When a pharmacy chain with more than 100 retail locations across the Carolinas teamed up with a PR firm to launch an in-store program that offered flu vaccination clinics, more than 2 million customers and potential customers heard the message loud and clear.
The story was featured on 25 major television network broadcasts and more than 40 newspapers, which included photographs and interviews with pharmacists, customers and executives. Based on population estimates from the US Census Bureau, this is the equivalent of reaching everyone in the following North Carolina towns: Angier, Asheville, Cary, Chapel Hill, Durham, Fayetteville, Fuquay-Varina, Greensboro, High Point, Hillsborough, Raleigh, Reidsville, Sanford, Southport, Wilmington and Zebulon.
In terms of the competition, this pharmacy received significantly more coverage than the other three major chains combined.
How was this accomplished? The PR firm kept its media relations strategy SIMPLE.
- Streamline Your Message
- Identify Trends and Patterns in Past Media Coverage
- Make Multiple, Varied Attempts
- Personalize Communication
- Listen to the Media
- Execute on Promises
Streamline Your Message
By keeping your message concise you clearly identify the relevance to the media’s target market. Meet a need reporter’s face (always being on deadline) by offering up any information and supporting materials that make writing the story quick and easy. Show them immediately why this particular story is different and new and will resonate with their readers. Let them know you have sources set up and ready to speak with them to help add backbone to the story you’re trying to create.
Identify Trends and Patterns in Past Media Coverage
There are clear and predictable patterns in what the media covers. These patterns are based on myriad factors including historical trends, seasons, holidays, nature, etc. Identify and align with these patterns and your chances of getting coverage will greatly increase. By aligning with the media’s needs, and offering resources and information rather than self-promotion, you can secure high-profile placements while forging strong and lasting relationships with the media.
Make Multiple, Varied Attempts
It’s no secret that journalists and reporters are bombarded with information and requests daily. Complicating things even further, each member of the media has his/her own preferences for receiving information. Even when PR professionals honor that preferred method, it’s common for even the most relevant and worthy pitches to get lost in the crowd. You need to do much more than issue a press release to promote your story to the media. You must fax personalized media alerts daily, send email reminders daily and most importantly, pick up the phone and personally call every relevant media contact, in most cases several times. When a contact is unable to adhere to your story request, religiously and respectfully follow-up regarding upcoming story possibilities. The media contact will not be put off by your perseverance – quite the opposite. Media will be thankful and complimentary regarding your ability to effectively communicate with them.
Personalize Your Communication
I touched on this in the above section. Media is only interested in news that pertains directly to their audience and coverage area. Customized, personalized communication containing only the most relevant information is a must. A reporter in Charleston, SC has no interest in an event in Raleigh, NC. Do not waste valuable time and space by including irrelevant information. Also know that blanket, uniform pitches can be spotted a mile away and have little hope of attracting the attention of a diverse media population.
Listen to the Media
When calling the media, do not jump into a long, rehearsed diatribe. Quickly and clearly state your purpose and see how they react. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about what they are working on and how you can assist. It is just as important for you to hear what they have to say as it is for them to hear what you have to say. The ultimate goal should be a dialog and long-term mutual respect.
Execute on Promises
Any number of “to dos” could result from a successful media pitch. This could entail sending additional information, arranging interviews, finding answers to questions you didn’t know the answer to – you name it. Diligent and timely follow-up is ALWAYS required to be successful. One unfulfilled promise could kill the chance of any future stories to come. Never forget, the media are always working on deadline and there is always another story that could take your place if you don’t follow through.
OK. Is media relations challenging? Absolutely. Can it be intimidating, frustrating and time-consuming? No doubt. However, if executed correctly, it can be the most powerful tool for promoting your message and driving your bottomline – if you keep it SIMPLE.
David Chapman is Founder and CEO of 919 Marketing (http://www.919marketing.com). 919 Marketing is a marketing, consulting and public relations firm with a proven track record of helping underdog companies of all sizes increase revenue, create a competitive advantage and improve marketing efficiencies.