How to Lay the Groundwork for Media Outreach
BY CHRISTINE TORRES
Published July 29, 2021
Strategic messaging takes a lot of preparation. Preparing press releases, pitch emails, press kits, and other materials takes time, aptitude, and creativity. Public relations consultant Michelle Garrett knows the ins and outs of how to plan and improve press outreach. She shares her insight while leading a chat for manufacturers and industry supporters during #USAMfgHour on Twitter.
According to Cision, a public relations and earned media software company, 52 percent of businesses find identifying the right influencers is their biggest challenge in implementing an earned media strategy. While this is one slice of the media outreach pie, there are a few more important ingredients to media outreach success, according to Garrett.
Why is an updated website one of the first things to focus on before you do a PR push? And – is it a good idea to have a dedicated “press” or “news” page?
“There are few worse blunders than putting time, money, & effort behind a PR push only to direct people to a broken page,” said Mike Womack of NJMEP in New Jersey. “We're big fans of a press or news page so media outlets always know where they can find the latest newsworthy information about your brand.”
“A website is one of the first things people go to now to check out a business. Whether it be for PR or new business. If I find a website that is unappealing or not updated, I'm less inclined to work with that company,” said Ben Nordman of Obsidian Manufacturing in Rockford, Illinois.
“Make sure your website links work (social buttons, email, video, etc. Keep CTAs clear,” said Christine Torres of Graphic Products in Beaverton, Oregon. “A press or company news page keeps info organized for those looking into your company, products, and other media-worthy news.”
“If you're going to be pointing people to your site and promoting your business, your site better be a good representation of your brand. If not, it will just repel all of the interest you get. It's nice to have a dedicated press/news page for quick reference,” said Paul Kiesche of Aviate Creative in Long Valley, New Jersey.
“A website is your digital storefront. You have to make sure everything looks good at first glance + everything functions once people start browsing. Our site is under construction and will look to improve in the coming weeks,” said John Buglino of Optessa in Edmonton, California.
“You need both a page for press releases and one for media mentions. Don't combine them,” said Ellen Chang, a journalist with U.S. News and World Report.
Your website will be one of the first places a reporter will visit if you reach out, Garrett said. “So, you want to make sure it's in order before you start your media outreach efforts,” she said. “I do recommend that clients have a dedicated news or press area on their site. Why? Because the easier you can make it for a journalist to find what he/she needs, the more you increase your chances of earning media coverage.”
What background materials should you have ready to share with a reporter?
“Be concise and persuasive. Know your audience, have a hook, stay abreast of the topic and be an expert,” said Graphic Products. “Prove your content’s value by having ready the who, what, when, where, how, and why. Reliable statistics, quotes, and other pertinent data. Plan ahead for questions and have answers and accompanying materials ready.”
“Short summation of the company, information on relevant people within the company regarding the topic along with quotes, pictures would be ideal as well,” said Obsidian Manufacturing.
“Media kit if you have one. Plus, know your 5 Ws and the H (who, what, when, where, why, and how) with regard to the topic they will cover,” said Rebecca Hart of Drive Source International/Dynamatic in Sturtevant, Wisconsin.
“From my limited experience, reporters may want a brief bio, headshot, company logo, brand guide, and company history,” said Kiesche.
“Company history,” said Dan Bigger of Custom Profile in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. “Company info such as ownership, amount of employees, what you do, how you do it, examples of companies you work with, and maybe total sales?”
“If the goal is to substantiate claims made in the article etc., then they would need sources, links, bio, headshots of the authors, details about all contributors, etc.,” said Sam Gupta of ElevatIQ.
“Company overview, product info, and maybe some testimonials from clients as well,” said Ruby Rusine of Social Success Marketing in El Dorado Hills, California.
“Boilerplate, info on the topic in the press release, images, quotes,” said Gina Tabasso of MAGNET consulting in Cleveland, Ohio.
“Media kit and fact sheet about you/the firm. What else?” said StratMarketing Group in Downers Grove, Illinois.
“Credible, recent examples of work that are relevant for THEIR needs,” said Buglino. “We just reached out to an Industry 4.0 magazine editor and showcased our recent interview on... Industry 4.0! AMAZING.”
“A company overview, a press release on the subject, at least 2 points of contact for follow-up questions, and a link to the press/media page,” said NJMEP.
Garrett suggests having these materials ready:
- Customer references
- Data to share with reporters (sales, surveys, etc.)
- Backgrounder with history/overview
“Some of this should be on your site in your news/press area,” she said. “Don't forget to include a media contact.”
Is being active on social media important if you want to start reaching out to the media?
“Definitely. You want to build media and influencer relationships, and social is great for that,” said Graphic Products.
“It is all about showing them your brand and making you worth the effort that they are going to put into you,” said Bigger.
“Yes, and it's also important to network with your media contacts. For example, connect with them on LinkedIn so they stay up to date with any happenings at your company,” said Nicole Kangos of Snaptron in Windsor, Colorado.
“Yes! As a former journalist and now marketer, social media information also comes up in a search,” said Gail Robertson of GailNow in Canada. “And there are some amazing journalists on various platforms Many journalists have a lot on their plate so the easier you can make it by providing info the better.”
“I believe reporters use social media to do background research, so the answer is yes from me,” said DSI/Dynamatic.
“Yes 100%, reporters care for your network, even though you are prospecting them for their network,” said Gupta.
“Like websites, social media is one of the primary things reporters look at about a company while doing research,” said Nordman.
“What are your suggestions for reaching out on social media? A cold DM with a quick pitch? Looking forward to hearing your expertise on this,” said StratMarketing.
“I think it can be effective to DM reporters (some have open DMs). That can work. Email would still be my first choice,” said Garrett.
For a public relations push, focus on social media, she said.
“A lot of reporters will check out a company's social media presence when they're researching them for a story,” she said. “61% of journalists surveyed say they “usually” or “always” consult branded social media profiles when reporting on an organization.”
Don’t Forget the Details
Why are visuals important in a media relations effort?
“Following up on Gina Tabasso's mention of images in Q2, an image tells 1,000 words,” said NJMEP. “Also, people are more likely to gravitate toward content with images. An image can increase engagement!”
“Your content should be packaged and ready to go for media, who are on tight deadlines and are flooded with content,” said Graphic Products. “Visuals are essential to make your package stand out and publish quicker.”
“We process information faster using visuals (vs words). Plus, having one does capture one’s attention and it helps gird up a point,” said Rusine. “It can help you explain information more coherently.”
“Visuals are becoming an increasingly more popular way that people take in information now. Whether it be a publication or online, the more visuals, the better the content,” said Obsidian.
“With visuals, you are showing them what you want them to cover and how interesting it is and what you do it,” said Bigger. “That is the point. … isn't it?”
“It gives you another opportunity to connect. Visuals help you grab and keep attention. They are also more shareable,” said North American Coating Laboratories in Mentor, Ohio.
“It's easier to consume the content in visual form. It provides them a second form of reinforcement as they are not likely experts in your field and they can use visuals for the stories so they don't have to put effort into searching for visuals,” said Gupta.
“Imagery/visuals can correspond to the content or subject matter being showcased within the article. There are also ways to credit back the creator of the imagery which helps amplify the message,” said Buglino.
“Visuals are really important for showing how a product (or whatever you may be promoting) works. Especially with a product like ours. We typically include images or even videos when we reach out to the media,” said Snaptron.
“Visuals help draw the reader/viewer in and do so quicker than words alone,” said Dana Engelbert of Purposeful Storytelling. “Invest in high-quality pro images & video. Yes, you can get great quality on phones, but some manufacturing equipment/processes require professional capabilities.”
“If you can provide current executive headshots, logos, product photos - and even short videos - to reporters, it can be helpful to your efforts,” said Garrett. “With publications shorter staffed than ever, they look to the company to provide the visuals more often now.”
What types of data or statistics should you have ready to offer to reporters as you do your media outreach?
“I guess it depends on the focus of the article. Case study numbers would be able to help in certain situations,” said Obsidian.
“Descriptive and inferential statistics,” said Graphic Products. “Provide government data, credible research, scholarly journals, and more to help reinforce the scope of the story/information.”
“This feels like a very open-ended question. I would think this would depend on the angle they're going for,” said DSI/Dynamatic.
“If you have your own research or data, that's probably most powerful, but make sure your data is credible,” said Gupta. “If not, credit sources with high domain ranking and credible sources of data such as Statista.”
“We like to have a white paper ready to go that includes the data to back up our product's promise,” said Snaptron.
“So I have an excel sheet that we update on monthly basis after taking new data from every dept...helps on keeping our numbers up-to-date....since I work for a telecom the stats are mostly technical details and investments related,” said Junaid Shafqat, a PR professional in Pakistan.
“Reporters love a good survey or study,” said Garrett. “If you don’t have the budget to do your own original research, it’s perfectly acceptable to cite someone else’s to help make your point. Just be sure to give credit where credit is due by including a link to the research.”
Is it important to have third-party references to provide to media?
“Yes, I would say customer testimonials would be the best,” said Bigger.
“Clients/customers who can give testimonials would be a good start I think,” said DSI/Dynamatic.
“Yes, but one that is compelling. It’s always great to have a customer reference or a case study that solidifies your info,” said Graphic Products. “They help with the general story-telling and credibility.”
“Reporters will often want to speak with a third party who can talk about the benefits of using your product or service,” said Garrett. “Be prepared with a customer reference or perhaps a partner or industry analyst who can speak about your business and what you provide. Of course, you’ll want to choose a reference who has positive things to say.”
If you need to convince the reference to speak to a reporter, remind him or her that it’s potentially good PR for their business, as well, she said. “You can also put it in the contract.”
Anyone who champions U.S. manufacturing can join in on a new conversation each week on Twitter using the hashtag #USAMfgHour. The chat starts at 11 a.m. Pacific Standard Time/2 p.m. Eastern. Share positive blog posts, helpful articles, news, important information, accomplishments, events, and more with other manufacturers and supporters from throughout the country.