If you’ve already heard this story, you can skip ahead to the next section.
I tell it a lot because it’s pretty typical of business owners who do not understand the marketing disciplines.
A few years ago, a prospect called me in a complete panic.
It was just a couple of weeks before Christmas and he had just been told by both Target and Walmart that if his product didn’t sell by the holiday, they would not continue to buy.
As you can imagine, that is panic-inducing. And he had no idea what to do.
So he called me, wanting a big story in the New York Times, in the hopes that it would cause people to go rushing to their favorite big box retailer to buy his product.
I was very sad to tell him that was almost impossible.
Of course, he didn’t like that answer and then it was my fault when the big box retailers didn’t reorder from him.
And that is one of the challenges of doing what we do.
Those who don’t do think it’s just as easy as picking up the phone and calling the New York Times and voila! Sales are off-the-chart.
I blame Oprah.
You get a car! You get a car! And you get a car!
Failure is Around the Corner without Integration
But what’s almost worse is the typical preparing for a new product launch…and bringing communications in at the last minute.
Your company spends months working on the new product and they are counting down the days to launch.
Suddenly, they come to you and say, “We need a news release! Hurry! Write a news release! We launch in three days.”
Has that ever happened to you?
I’d venture to guess it has happened to the majority of you (or, if not, it’s coming!).
Even if you had the time to properly prepare for your news release and pitching top-tier reporters, is that where you should spend your time?
Despite how excited your internal team is about whatever it is you’re announcing, it’s highly unlikely your one-off, promotional announcement is going to pique the interest of a top-tier journalist.
(Or anyone else, for that matter.)
No matter how well-written, it’s rare for a news release to get in front of your ideal buyer, let alone drive them to action.
If your entire launch is depending solely on traditional public relations tactics for its success, you may be headed for failure.
There are better ways than spending a week crafting a news release and going through endless rounds of edits.
Let’s talk, instead, about an integrated public relations approach.
The Company Blog
Your company blog is a valuable tool for building a foundation that positions your executives as industry thought leaders.
Journalists often look at executive-authored content when evaluating sources and considering whether or not to include your company in their coverage.
Go beyond product-heavy promotional content and use your blog to share relevant and helpful content.
If done well, this will help your ideal customer be successful in his or her job or life.
Build Relationships….Waaaaaay Before the Launch
You wouldn’t walk up to a journalist or an industry influencer at a party and start giving them your elevator pitch, would you?
I hope not!
It’s important to build relationships with journalists and social media influencers, by being helpful.
Base your interaction on the pursuit of their goals, long before you pitch them stories about your business.
Here’s how to get started:
- Identify the top journalists, bloggers, industry analysts and thought leaders who influence your customer-buying decisions.
- Search for them on the key social media platforms you are focusing on, and follow them there.
- On Twitter, create an influencers list and add them to it.
Not only will that make it easy for you to see what they’re sharing and talking about, it’s a solid first social interaction with them.
Social Media Interaction and Engagement
Your social channels present a unique opportunity to connect directly with influencers and fans to build a relationship with them over time.
Amplify content shared by your influencers (here’s where that influencer Twitter list comes in handy).
Like and re-share on your social channels, and engage them in conversation on the topic.
Use social listening tools such as Social Mention and streams in Hootsuite to track mentions of your brand and respond to those brand fans.
You can also add your expertise (but not a hard product sell) to relevant conversations.
Comment on Blogs and Articles
Bloggers and journalists spend a lot of time on the content they publish.
Let them know what new insights you gleaned from them, pose a question, or share a follow-up on one of their points.
This is a great way to share your expertise and get a conversation started on topics you’d eventually like to be part of a more formal conversation on.
Sorry, but email is definitely not dead!
In fact, research from Salesforce found that 95 percent of people who have opted-in to receive email messages from a brand find these messages somewhat or very useful.
A regularly scheduled email newsletter is a good way to build and nurture customer and prospect relationships over time.
It also provides influencers with a low-key way to keep apprised of what your company is up to, without the threat of dreaded PR pitch cold calls.
Give your best content the opportunity to go beyond your current fans and followers.
Allocate a budget to distribute it through sponsored social media posts.
Create audience segments on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook that closely resemble your target customer and promote your posts to those audiences.
Integrate Social Advertising with Media Relations
When your company finally gets that awesome media mention, there’s a lot more you can do.
You can—and should—use paid social advertising to drive additional readers to that media coverage, and ultimately to your company website.
On Facebook, you can take it one step further.
Use the pixel to target those who have visited your site to stay top-of-mind.
No Need for the News Release
If the primary action item in the product launch project plan is sending a news release across the wire, we need to talk.
Touting how revolutionary your new product is and how it will disrupt your industry will not get you results.
But when the announcement is just one piece of an integrated communications effort, you set your launch up for success.
A version of this first appeared in my StartUp Nation column