Strategy + Communications column, we discussed how todays most
successful companies know that their marketing and public relations
programs are key strategic assets. These companies fully understand that
to be winners in todays hyper-competitive marketplace they must have both
sound business and marketing plans.
These successful companies have developed marketing
strategies and communications programs that target all of their key
audiences, including: Media and analysts; customers and prospects;
business and channel partners; government agencies and regulators; and
employees and stakeholders. With these programs, they are ensuring that
their key messages are heard loudly and clearly by the largest possible
audience on a regular basis.
The result? A more visible company and more
knowledgeable customer base, with greater awareness of what a company has
to offer even before a salesperson initiates a single call. The
bottom-line result is very clear -- shorter sales cycles, increased sales,
more market share and more profits.
Your company, too, may have a great product or
service, but unless you also make a strong commitment to marketing and
publicizing it properly, you are severely limiting how many of your key
target audiences -- particularly your customer base -- are aware of it.
How do you get started?
As we began to discuss last time, one of the proven
methods is to develop a proactive public relations program as an essential
element of your overall marketing strategy. Simply put, the objective of
this program is to build a relationship with the news media -- one of your
most formidable, but important, audiences -- as a way of positively
influencing your customer base.
Because of their independent, unbiased viewpoint, it
is critical to your success that you build a relationship with the media
so that they write about your company favorably.
The media -- daily newspapers, trade and consumer
magazines, broadcast and cable television stations, radio stations and Web
sites -- independently inform all of your other key audiences about your
company. By influencing the influencers to give your company consistent
and favorable news coverage, it is possible to create and then support an
overall positive environment for your company to do business.
WHAT IS NEWS?
But what is news? What makes some events newsworthy and others not? Why do
seemingly routine occurrences merit extensive media coverage again and
again? More importantly, how do you get your companys products and
services in the press -- or conversely, keep them out of it? Why do some
companies survive a media crisis that destroys others? And why do the same
experts appear and re-appear in print and broadcast venues?
To start to answer these questions, lets begin by
looking at the classic definition of news as defined by
1a: a report of recent events b:
previously unknown information ("I've got news for you"); 2a:
material reported in a newspaper or news periodical or on a newscast b:
matter that is newsworthy.
Thats a good start, but doesnt this definition make
it seem like any type of information released by a company could be
news? Given the flood of information that editors and reporters must sift
through daily in the form of press releases -- both paper and electronic
-- story ideas, pitches and follow-ups that come in to them via telephone,
mail and e-mail from company representatives and public relations
agencies, how do print reporters make sense out of the information
overload? Specifically, how do they decide what is a story and what
isnt? What makes a reporter want to cover your companys story rather
than another companys, including your real and perceived competitors?
THE FIVE Ws (AND THE H)
All editors and reporters base their nose for news on a simple litmus
test in determining if something is newsworthy (as in the earlier
definition) or worthy of coverage. They ask: Why should my readers (or
viewers) care about this information?
To first determine if the information from any
company is potentially newsworthy, they ask very specific questions like:
- Is it new? (Is this information that has
not been heard and presented before, whether on a product or service,
company development or viewpoint?)
- Is it timely? (Is it something that is
currently taking place, will take place soon or ties into something
currently in the news?)
- Is it interesting to my audience? (Will my
readers and viewers see this as relevant to their business lives and
Once past this initial screen, for a company
development to be considered for publication, editors and reporters then
screen the data based on what is called journalistic style or the five
Ws (which also adds the letter H):
- Who is affected by this piece of
information? (Does this news affect a lot of people or only a few?)
- What happened? (Is the event interesting
and dramatic or just nothing special or more of the same?)
- When did it happen? (Is the information
timely, occurring now or in the immediate past?)
- Where did it happen? (Is the news happening
close to my readers geographically or do they know the area?)
- Why did it happen? (Can we explain the
reasons behind this event to put it into a larger context or give it
further analysis at a later date?)
- How did it happen? (Can we provide more
details about the event, including background leading up to it?)
NEWS IS PERSONAL
Looking a bit more closely at this screening process, it is easy to see
that news is very much in the eye of the beholder. Even though journalists
pride themselves on their unbiased coverage, no two journalists covering
the same beat (or area of concentration) for different media outlets see
the same story the same way.
Also, it is important to note that each media outlet
will have different reporters covering different beats or writing
different sections of a magazine or newspaper. Each one is looking for
news that will interest readers of his or her own specific section of the
publication. (Asking: Why should my readers care about this
information?) A new product editor, for example, would not be interested
in a new strategic alliance by your company, but the news editor would
be. On the other hand, a new faster, better, cheaper product from your
company would be of great interest to the new products editor. The news
editor would only be interested if it is a revolutionary or breakthrough
product and if more of the why and how information is available for
Not surprisingly then, much more information goes
unreported by the media than can appear each day in print, broadcast or
online; here the New York Times motto of All the news thats fit
to print is very appropriate. Thats why its so important for companies
to have a news section on their Web site and to keep it updated regularly
by publishing your own press releases if no one else does.
In the next column, well continue to demystify this
mysterious news business by taking a look at our final tough questions:
- What makes a reporter want to cover your story in
the most positive light to you and your company?
- How does a proactive marketing and public
relations program help you gain consistent, positive media coverage?
With his unique "both sides
of the editor's desk" perspective, Randy Savickys advice and counsel on
public relations and marketing has been sought after by some of Americas
largest corporations and best-known brands, including IBM, Motorola, Sony
and Fujifilm. He is President of Strategy + Communications
Worldwide, the complete outsourcing resource, which helps
companies gain mindshare and market share by improving their
communications to their key audiences: Media and analysts; customers and
prospects; business and channel partners; government agencies and
regulators; and employees and stakeholders. He welcomes your comments and
ideas and can be reached at (516) 286-7026 or
reprints of this article by calling (800) 290-5460 or buy them directly
online at www.reprintbuyer.com.
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