I won’t name any names or share any images, but I saw a post on FB this week that said essentially ” We’ve got a great new product. We’re looking to launch next week. Does anyone have any media connections to help us?”
Now, I’m not a native southerner, but I couldn’t help but think “Awww… bless your heart.”
In my 20 or so years in the south, I’ve learned that when a southerner says “Bless your heart” — it’s not good. It’s actually really, really bad.
Southerners use that phrase when there is so much wrong with someone or something that they can’t even begin to put it to words.
Media planning requires just that: Planning.
Whether you call it public relations, media planning or media relations, the most important word is NOT media or public. It is the planning and the relations that take the effort. Expecting news media, even media dedicated to your niche industry or business, to be waiting around for you to be ready to talk to them will not work. (Or shall we say “That dog won’t hunt.”)
I listened to a great podcast last week on StartUp Dallas that featured Michelle Lamont (@lamontPR) who did a phenomenal job of explaining how she’s made a career out of effectively promoting and managing the images of some pretty significant companies (including her own start up.) A key point she makes is that media relations takes time: the first time the media hears from you should not be when you want something from them. She tells a funny story about running an advertisement in a national publication and then patiently waiting by the phone. And waiting. And waiting some more.*
So how should a young company start engaging the media before launch?
One of my current clients has a solid client-base, but they’re looking to implement some new marketing for the first time, going heavier on the social media/PR to gain some growth. Here’s a quick sketch of how we’re putting a plan together.
1. Find your fans — Your first step should be to go connect on social media with EVERYONE you know — this is especially helpful if you’ve been active in the DFW or local start up scene or, if you, like my client have an existing base. Connect with those you know already like you.
2. Make new fans — Social media makes it easy to find people who talk your talk, whatever that talk is. Go find them. Use your hashtags, use your search, use Google search and find social media connections from web sites. Just build your connections and include your media targets. Start introducing yourself to them NOW!
3. Share useful content — I did a post a few months ago about how to develop social media content (if you missed it read it here.) For the first month or so of my jumping into Twitter I didn’t have ANY original content (because I didn’t know I needed it, but that’s another story). I simply shared and retweeted and used my web site content. Guess what? It worked. It won’t work forever, but while you’re finding and making your fans, it’s great.
4. Build offline relationships — It’s so important to make yourself known. Take time to attend events where media (and media connections) will be. In Dallas a simple trip to the Launch DFW website will give you a host of events. If you’re in a specific niche, like architecture or accounting, find groups who meet. Meet Up is great and while some of the key events won’t be there, attending a few of them will clue you in on where else you need to be. Convert your offline relationships into fans and get them to follow your social media and read your blogs. (Don’t neglect LinkedIn here — it’s a great way to meet industry peers.)
5. Volunteer — There are so many events that need volunteers and guess what — you get in for free! I volunteered for a Dallas Business Journal event late last year and made several connections with other volunteers, but, also during lunch, I got to go sit in the audience and network. The place was crawling with media guru’s who are dying to become fans of your product! #dying
6. Do your research — Once you’ve identified the media coverage you want, you need to READ THEM. More importantly, engage with them. From the comfort of your couch you can reply to their tweets, comment on their blogs, share their FB posts. I’d also recommend that you attend events they sponsor or attend, engage in live and virtual conversation with them, but be careful not to be overly self-promoting. Bonus: this also helps you know if the content you’re sharing is meaningful.
During prelaunch, very few companies have budget dollars for outsourced public and media relations and that’s okay, you can likely have a lot of success with a simple DIY model. Learning and understanding that the media you’re looking to reach aren’t thumbing through press releases to actively reach out to every new company. If you learn what they are looking for and where and how they talk about it, then, when you’re ready you’ll have strong connections of your own to leverage.
Tweet me your successes or questions (or failures?) at @jrfoster75231. And go listen to that podcast!
* (She also talks about being so dedicated to her business that she slept in the bakery because she couldn’t pay electricity at both home and the bakery. It really is a great podcast!)