‘PR’ Doesn’t Mean ‘Press Release,’ Plus Other Tips from a Media Relations Specialist
There are a lot of managed service providers that say they do the same thing you do, but your shop is different. You don’t just talk the talk. You really do have around-the-clock help-desk support. You really do offer a completely seamless customer experience. Your techs really are 100 percent devoted to customer satisfaction. Yes, everyone calls themselves industry leaders, but YOU are different.
So why are all of your media outreach efforts falling flat? Why can’t you make bloggers, news outlets and trade magazines understand that you really are the best and the brightest? Not to put too fine a point on it, but it’s overwhelmingly likely that the answer is — you just don’t know what you’re doing.
Too many companies look at the giants in their respective industries for inspiration on how to achieve success and build the same type of weighty reputation among media. The same is true with the IT channel. Ambitious managed service providers look at giants like Ensono, Logicalis and Carousel and think they need to have the same look and feel if they want to achieve the same levels of success. The result is they create messaging loaded with terms like “industry-leading” and “global reach.” They use every excuse to draft a press release and blast it to every journalist and publication on a purchased media list. When reporters fail to bite, they send multiple follow-up emails, each one with a stronger note of rebuke and affront than the last.
It’s cringe-worthy enough when an MSP owner wearing multiple hats makes missteps like this. It’s worse when it’s an in-house public-relations liaison. What should be surprising to business owners in the IT channel, though, is how many PR agencies that profess to be experts in this industry commit these crimes. Just because someone hangs a shingle professing to be an IT media relations expert doesn’t mean you should trust them to handle your company’s image within the media.
Nikolett Bacso-Albaum, CEO and founder of Seattle-based Market Impact, has spent the last 15 years creating media-relations strategies for the B2B tech sector. At the upcoming Channel Partners Evolution, Oct. 9-12, in Philadelphia, Bacso-Albaum and a panel of journalists (including yours truly) will explain just how marketing works and give attendees action items they can take back and quickly implement in their own PR strategies. “Good PR, Bad PR: How to Get Your Story Out,” part of the conference’s marketing and technology track, sponsored by Cyxtera, will do a deep dive on the tactics that result in a great relationship with the media.
We sat down with Bacso-Albaum to get a preview of the highlights this session will touch on.
The following transcript has been edited for length and clarity.
Channel Futures: How long have you been in PR, and what was the industry like when you entered?
Nikolett Bacso-Albaum: I started out in PR at an agency while I was in college as an intern. I didn’t really fully understand what PR was, but my boss at the time found that I had natural skills to connect with people and get a story across — two of the most important skills in this business. Fast-forward almost a few decades later and I still love what I do. When I first started, sending out an announcement meant standing by the fax machine before anyone else was even awake and making sure that the press release went out to every newsroom and editor in the printed directory that would get updated weekly by a subscription service. At the time, I think there were more reporters, more publications and [fewer] companies vying for the exact same publications.
CF: What was a lesson you learned the hard way early on?
NBA: Relationships with reporters are critical. Don’t waste their time with pitches that clearly are out of their focus area – and please – don’t call them 2 minutes after you send an email asking them if they received your email. Also, it’s important for the PR person to understand the story they are pitching the reporter. If you can’t convey the news simply, you just don’t know the story well enough and you need to go back to the basics of answering who, what, when, were and how.
CF: When it comes to pitching, what’s a common mistake you see?
NBA: The words “robust,” “game-changing,” and “disruptive” make me cringe. Both on the client and agency side, everyone wants to pitch their product or company as the best in the market. It’s important that you first think about the timeliness of your pitch, the audience, and if what you have to say is actually newsworthy or if it’s better suited for a company marketing piece. I also see PR people write one pitch and blast it out to a broad media list and see if it sticks, versus taking the time to customize the story to the reporter. I’ve seen much better results happen if you zero in on the reporters you consider your top 20 percent and do the extra legwork to be a valuable resource for them. It’s a mind shift to think about quality results versus quantity.
CF: What are the things you know media are and are not wanting to see in pitches?
NBA: … Robust, game-changing and transformational are words to definitely leave out unless truly, you can make a very compelling case for how it actually is going to disrupt an industry. Also, please don’t say you are the Uber of XYZ technology. Each reporter is different in their focus, but at the end of the day, people can all relate to a good story. And good stories usually involve people and invoke an emotional connection. Don’t forget the human element; it’s what can make a story go from boring to great.
PR does not equal press release. If you remember nothing else, remember that. Writing a press release and putting it on a wire service and waiting for the coverage to just start rolling in is not going to happen. It takes a solid media strategy and a lot of legwork for quality coverage to happen.