“The journalists would be morons if they don’t write about this”…“How hard can it be? Every time I open the papers there is such rubbish”…”This is a real story”.
Ever heard or thought this?
It’s something that we have heard regularly over the last 20 years, and apart from the “morons” comment, sometimes our clients have a point. But what I have learned is that if they are thinking or saying that, then we have not done our job properly.
We all have busy jobs and on the whole are passionate about the business we work in- especially if we are an owner or stakeholder. We have clients internally and externally who put pressure on us to make noise about what it is that we are doing and it is our responsibility to create the strongest story possible to achieve great media coverage. But often we don’t really know where to start.
To help, here are my top 5 tips for creating a strong B2B news story:
1 – Know your audience
There are two types of audiences you need to consider – the people you want to reach out to and the journalist themselves. But the key point is to realise that the journalists are always thinking of their readers and not necessarily themselves.
For national newspapers such as The Times, Sun, Daily Mail, Guardian and Telegraph there has not been much change over the years. This is best demonstrated by a sketch from the 1980’s comedy Yes Prime Minister that is accurate today as it was nearly 40 years ago!
But being slightly more serious, the media landscape has evolved. The national newspapers, whilst massively important are now challenged by emerging online publications that are equally influential such as Market Watch, TechCrunch and VentureBeat. many of these publications are far more niche and write for specific audiences such as CEOs, IT Directors, Marketing Directors etc…
If you are developing campaigns to reach out to a certain audience then identify the publications aimed at them, find the right journalists and see what and how they are writing before you call them. By doing this you will better understand how to pitch your story and get their attention.
2 – Is it new?
Everyone thinks their business is new or unique, especially if they are the founder or have a stake. One of our jobs as communication professionals is to challenge the business to prove this. After all, the meaning of unique is” being the only one of its kind; unlike anything else”.
Journalists are the most cynical bunch of the lot – and quite rightly so. They are the gatekeepers of information to their audience. They are trusted and understand the influence they or their publication can have.
I remember pitch a story once to a well-known technology journalist at the Financial Times early in my career and 10 seconds into my well thought out, hard-hitting “can’t say no” pitch, he stopped me and said that he had spoken to ten companies in the last month doing exactly the same, so what makes these guys unique? I had not done my due diligence and was stumped and the opportunity was lost.
But new or unique is not just about service or product – it can also be about vision. For example Virgin Atlantic – another airline – but they see themselves as a challenger and enabler for their passengers. Their mission vision is “to embrace the human spirit and let it fly”
3 -Get proof points
If you have a good story then it can be even better if it’s backed up by some solid and credible figures. In addition, the story can be further enhanced by the results of the research itself.
Journalists love to have data as it gives their article more depth. A great example of this is a story that came out earlier this year from CaxtonFX who were launching a new premier service for their customers. They wanted to get a point across that this service was for people who may be affluent, but are still careful about their spending.
They did some smart research that proved that even if you earn over £100 thousand a year you do not consider yourself wealthy. This got coverage in all the national publications including this great spread in the Telegraph.
Research also has a longer shelf- life as a story as it can be referred to again and again in other press releases, and gives you the ability to piggyback on other companies announcements. It is always best to have your own research but you can use other peoples to make a point as long as you give a link or reference.
4 – Testimonials
Journalists hate writing about vendors or products. They will always ask who is using it, or who are your clients? They will virtually always want to speak to your clients as these are the same people that they are actually writing for and the best way to make an article relevant.
When we pitch a story to a journalist we always make sure that we have a testimonial ready to offer the journalist. Be it a client win announcement, product launch or research adding a human testimonial to back it up is vital.
One company who does this regularly is Xexec who ensure that all their client wins and news is focussed around their clients. For example a recent announcement about the Thames Valley Police that included images and quotes to make it far more exciting and eye-catching.
5 – Timing is everything
To use a cliche expression, the news cycle never stops. There may be quieter times than others, such as the “silly season” over the summer, when business tends to slow down so you get some more left-field stories appearing. But on the whole, you are always going to have something else competing for column inches.
Do your research, find out what major announcements or events are happening in advance of your release date and possibly move accordingly. For example, Money Week publishes a calendar of all company financial announcements and AGM dates.
Another way to stay on top of the news is to keep track of all the planned editorial features that your target publications are planning to write. These are known as Editorial Calendars or Forward Feature lists. If they are not published on the websites then the editors are usually very happy to tell you what’s coming up over the next few months.
As you have read, there are many moving parts that need to come together to create a strong story that gets picked up and written about with journalists. From it being relevant and new, having data and testimonials, to getting your timing right. You also need a little bit of luck that the journalist answers you call or reads your email and happens to be interested that day.
Journalists need to be kept informed of the latest happenings even if they don’t write about it this time around, which is why maintaining ongoing media relationships is so important. However, as long as you have made sure you have ticked off all these boxes, you can sleep at night knowing that you have done everything you can to get your news published.
By James Harrison