Knowing the C-Suite’s Views is Key for Successful Media Relations

As PR pros know, the media landscape is an ever-shifting body of information, platforms and strategies. The goal, though, hasn’t changed: get strong content in front of the most eyeballs, or in some cases ears, from the target audience. Marketing and C-Suite professionals whose tactics are fresh and nimble increase their chances of gaining media coverage.

Below we analyze tactics that companies in the energy transition sector used to obtain media coverage. While these tactics were deployed in one tech sector, they are applicable in a wide range of industries.

Respect the relationship

As always, building relationships with reporters who will give you a fair hearing remains the best avenue to gain coverage. Additionally, reporters need reliable, credible information. The energy transition is moving so fast that it’s hard even for experts to keep up, let alone reporters. As such, media relations pros can play a critical role in helping media find and report stories.


Know the C-Suite 

In most companies, the CEO sets the vision, while the head of sales understands intimately why customers buy or don’t. A PR team unaware of how these two people think about the company and its offerings always will be out of touch.

Similarly, when strategies and messages are filtered through too many people at a company, media relations pros may receive diluted talking points. This can result in misinterpreted information. As a result, media relations will have a difficult time providing media with specifics and ideas that could help support company business goals.

Being out of sync with leadership’s point of view also increases the difficulty of getting media interested in having your executives serve as thought leaders on breaking news items.

TAKEAWAY: Ensure the CEO and head of sales, at least, interact with your PR/media relations team regularly. If there are other leaders within the company with insight and vision that the media might find useful, connect them with the team as well. Allow direct lines of communication; transparency is essential.


Time is an ally

Newsrooms are understaffed. Post-COVID, many have not rehired staff they shed to weather the economic storm. Pre-pandemic, understanding and respecting the confines of newsroom time constraints, preferred workflows and timetables was essential to the success of an announcement. It's more so now.

Companies (even well-known brands) arrogant enough to think a reporter will drop everything to cover their news as if they were Tesla likely will be disappointed. The days of pitching reporters after a release has gone live are finished.

Often reporters are working on multiple stories simultaneously. They need time to consider your news for publication. Additionally, the more generalist the writer or more prestigious the outlet, the more apprehensive a reporter might feel about covering technology or a topic they do not feel expert in. If you give them time to consider the technology thoughtfully, there's a higher the likelihood they will write about it. It's easier to reject your pitch in a last-second scenario.

The time to pitch reporters is contingent on your approval process. How quickly does your approval chain work? Communicate your timeline needs with third parties. This will make it easier for you to protect pitching time.

TAKEAWAY: Give trade reporters three days' heads up at minimum on a pending news announcement. For business and Tier 1 press, a minimum of five days to two weeks is recommended. These timeframes can make your pre-pitches and exclusive offers more effective.

Additionally, establish reasonable deadlines for third parties to participate and sign off on a release. This will leave enough time to finalize messages.

Content and timing

Trying to say everything in one announcement can muddle a message. Moreover, it can confuse readers and reporters. If you have a lot of news to share, it's better to separate announcements. Give reporters breathing room between releases. The last thing you want is a reporter thinking, We just covered them; I'll pass on this one. Spacing out announcements helps each release gain media attention.

TAKEAWAY: Allow at least two to four weeks between announcements, when possible. This can leave enough time for conversations ahead of the publication date to secure coverage. If you have more news to release, alternate high-value news with low-value announcements. That way, should reporters pass, it's on an item that was less worthy of coverage.


Leverage media alerts for in-person events

It's always a challenge to get reporters to leave their desks or a producer to send a news crew to an event. This is because attending an event, during COVID or not, can be a three-hour activity when travel time is added. That's enough time to write a story or two if a reporter stays at her desk. With added complications around COVID, encouraging reporters to travel, even a short distance, is that much more challenging.

Remember that reporters also are most likely working from home. If an event is interesting or exciting enough, they will try to attend—if they have a quick reference of what they can expect from the event. That's where you and media alerts come in.

TAKEAWAY: To improve your chances of media attending an event, more than a press release is needed. Media alerts still are the tried-and-true way of gaining an editor's attention. Most reporters require several days to one week's notice to attend events.

Further, leverage event partners to enhance media attendance. The more name-brand or marquee people and companies in attendance are, the more likely the media will attend, resulting in coverage.


Concentrate on the customer

Journalists want proof of your claims, and not from you. Your words, while helpful, are sometimes seen as a conflict of interest. However, third-party results, quotes and testimonials, especially household brands, can go a long way toward credibility. Plus, the reporter now has an outside source to incorporate into a story—making her pitch to an editor that much stronger.

The BYOC (Bring Your Own Customer) model of media coverage started with the utility trades. BYOC  denotes media outlets, such as Utility Dive, that typically refuse coverage of a vendor story unless the press release includes at least one utility customer using the product, technology or service.

This BYOC model has expanded to nearly all energy, IT and transportation trade press. The more prestigious a publication, the greater real-world traction it wants vendors to demonstrate.

The BYOC model is a good thing. It means the market has matured beyond the cool new technology story and toward implementation. Companies that highlight their customers beyond a new customer announcement are more likely to grab reporters' attention.

TAKEAWAY: Incorporate a quote from a customer or explain how you work with customers in news announcements. If possible, highlight case-study metrics or expected results in new customer announcements to communicate a more concrete message.


‘Where’ still matters

With all the working from home, we didn't lose the where in the five W's (who, what, where, when, and why). To make your pitch more exciting and relatable, ensure that press releases include location information of corporate offices and operations. Vague announcements run the risk of insulting reporters by wasting their time and harming the reputation of the company and its PR team.

Additionally, hometown angles can spark interest with local outlets, and you never know when a reporter or blogger might be living and working nearby.

TAKEAWAY: Location is a huge part of whether or not a piece of news is relevant, so always include this information. If it's not possible, consider a blog post instead, without pitching it to press.


Media coverage is fuel for social, sales and recruiting

Eyeballs that find your media coverage by chance are only a portion of the potential target audience. These people may or may not already be your fans on social media or subscribe to your email newsletter. As a result, you cannot communicate your marketing messages directly to them.

However, social media, and other content marketing tactics, such as blog posts, newsletters, sales funnels, etc., are direct channels to those who value your brand enough to be a part of your online community. Companies that fail to promote their media wins on various channels, and then share those out on personal profiles, are leaving new followers on the table.

Additionally, communicate these wins with employees, including sales teams and recruiters. They can leverage coverage in their activities and make earned media more effective.

TAKEAWAY: Post earned media on social feeds, and add it to newsletters and circulate with employees. Encourage employees to post news articles on their feeds. Use media wins to refresh content on your homepage to force Web bots to recategorize it.

Use photos and even the media outlets' logos to make the content more engaging. Explain to sales teams how they can use a media mention to start conversations with prospects, or warm up leads that have gone cold.

There are many opportunities to share news and messages. However, there are just as many ways to miss opportunities, mainly from a lack of planning. Media needs fresh, credible sources to feed the beast. Your company could be the next source to make headlines—if you give media a chance to consider you.

Make it clear and timely, and make it count.


Lisa Ann Pinkerton is CEO of Technica Communications