January issues of the magazines you've targeted, there's your client, featured front and center in an article defining them as a leader in their field in front of tens of thousands of readers while competitors scramble to play catch-up. (Ideally, while you're already in discussions to land pieces on your client in March, April and May issues.)
Again, it's not brain surgery, but it does take planning.
David D. Menzies is president of Innovative Public Relations, a PR and media relations consultancy. He is a 22+ year public relations professional with expertise in strategic messaging, publicity and branding. For more information visit www.innovativepublicrelations.com.