Having spent about 20 years working with reporters and editors to get my clients covered in the news, I’ve learned a few things about what works and what doesn’t. I’ve also learned a few things about what it takes to do this job—and it’s not the huge contact list you would think.
Being successful in B2B media relations is having the persistent, consistent and ceaseless burning desire to help the media. Yes, help them. It’s not about hustling, hocking or selling as most people think media relations is—it’s about genuine helping. Reporters are smart, busy and always in need of a good story and excellent sources. A helping mindset backed by informed research affords me the automatic ability to know which stories are good to share with them (I didn’t say “pitch”) and which are less than stellar—and I can advise my clients toward the former. Going in to media relations with a helpful bent also stimulates creativity in uncovering the details of the business that are worth sharing. After all, if it truly interests me as a human, it is more likely to influence the human reporter on the other end of the phone line, email or Facebook PM.
When helping a B2B reporter cover what’s interesting about my client, I adhere to the following:
- Go beyond who I know. Knowing how to help reporters by feeding them good stories is more valuable than “knowing a reporter.” This is particularly true in the B2B media where the market is smaller and journalists have a reputation to protect and a job to keep. Husting non-news won’t get me published (even if the reporter is “a friend”), and it will get any subsequent contacts from me trashed or ignored. If I make it a point to consistently provide good, helpful news to the reporters I am targeting, I found they eventually become that coveted friend in the media—someone I know throughout my career that will call on me for sources.
- Find news in the nooks and crannies of my client’s company. NEWS is an acronym for North, East, West, South. Helping companies get great coverage and helping reporters get great articles comes from looking anywhere and everywhere within an organization to find amazing stories to tell. I look up north to the C-suite offices where the company’s leadership is full of expert advice, future predictions and industry knowledge. I look south to the basement where the R&D team is developing the latest and greatest. Down there, it’s not just what is being developed, but also how it is being developed that can make headlines. For example, here is an example of news derived from how researchers came to their conclusion, not about the conclusion itself. I move my head side to side, east to west, and all around to eye up news from my client’s customers, partners and anywhere else inside their company.
- I give an outsider’s opinion on what’s news. Being unbiased about what truly is newsworthy within their company is the hardest part for internal marketing people seeking media coverage. In fact, it is a key reason to hire an outside agency. What’s news to my client inside an organization actually…well…might not be. While a new website 15 of them have been working on for five months is huge news to their marketing department, from a reporter’s perspective, it’s just another new website the likes of which are launched daily by a plethora of companies. What’s new and noteworthy at my client’s company is often hard to identify when they work there daily. This internal challenge makes it difficult to be a helper to reporters and a catalyst to becoming the loathsome media coverage hustler. This is where media relations efforts from outside my client’s company gives our clients the media edge.
Approaching reporters with a helpful mindset before, during and after contact with them helps our clients win media coverage and, in so doing, become visible to potential new business.