Imagine you have hit upon a fantastic idea. Something that solves a problem. Something with style. You quickly set up a company. And you set about convincing people that our idea really is fantastic, solves a problem, and has style. And before you know it you are treading a minefield of ‘viable media strategies,’ ‘online exposure,’ ‘targeted audiences,’ and a heap of other unfathomable jargon.
So first, we try to make sense of what exactly publicity is. It is part of marketing. And marketing is the mix of disciplines for bringing an idea to market: advertising and publicizing it, and – of course – selling it.
Strategic, Operational and Tactical Stages of Your Media Strategy
Let us now divide the publicity and public relations landscape into three. We can call the parts ‘strategic,’ ‘operational,’ and ‘tactical.’ The strategy part recalls the old job interview question, “Where do you want to be in ten years’ time?” It is what we have to do to get the market to perceive us as we want it to perceive us long after we have stopped being a startup. Operational is further ahead than now. Tactical is now.
Having put order into chaos, we can set about formulating our media strategy! Paradoxically, the first step is nothing to do with media and everything to do with us. It involves us crystallizing our vision of what our image should be like. We then set clear goals for what our media strategy should do for us. Thus, we might want a media splash to mark our startup. Then, we might want the media to run something that boosts our sales. Yet later, we might want it to cite us as an authority in our field. Whatever our goals, we need to define them if we are to produce content that brings them closer.
Still on the strategic plane, we also need to clarify who we want to reach (and leave out). Marketeers call this targeting. Potential investors, sure! But potential customers? They fall into categories, subcategories, cultures, subcultures, tribes... It might be easier to digest a portion than the full gamut.
So your media strategy has to cover your intentions and target who you want to convert into clients. But you should not cast it in stone! It has to develop as we evolve.
Media Coverage or Company Blog
One way of ensuring coverage is to launch your own blog. Everyone seems to be at it, after all! In it, you can publish volumes about your idea. You can run any number of photos and videos. That is ‘content,’ right!? And sure, you can buy into Google Trends and try to make that content viral!
Well, the problem is that everyone is indeed at it. A decade ago, a hundred thousand articles appeared online daily. Now there are three or four times more. We might as well put our blog in a bottle.
To work for you, what you want to show the world must be published by someone else. For them to publish it, it has to be polished. Only then can you grab editors’ and hence readers’ attention. Information overload is not the best approach. Today’s online world is cruelly Darwinian. People are bored by the parade of products and services often covered just for the sake of blogs and media post updates. You shall never make the headlines of respectable media unless you offer content truly fit to be displayed.
Your Startup Story Is What Matters
Canvassing media to get random publicity is a waste of time. You need a coherent story and a good product or service to describe. In fact, the story matters much more: unique products or services are rare. Pretending your story is unique would get you short shrift from any self-respecting media. Far better is to simply tell them why our story is interesting for their audience.
But you have to be mindful that most influential media reporters and bloggers receive dozens of insistent requests from our rivals, among others. Pitching for a mention by these reporters and bloggers can be tricky. It helps to test our approach. You can try it on your own personal networks to check if it would appeal to a wider world. You can then run it free on social media, startup blog forums, or specialized blogs like Betalist or Angel List.
When it comes to high profile media, it will help if we are not sanguine. Our media contacts are under constant scrutiny to stop them running free advertorial. No reputable media outlet will run content that is not genuinely interesting or sponsored.
Apply Realistic Content Strategy
In marketing, we define and target our prospects. Not surprisingly, the media also targets readerships. Its first duty is to them – not to your prospects. To get your content published by leading online publications, you need to align your story, tone, and supporting material accordingly. One size does not fit all. Tuning into a media outlet can make the difference between you and peers who also claim they are the next Apple. Me-too PR releases are destined for the editorial bin.
Respect Your Customers
Well, someone will say, you can always advertise; that would guarantee you media presence! Indeed, advertising and advertorials can do a job. But maybe not the one you really need doing. They certainly cannot work alone. Making people aware of your brand has long stopped being the sole province of advertising. Customers take time to research and pick a brand on their own terms – not because of advertising. Professional content strategies adhere to this reality.
All in all, at the end of this you could be forgiven for groaning at the sight of a media scene resembling nothing so much as a maze overlaid on a minefield. There are paths through. But not many. And some lead to dead ends. Ultimately, you can leave this gloomy landscape behind by outsourcing publicity to a seasoned content strategist.
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