You’ve no doubt walked into a business and seen a couple framed news stories in their reception area. If you’re been to a Five Guys burger joint, you’ve probably noticed they ring their walls with favorable articles about their restaurant.
Every business should have a few nice news stories to show off. If you are a small business, one or two stories a year might do. If you’re a bigger business, you may want hundreds of them.
Media coverage is a powerful but often overlooked way to promote your company and its products. No one has the ear of the public like reporters and producers. And today that includes bloggers and other influencers.
Almost all PR firms charge by the hour to arrange media coverage. They reason that if they work hard and don’t get you any coverage, they should still get paid for trying. The notion that you have to pay even if you don’t get coverage is off-putting to many marketing managers. After all, why should they take the risk when they can be assured of getting their message across by using their website, email, ads and other methods?
On one level, charging by the hour for trying to get media coverage seems reasonable. Who wants to work and not get paid? But we’ve never done business that way. We charge per story we arrange, so if you don’t get coverage, it doesn’t cost you anything. It’s a little risky for us, but we’ve arranged tens of thousands of media stories over the last 35 years and on balance we’ve done OK. And one thing is certain. Our clients love that we take on the risk. They also love the stories we arrange for them.
We are ordering new blinds from Blinds.com. Their commercials say that if you measure the blinds wrong, they won’t charge you for the mistake. They’ll just send you new ones. I can understand that business model. They will lose money on a few jobs, but in the long run they will make more sales by removing the customer’s risk. They operate like we do. We lose money on a few jobs but we don’t care. We make it up in volume. Customers like the idea of paying us for results rather than paying another agency to try.
Let me ask you a few questions. If someone is searching the internet, would you like them to run across media stories about you? Would media stories benefit your sales staff? Would media stories reach potential customers who don’t know about your product yet? Would you link to the stories on your website? And would it make you feel good to know media stories are popping up about your business?
I’ll tell you a funny story. Many years ago, long before cell phones, we had a client who gave us some unusual instructions. He was a doctor and when we had a media outlet that wanted to interview him, we were to call him at a fancy restaurant he frequented. It turned out that he wanted to impress his friends. In those days, they had telephones with super-long cords and they would walk the phone out to your table if you had an important call. Apparently he would have lunch with friends and they would overhear him talking on the phone to one of our publicists about his media coverage. It made him look like a real big shot.
I often wondered if the stories actually brought him business or if it was just something he did to feed his ego. That’s the thing about media coverage. No one brags when they run an ad, but boy when you’re featured in a news story it’s a real ego stroke.
I have to admit it’s fun when a friend tells me they saw my company in the news. One time I was at a party and this fellow kept staring at me. I thought he must be thinking he knows me from somewhere. Finally he approached me and said he wanted to compliment me. He had seen my picture in a business article he read in his dentist’s waiting room and was impressed. There’s a bit of celebrity status that comes with being in the media and it’s kind of fun.
You can shop around all you want and you won’t find a company that has been doing this as long as we have and has arranged as many product news stories as us. It’s actually a tough business to be in. There are a lot of variables we can’t control like who will do a story, when it will run or air and what exactly it will say. But the power of “earned” media makes up for that. If you read the history of any major brand, you will see that media coverage played an integral part in their success.
There are only four main promotional mix channels: ads, website, social media and publicity. Skipping publicity doesn’t make much sense. Give us a try and let us arrange a few media stories for you. See if a consistent presence in the media has a net positive effect on your company. That’s how all our clients have started with us. They buy a few stories and then they buy more.
There is one downside when you sign up with us, so let me explain.
Most new clients are excited to get their first few stories. Unfortunately, it takes a little longer than they think to get the ball rolling. Remember, we are not purchasing a story from the media like an ad. We are politely telling reporters and producers we think we have something their audience would be very interested in hearing about, and asking them if they would like to do a story about it. That’s why we use the term “earned” media. We have to earn our way into their publication or broadcast, not buy our way in. However, we do have a solution to the slow startup time.
Not too many years ago, you couldn’t have bought your way into a story to save your life. Content was content and ads were ads. That was it. The logic was that if a media outlet sold their content, no one would trust them and they would lose their audience. And if they lost their audience, there went their ad revenue. But as the internet came along and ad revenue withered, media outlets became desperate for money and began blurring the line between the stories and ads. Today many media outlets will let us buy our way into their publication or program’s stories.
Instead of making you put a box around your ads or run commercials, they will artfully disguise your paid story as actual “earned” content. The term for this is “native content.” They still impose some restrictions on native content, such as tiny little grayed-out disclaimers, but the way they let their audience know it’s a story they were paid to run is so subtle that many in their audience don’t catch it.
So, some clients have us sprinkle in “purchased” or “native content” stories as a way to fill the space between the hard to get and more coveted “earned” stories. Paid stories aren’t as prestigious and don’t have the power of earned coverage, but they do give the appearance of a more consistent flow of coverage.
Before companies come to us, most of them have had a small amount of media coverage in the past. But they have never scaled up a controlled flow of media coverage. Think of the promotional mix as an engine with four cylinders. Most companies fire on three of the four: ads, website and social posts. But that fourth cylinder, media coverage, lies dormant. If that’s the case with you, we can fire it up and add more horsepower to your overall marketing program. It’s a competitive advantage that’s kind of a not-so-secret, secret weapon.
Give us a call at 952-697-5269 and we can answer any questions you have, and tell you more specifically how we have done this for companies all over the country and even globally for the last 35 years. We are the best in the business.
For more great marketing advice, check out The CEO’s Guide to Marketing!