Having worked in corporate media relations for high-tech companies over the past 22 years, I've learned a lot about how to generate media coverage. The following 10 key takeaways are based on my experiences.
The story is the strategy
Above all else, reporters care about good stories. They care a lot less about corporate messages and corporate strategiesunless those involve great stories. As a public relations professional, you will rarely, if ever, receive this question from a reporter: "So, what is your company's key message?" So, while developing good corporate communication strategies and messages is important, developing compelling stories is just as important. In corporate communication, you should have the mindset that your story is the strategy.
Pitch problems, predictions, future investments
Reporters gravitate toward problems, difficulties, challenges, things that aren't going as planned, and technologies that don't work as advertised or are going to become obsolete because of some newer and cooler technology. They want to know what's wrong first, and then they may want to know how to fix it. Reporters also have a predilection to cover people making predictions, because predictions are daring. They peer into the future, tell you what's around the corner, tip you off to where things are headed. Reporters want to know two things: What's new and what's next? Reporters also are dialed into where money is going to be moving. Usually, the more money involved, the bigger the story. Pitch them stories about investments being made, money being earned or lost, threats to market growth, and what's igniting market escalation. Pitch them stories about triumphs that speak to shrewd investments of money and how those investments improve peoples' lives.
Shoot for the moon
At the start of a PR campaign about a new product, for example, think about the art of the possible, how big the story could be. Explore all angles. Dig and dig. Don't immediately assume that only the trade press will be interested and the business press won't care. This happens too often. Dare to pursue the big story. Sometimes you will find it. Usually, the more research you do the more interesting you will discover the story to be. Keep shooting for the moon. Aiming low is boring; aiming high is soaring.
Write aggressive first drafts
Your first draft of a new release should push the envelope. Write the most exciting draft you can. Write the story you think would interest the Wall Street Journal. You can always dial back on the release to align with what's appropriate. But if your first draft is written conservatively, it will often get watered down through the editing process and your story will have even less punch. An aggressive first draft that gets toned down could still be strong. If you start with a conservative draft and it gets toned down, your story will likely end up being weak.
Focus on benefits, people and emotion
Writing about technology is somewhat like translating into a different language. You start with one languagewith its jargon, technical abstractions, disorganized, obtuse ideas, and scattered data pointsand you must translate that into compelling and easy-to-understand prose. To expedite this translation process, focus like a laser on the benefits of the products or service to a human being. How would this product or service improve the life of a person such as your grandmother or your neighbor? Connect your prose with human emotions like joy, pleasure, excitement and wonder. Write about what touches people emotionally. In the technology world, one of the best ways to help people understand a story is to convey how it relates to a smartphone because so many people have and understand them. Many technology stories have a smartphone angle to them or can be understood better by explaining them using a smartphone application or benefit.
Write only what you understand
Write using only terms and ideas that are clear in your mind. Don't try to fake understanding something. If you try to write about a technology, product or service you don't quite understand, it will be obvious to your readersand you don't want that. Often, to make sure you understand, you will need to go back and talk to an expert again. Pose a hypothetical example to them involving a human being or propose analogies to gauge whether they are accurate in conveying the concept and story you want to share. The mere act of suggesting an analogy often accelerates understanding because your expert will either agree with the analogy or offer a better one. Then you will be able to write more clearly.
Rank content and eliminate almost everything
Let's say you're given 100 PowerPoint slides to review to find a story angle to pitch the press. As you go through, rank any content that really moves you viscerally as an A+. This would be content you think could be a compelling headline or story. Rank other content with an A if you judge it to be slightly less compelling but still compelling. Assign a grade of B+ to content slightly less compelling than A content. Don't ever look again at any content that you didn't give an A+, A or B+ ranking. That content didn't strike you as compelling the first time, and it probably won't if you consider it again. Review the ranked content again. Double-check your A+, A and B+ content. If upon second reading, A content strikes you as A+, mark it as such. If A+ content strikes you as less than A+, give it an A ranking. Then focus on how you can craft a story with your A+ content. Throw everything else to the side.
Use buckets to organize your writing
Suppose you are given a 100-page white paper and asked to craft a press pitch from it. As you read, mark the content by categories such as "market data," "background," "technology," "benefits," "potential lead," and "potential quotes." When you've finished this step, group all the content together into mental buckets so that all your market data content is together in one bucket, the background content is in a separate second bucket, and so on. Now you have organization. You are ready to structure your piece of content, such as a news release or article, with information you might use grouped in a logical fashion. Organizing similar information will bring a smooth flow to your writing.
SocialÂ media amplification
One of the most effective ways to amplify your press coverage on social media is to write a bylined article for a corporate client and, once it's published, have the client post a link to the article on their LinkedIn page. This often generates feedback from that person's followers that can lead to business meetings, revenue generation and brand enhancement. It's a powerful and simple technique. A second social media tactic that works is posting videos of your story ideas, such as predictions, on LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter. These posts often result in hundreds of views of the video. Keep them shortabout one-to-two minutes in length. Shorter videos tend to generate more views. A third technique is to tweet pitches about embargoed story ideas to reporters on Twitter. They often respond by indicating they would like you to email them the embargoed story. This increases the chances they will read your pitch and you will have started to build, or enhance, a relationship with a reporter. When you tweet about press coverage, be sure to use the @ symbol and the reporter's Twitter handle so they know you're amplifying the story. This will make them more likely to do business with you in the future, because you will have helped them reach more readers.
No matter what type of public relations, digital marketing or social media amplification you will be doing over the next several years, you will likely have to know what blockchain is and why it's important, and communicate about this technological phenomenon in easy-to-understand and compelling ways. Blockchain is a single, secure database accessible by many different parties that can't be changed and is trusted as reliable and up-to-date. It is a single, consolidated version of the truth. Make no mistake: This is a paradigm-shifting technology. Within the next three years, a vast array of companies in many different industries will be integrating blockchain in their systems. When the internet market took off in the 1990s, you had to deeply immerse yourself in the subject to do effective PR. The same is now true of blockchain. It's a big story. And there will be great opportunities for you to craft compelling blockchain stories over the next few years in business and trade media outlets.