Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Glittery Allure of the Business Press

Wall Street Journal, New York Times, CNN Money, Fortune, Forbes, Inc…the list could go on and sure as sunrise, these pubs and others like them are on the 2014 PR objectives list for thousands of companies across the country. And they should be. Coverage in one of these publications can pay huge dividends in terms of credibility, exposure, connections and recognition. Sadly, for 95% of the companies that aspire to have their story told in the business press, it will be an objective unmet when 2014 comes to a close.

Why? Because most companies don’t understand what it takes to capture and hold the attention of the reporters that write for the top business press, and don’t take advantage of opportunities they might have when the time is right.
Pick up a copy, or scan the online version, of any of the publications listed above. Count how many profiles have been written about companies during the last year. Not that many. To generate attention and interest, companies must meet the following three criteria at a minimum:

·         Have an interesting and unique point of view on a topic or trend that is currently dominating the industry;

·         Provide commentary that helps the reporter understand why this story needs to be written now; and

·         Show that the story will have a wide appeal for his or her readers and will get shared across social media.

In today’s market, that’s everything. You have to give reporters a reason to decide that the story they write about your client is one that will deliver more readers, social media shares and comments. You have to convince them that writing the story that you’re telling will deliver these results better than the last interview they did, or the one they will do immediately after they hang up with you.
There are certainly other factors that play into it: a household name, a rock star CEO, imminent regulation, etc., and if you have the above your chances of getting the interest with a business reporter goes up.

It’s sometimes hard for a company to understand that no matter what they do, their market, size, customers, etc., their story just isn’t what the business press wants to hear at the moment. We have certain clients that are regularly in the mainstream business press, from CNN to Bloomberg to WSJ and New York Times. But their story is different, and for better or worse, what they do resonates at this moment in time. Other clients struggle but are regularly covered by the top trade and vertical press, and they know that is what their customers read and they are happy.
The challenge for PR is to set the right expectations and not overpromise (“…they will write an in-depth feature story on just your company because we have friends at the pubs you want!”). It’s also important to help companies understand how they can possibly cultivate interest from business media if they happen to be part of a company that isn’t part of the “it” space at the moment. And if you do get your clients on the phone with a reporter, they cannot default to a standard product or company pitch…they need to stay relevant to what the reporter is covering.

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