Be Your Own Storyteller: A Guide to Successful Inbound PR

In PR, conventional wisdom dictates that you do one of two things to get press in different areas for your clients, company or event: 1) draft a media kit, stocked with company/event backgrounders, info on the key people involved, PR releases and maybe photos and send them to a journalist covering that area OR 2) draft a traditional one-page PR release that details who, what, where, why and when, send it to the correct journalist and cross your fingers to hope for press.

There are 3 issues that come up with both these approaches: 1) Journalists don’t work off your promotional calendar. 2) Journalists need to give their readers what they’re looking for. 3) Journalists are absolutely drowning in pitches.

How does these 3 issues affect the media kit or the PR release you’ve sent the journalist of your choice? Let me elaborate on each of them individually so that you know understand why the traditional media kit or PR release doesn’t always work to get press.

First of all, the reporters you contact for press have their own deadlines and editorial calendars to work with. Chances are, they’re not waiting around for your press package announcing a new product or your company opening its doors. Secondly, journalists have a duty to tell a great story that’s newsworthy and relevant to their audiences and they may have a different angle or similar story to yours that has already been featured recently, which means they’ll pass on your story. And lastly, journalists are so inundated with traditional PR pitches on a daily basis that yours could easily get lost in the pile because your traditional pitch looks the same as 500 others.

So how do you go about standing out from the piles of PR releases? Here’s a list of awesome ideas to help you stand out from the crowd and build better relationships with media.

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1) Craft a narrative your customers care about: A news story on your newest product, service or office is going to focus its implications on how it will affect your industry or geographical area, depending on the publication. What your customers and your audience care about the most is how your products, services or new location will benefit them. Does your product make running a business or lifestyle changes easier for them? Does a new location make customer service more seamless for them?

Releases should reflect how your customers think and talk about your products and company. Eliminate any nonsensical terms and flowery language that your customers won’t understand and speak to them in ways that they’ll respond to; instead of catering your releases and blog entries to impress reporters.

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2) Think outside the box: You might not have a big event or huge product announcement always on the horizon but there’s always an opportunity to get noticed.

Does your company do a fun scavenger hunt as a team-building event every year and raises funding for a local cause? Or maybe you have employee perks that are unheard of in your industry. It might not be immediately press-worthy, but by posting your own blog post on your website about it, you keep customers engaged and you drive traffic to your website.

Don’t be afraid to think beyond the usual for content formats as well. Use formats to your advantage. For example, when oneforty was bought by HubSpot, the PR release was formatted entirely in tweets, which caught the attention of the Wall Street Journal and many other outlets.

Skew the traditional PR release altogether and get your fun story across with an infographic or two or even a video.

When you’re trying to show that a senior VP at your company is an expert at a given topic, don’t pitch that to the reporters first. Publish a blog post with some of your VP’s insights and then send it to reporters so that they know it’s relevant.

Most importantly, don’t forget to have fun and don’t be afraid to be creative!

3) Create Awesome Content

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Typically, in a traditional PR release, you focus on applying the ‘who, what, where, why and when’ approach to content, which although informative, isn’t really all that exciting. Reporters are people just like you and they respond better to content that’s fun and exciting, not a bland template.

Focus on what makes your story unique and worth reading, make it shorter and more concise, maybe even add a few ‘Share This’ or ‘Tweet This’ links to encourage reporters to share your content.

Don’t wait around for reporters to take notice, get your company out there. Research a few high-profile industry blogs out there and see if you can guest post. That will help drive traffic to your website and result in potential media coverage because it establishes you as an authority in your field.

The first step in successful inbound PR is to learn how to tell your story first. That includes creating your own infographics, blog posts and whatever other fun content you want to generate attention. It’ll help you gain valuable traffic to your website and attract coverage.

Inbound Marketing that Journalists Will Thank You For

Journalists today unfortunately don’t have all the time in the world to research for story angles, find the right phone number or email to reach a publicist or your marketing team. So do what the best companies do: make it as lightning quick, easy and intuitive for journalists to get the info they need.

That’s why your website should have a press page containing the contact info of your media relations professional, company backgrounders, recent news etc. and any other associate materials a journalist would need. Some best practices for a press page include:

Provide real contact info: Give reporters the name and contact info of a real person that they can talk to rather than a generic company email. It shows that you care about the kind of response they’ll receive
Decode You ‘About Us’ section: Make sure the description of what your company does is crystal clear to journalists. Use illustrations or diagrams to showcase your business in visual terms if it becomes too lengthy to explain in words. If a reporter doesn’t understand what you do, there’s no way they’ll be able to explain it to their readers in an article, so keep it short, concise and specific.
Include profiles of your executive team: Most of the time, reporters want to know information about your CEO, CTO, CFO etc. are in order to develop stories. Provide high-res photos, bios, social media profiles and maybe a quote or two for reporters to investigate and reference. Having the info readily available makes it hassle-free for journalists to get the content they need.
Other helpful industry data: if a reporter is working on a story about your industry, chances are she will also need statistics and data to help capture market growth or trending topics. So putting a few industry stats and info about trending topics could make their lives easier and increase the likelihood that they will return to your website with a similar request in the future.
Add social media sharing buttons: Make it easier for employees, customers and media alike to share your news with the world. It’ll help the conversation start on social media about what your company’s up to.
Share your coverage: When your company is covered in an article or blog post, interviewed in a video or mentioned in print, post a link in it on your Press page. When you build a long list of coverage over the years, create a news coverage page so journalists know exactly where to go to find the buzz about you.

Building Relationships With Media

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First and foremost, respect their role. A journalist’s job is not to sell or promote your product no matter what outlet they write for. Their job is to capture relevant news for their outlet, tell a great story and make sure that they give a fair and reasonable assessment of your company, product or service. By recognizing that, you’ll get better results, manage expectations more carefully and build lasting relationships.

Make sure you’re also patient about reaching out to journalists. Only contact the ones that cover the area you want covered and only do so when you have something of value to offer them and their readers.

Here’s 5 Tactics You Can Use to Identify, Reach Out To & Engage With Journalists in Your Space

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1. Do Your Homework-You can usually find basic contact info for the reporters on their outlets contact pages for editorial staff or using the ‘contact me’ button at the top of a story. You can use Excel spreadsheets or Google Docs to build your lists. Make sure you include their contact info, a link to their recent coverage, Twitter/Facebook profiles and a short bio.
2. Leverage Social Media-Use Facebook, Twitter and other platforms to monitor how and when reporters are talking about topics in your industry and respond with helpful tips and links. You can use Hootsuite to create notification lists based on subjects you’d like to pitch to journalists to see when they’re talking about it.
3. Take Time to Personalize-Refer to the journalists you contact by name, take the time out to personalize your outreach as well. If you know they’d rather prefer a friendly email, send them one.
4. Test, Learn & Apply-By using a program such as MyEmma, Constant Contact or MailChimp to send your emails, you can see who opened your emails and track who clicked your links. You can also track which emails bounced or who didn’t open the email. It will help you plan your next steps on who to follow up with, with a second email and where you have to update contact info.
5. Give Before You Get-Add value when you contact the reporters-comment on their status updates, promote their content and maybe give them sneak peeks of your business. Media relationships are a two-way street, so make sure you offer them value.

Check back here every week to learn more about how to make the most out of Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest, create awesome inbound marketing content & get fans engaged! Read THIS to learn how to make the most of Twitter & Vine.

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Common Mistakes Made in Inbound Marketing

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After doing some research, I came across a great e-book on the ins and outs of inbound and outbound marketing. As a marketing student, years ago, we’d been taught that any internal communications meant creating newsletters and memos within the company and external was any type of communication/marketing that we would send out via direct mail, email, magazine ads, radio ads, etc. to the consumer.

But, the terminology and the strategies have changed. So what exactly is inbound marketing? Here’s the definition I found:

Inbound Marketing:

The process of helping potential customers find your company – often before they are even looking to make a purchase – and then turning that early awareness into brand preference and, ultimately, into leads and revenue.”

So what fits into the definition of inbound marketing? Content is the crucial key inside inbound marketing. Utilizing everything from blog posts and videos to white papers, case studies and free trials, you can create content that educates, inspires and compels your audience to share it with their networks. This content can take the form of articles, webinars, white papers, eBooks, slide presentations, videos and more, and can be shared via blogs, third-party sites, and social media where your prospects “find” you.

By placing SEO-optimized keywords in your content as well as using social media such as Facebook, Twitter & Google+, blog syndication sites like Business 2 Community and even social media clout sites such as Empire Avenue to promote your content; prospects will be able to find you online. Doing this can help you maximize your reach and increase traffic to your blog.

But, mistakes in inbound marketing can happen.

How Inbound Marketing Goes Wrong

  • Your aim is too wide: You spend too much time running “carpet-bombing” style campaigns, under the belief that they will reach the most people and then wonder why you don’t produce better results. To connect with prospective buyers –you need to switch to delivering high-quality content to the right people in an engaging way – and doing so across multiple channels.
  • Some prospects find you, others don’t know you exist:  There are two things happening here. First, some people don’t realize they should or could seek you out. Think about it: If you don’t know about something, you can’t search for it. You may not be sharing the right type of content or sharing it in the right place for your prospect to find it. For example, you might create white papers about your product, but if prospects are searching on terms related to their problems and you only talk about your solution, potential buyers probably won’t find your content.
  • Others may know you exist, but don’t understand what you do: Think about all the companies whose blog posts you read or Twitter accounts you follow. Do you really know what each of them does? You must share your content where your prospects spend time, taking into consideration industry- and location-focused sites and other venues, and even less popular social media sites. The key is to understand where your prospects spend time and then to establish a presence there
  • You aren’t reaching the decision makers: Why? It’s unlikely that CXOs are going to spend time trolling the web for blogs or other content. It’s far more likely that they assign this exercise to someone working for them.
  • Sometimes you can’t break through the noise: Many times companies pour lots of effort into their inbound marketing around big events such as trade shows. Unfortunately, that is the hardest time to get noticed.

In a future blog post, I’ll be focusing more on how to balance out some of these mistakes in inbound marketing with a hybrid strategy that includes outbound marketing.  For more content strategies & tips, check out my post on 22 Ideas to Beat Writers’ Block.

-Lilian

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