grocery technology communications strategy

Retail’s Big Opportunity Is Grocery Tech: How Communications Can Support Market Leadership

Grocery continues to be the healthiest, most rapidly changing segment in retail today. Grocery and essential retailing were the bright spots in retail during COVID-19, and that trend is continuing. 

The most dramatic shift, of course, has been the surge in online shopping. Research from our client Mercatus and Incisiv found that online grocery sales will reach $250B by 2025, a 60% increase over pre-pandemic projections. To support this, grocers are investing in e-commerce, fulfillment, omnichannel capabilities and other technologies at an unprecedented rate.

According to Progressive Grocer’s 2020 Annual Report survey, grocery executives view new technology as a key priority, “Tech as a whole is top of mind for most grocers. When survey respondents were asked about the best investment their companies could make to be successful in the next five years, the top response was technology upgrades/new investments.” 

Many of our Ketner Group clients are at the forefront of these changes, with technologies that cover a broad spectrum of grocery retailing: e-commerce, personalized engagement, mobile advertising, shopper data, forecasting and replenishment, omnichannel POS and more.

The rapid changes in grocery represent a once-in-a-generation opportunity for technology companies, and a targeted, high-impact communications program can help them make the most of it. 

Here are just a few communications strategies that are increasing engagement—and leads—for our clients.

Content that engages your prospects

With the disappearance of events and in-person prospect meetings, content became an even higher priority for technology companies, as we talked about in our recent KG Connects webinar, and this trend is continuing. 

From blogs to case studies, thought leadership articles and long-form content, content (or owned media) allows companies to build influence and position themselves as an expert resource for prospects and customers. Companies can utilize content in marketing campaigns, sales outreach and social media, further amplifying its impact.

Content is a key pillar of the communications strategy for our long-time client GK Software. Our team runs GK’s blog program in the U.S., and grocery technology is a recurring theme, as demonstrated by this blog on dynamic pricing in grocery. Bylined articles, such as this recent feature in Chain Store Age, are another excellent way to use content for thought leadership.

Media relations that drives leads

Media relations can be a game-changer for grocery technology companies. And while every company aspires to be featured in The Wall Street Journal, Business Insider and the like (and we’ve made that happen for many of our clients), executives also pay attention to the retail and grocery trade media.

As Kirsty Goodlett wrote in her recent blog, a single press release helped generate more than a half dozen leads for our client Birdzi. Retailers are always curious to know what technologies other retailers are adopting, so this press release about Birdzi’s engagement with their customer Coborn’s sparked a lot of interest—and demonstrated powerful ROI.

Press releases are just part of a successful media relations program. Our team monitors industry trends and news to keep their finger on the pulse of what journalists need, and we create the right strategies—proactive pitching, rapid-response commentary, interviews, background briefings and more—to ensure our clients are included in the most important industry stories.

Analyst relations that create influence

Given the dizzying pace of technology changes in grocery and essential retail, industry analysts such as Gartner, Forrester, IDC, IHL Group, RSR Research and others rely on communication firms to help them stay current on the changing technology landscape. 

Adrienne Newcomb’s how-to blog on analyst relations analyzed the importance of a disciplined, proactive analyst relations program. Analysts are key influencers with large retailers in particular, so time and effort here can make a difference in bringing tech vendors to the attention of analysts, and ultimately retailers. 

I encourage you to check out our latest KG Connects webinar on analyst relations for unique insights from both the analyst and vendor perspective.

Grocery technology vendors must seize the opportunity 

These are just three strategies that are creating success for our grocery tech clients. There is much more we could talk about: original research, digital media, sponsorships, virtual and physical events (live events are beginning to return as more and more people receive COVID vaccines), and more. We’d be glad to talk to you about the communications strategies that are working right now.

The point is, be sure to communicate. You may have a great story to tell, but if you don’t tell it effectively and powerfully, no one will hear it. Grocery technology is arguably one of the biggest opportunities in retail right now, and the right communications program will help create success. 

2020 media relations lessons

Three Media Relations Lessons From This Past Year: Personalize, Differentiate and Foster

We’re more than a year into the pandemic and the media relations landscape has evolved with the changing times. When COVID-19 outbreaks spiked in the U.S. in March 2020, most newsrooms went into full crisis mode. The stories that the media were interested in covering prior to the pandemic shifted almost overnight.

Journalists immediately pivoted to covering breaking news and ongoing developments to keep their audiences informed, and during the initial weeks of the pandemic there was not much room for reporting on anything else.

Through 2020, the nature of media relations, interviews, newsrooms and reporting changed. We went from regular phone and in-person interviews to having all conversations over Zoom while sitting in our makeshift living room offices and kitchen tables. During this time, it was all about focusing on the basics.

b2b journalists 2021

In the world of journalism and media relations, we’re just beginning to see signs of a potential ‘return to normal’ on the horizon. Journalists, specifically within the B2B space, are now focused on reporting on the future and how businesses and consumers can best prepare.

As tumultuous as this past year was, it also presented some key lessons about the media landscape that should not be ignored.

Lesson one: personalizing the connection

While 2020 took many things away from us, it also created an opportunity to make new connections with key media targets.

As we all found ourselves stuck to the confines of our homes, we also found that we had more time to start conversations. However, to land these interviews with journalists, personalization became more crucial than ever.

For example, Cision’s  2021 Global State of the Media Report revealed that “1 in 4 journalists receive over 100 pitches per week with most ending up in the virtual trash due to irrelevance.”

You would not reach out to a prospect customer with irrelevant information would you? In that same vein, journalists need a personalized approach, especially in today’s environment during which newsrooms are lean and mean–and journalists have more being demanded of them every day.

targeted media pitching

Even before COVID, newsrooms were stretched thin. Throughout 2019 and 2020, many publications unfortunately had to cut their staff and journalists. This required those left in the newsroom to be extremely resourceful with their time.

This past year showed the importance of ensuring each pitch was targeted and provided value to each journalist from the get-go. While journalists have been more willing and available to speak with more story resources, these conversations need to provide value to the journalist to help them do their job.


Lesson two: providing relevance and differentiation

Besides being personalized, sources also need to come to the table with relevant and differentiated points of view. It’s about identifying how you can best answer the journalist’s questions and provide responses that other publications have not fully answered.

In preparing for interviews, we recommend our clients analyze the following questions in order to bring value to the journalist:

  • What is the breaking news?
  • What does this news mean and why should the journalist’s audience care?
  • What does this news mean for your customers and your industry?
  • What is one key thing that (your customer or industry watchers) should consider or think about as they are digesting this news?
  • How can you or your company provide further analysis and a point of view for this news?

Keep in mind that if you have unique data that can really highlight what’s going on in the industry or point to outliers or differentiators, that’s always very interesting and helpful for journalists.

Lesson three: treating journalists as you treat your best customers

Being able to position yourself as a helpful resource is certainly a great way to develop a relationship over time. It’s about keeping in mind the various ways you can bring something that the journalist needs to every interaction with them.

journalists are like customers

A key lesson here, especially during this past year, is to always treat journalists like you would treat your best customers. They’re every bit as important to the company as your customer relationships. And, just like your best customers, you want to make sure you are helping answer their questions, identifying new ways to think about things and helping them do their job.

After 2020? Personalize, differentiate and foster.

2020 was challenging, there’s no question about it. However, the past year also put an emphasis on the journalist/ source relationship and presented key lessons to succeed within this environment. It all boils down to added value.

Journalists are pressed for time more than ever before and need valuable resources to help them write the most accurate and engaging article. As a source, you can help them by personalizing your approach, providing value through differentiation, and fostering a long-term relationship.

Interested in doing more with your media relations strategy in 2021? We’d love to see how we can help jump-start your activities and support you for the long-haul. Let’s chat.

birdzi ketner group case study

Birdzi + Ketner Group: How a Press Release Generated Leads

We’ve been lucky to work with our client Birdzi on and off for more than five years. Most recently, in the fall of last year, we kicked off a monthly PR engagement to help them increase brand awareness and build on our previous media relations successes.

So far, one of our most successful campaigns was distributing a press release detailing Birdzi’s engagement with their customer Coborn’s. The release helped generate more than half a dozen leads, and solidified Birdzi as a leader in customer intelligence and strategic marketing personalization.

Birdzi, founded in 2010, offers a customer intelligence platform to grocers and is led by Shekar Raman, CEO and co-founder. Gary Hawkins is a strategic advisor.

gary hawkins ketner group testimonial

“I first met Jeff Ketner more than five years ago and became familiar with Ketner Group Communications and their services at that time. I’ve been in grocery my whole life, so working with Ketner Group, which has such a deep history in retail technology, has been a really positive experience,” said Hawkins.

“It’s always fun to talk shop with Ketner Group and it’s a great pleasure to work together, whether as a client or collaboratively on industry projects–like when I appeared on a KG Connects webinar as a guest speaker.”

We couldn’t agree more! In fact, just this week our CEO Jeff Ketner and president Catherine Seeds loved talking with Gary and Shekar on the latest Retail Perch episode! Their discussion centered around the important role PR plays in a startup’s overall business plan.

Crafting PR that demonstrates grocery excellence

Last December, we kicked off the Coborn’s press release project with Birdzi. Coborn’s began working with Birdzi in 2016 and has since deployed a robust loyalty program based on understanding of customer data and insight-driven personalization. When developing the release, we wanted to detail the long history between the companies and highlight the successful collaboration.

public relations driving leads

Comparing new, digitally engaged shoppers on the Birdzi platform vs. shoppers that are not, Coborn’s saw a 355% increase in customer retention, 16% increase in trips per month and 23.7% increase in spend per month. What a success!

After setting the story’s stage with a big impact, we detailed Coborn’s MORE Rewards program, which provides Coborn’s shoppers with personalized savings and experiences. There aren’t many grocers, particularly regional grocers like Coborn’s, who are executing such a robust program. We knew sharing strong details and examples would appeal to the media.

Once the release was drafted and complete, we put it on the wire and completed personalized pitching to journalists.

Grocery industry pick-up inspires prospects

Our goal of creating a strong story that truly resonated with the media was a success. The Coborn’s news was picked up in six publications: Chain Store Age, Progressive Grocer, RIS News, The Shelby Report, Supermarket News and The Wise Marketer newsletter.

The articles demonstrated Birdzi as a leader in customer loyalty and directly generated interest from other regional grocers. Birdzi received more than a half dozen leads through their website and LinkedIn, with prospective customers interested in implementing some of the same strategies as Coborn’s.

shekar raman ketner group testimonial

“When you imagine an ideal outcome for a press release, your dream is that the news drives interest from prospects, but you don’t often expect as many leads as we saw with Coborn’s!” said Raman

“Not only did the news drive leads, but the coverage sparked conversations with our broader network, including friends, partners and current customers. Coborn’s is a perfect use case for grocery innovation, and we’re thrilled to tell their story with Ketner Group.”

Continuing to tell innovative stories

While the Coborn’s press release was a great success, our work as communication professionals is never done.

Birdzi has a steady queue of customer stories to tell for the coming year, and we already followed up the Coborn’s press release with a story of how Birdzi customer Harps launched a mobile app to drive engagement. That release saw similar results, with seven unique pieces of coverage generated.

Looking to master your communications strategy as well as Birdzi does? Reach out to us today to discuss how we can help you craft a strategic PR program that creates thought leadership, brand recognition and a few leads along the way!

media relations helps your startup startups

Six Ways Media Relations Can Help Your Startup

Ketner Group has worked with dozens of B2B technology startups, and we often see familiar patterns in how they approach PR and media relations.

Startups naturally spend their first few years building their technology and team and ensuring the success of early customers. However, as a company wins significant customers, receives additional funding or begins seeking investment, PR ultimately becomes a priority.

Media relations is often the starting point for creating a larger communications program and engaging with a PR agency.

Why is this element of public relations so important? Here are several reasons why.

Media relations helps companies hone their story

Storytelling is at the heart of media relations. After all, media relations involves telling your company story in order to convince an editor to write about your solutions, which in turn can influence prospective buyers.

Stories must be easily understood, believable and persuasive. That’s why we always recommend that startups evaluate their company messaging and value proposition before engaging in media relations, to ensure they’re accurately communicating their story.

PR agencies like Ketner Group can provide the expertise you need to help you get ready to tell your story to the world.

Media relations demonstrates market acceptance

The very nature of startups is disruption—taking a fresh look at solving business problems with new, innovative technology. But how does the technology work, and what benefits does it really deliver?

media relations validates tech

Media relations is a critical way to validate your technology, as it gives you the chance to tell stories about your vision for the industry, the challenges your solutions address, and how customers are using your products. Because these stories are told by outside media, they gain credibility.

It boosts your market profile

Over time, editors and writers will turn to your company as a resource for articles and reports, creating more opportunities for media coverage and boosting your company’s overall presence. A well-honed media relations program can give you a competitive marketing advantage, too.

A key index of media relations performance is share of voice, which represents a company’s share of earned media coverage in a given month. By “owning the conversation” through a larger share of voice than competitors, companies can increase their marketing presence and punch above their weight class.

We use Cision as our preferred PR platform, and its share of voice reporting provides valuable metrics for measuring the effectiveness of media relations.

It supports fundraising

As startups raise funding, media relations can help attract the interest of investors and provide an important source of validation. Articles and press releases about customers are particularly important, as they provide external proof that goes beyond your investor deck.

It influences lead generation and sales

Clients often ask the question, “will media relations help generate leads?” As my colleague Mariana wrote in a recent blog, the purpose of media relations isn’t lead-generation, but it can help influence lead-gen and sales when considered as part of a well-rounded communications program. We’ve seen plenty of examples of this.

media relations supports sales

When one of our clients announced a major implementation of the company’s solution by a well-known top 10 retailer, the CEO quickly began hearing back from other retailers the company had been courting. In this case, one highly visible customer win opened doors for our client.

Companies want to know what technologies the leaders in their industries are adopting, and it can ultimately help influence their purchase decisions.

Media relations supports your exit strategy

A retail analyst friend used to introduce us to tech startups by telling them if they work with Ketner Group, they’ll get acquired. If only it was that easy!

Over the years many of our startup clients have undergone successful acquisitions, and we’re proud to have played a supporting role. Media coverage and share of voice can help attract the attention of would-be acquirers. When one of our retail software clients was acquired, the press release referenced an industry awards program that boosted our client’s reputation and visibility in the market. That program was one of the key elements of our PR program.

Media relations is a key strategy to supporting your startup overall

Media relations plays a vital role in your PR strategy. However, media relations should never exist in a silo, as it is only one facet of public relations.

As you consider establishing a media relations program, be sure to evaluate all your other communications channels, too—website, social media, content, blogs, paid media—in order to make sure you have a well-rounded program that’s firing on all cylinders.

That way, your startup will get the most out of its investment in media relations and every other communication channel.

Need help with media relations?

We’re experts in media relations, so if you’re ready to kick start a media relations program or just want to make sure you’re on the right track, we can help.

Schedule a free 30-minute consultation to learn what we can do for you.

pr drives leads

Answering the Age-Old Question: How Does PR Drive Leads

A Ketner Group Communications client case study

“How does earned media coverage correlate to sales and help drive leads?”

It’s the age-old question in the PR world and one that will undoubtedly come up during the lifetime of any agency-to-client relationship.

This question has not been an easy one to answer since the inception of the public relations industry. Albeit, it’s been a constant issue that pros across the board have avidly worked to find an answer to.

Our very own Adrienne Newcomb has written blogs discussing how clients can use earned media coverage to drive leads. While our clients have also shared their own personal experiences on how they’ve used earned media coverage to drive their marketing efforts.

As well, various measurement and analytics programs including Cision and Meltwater have become popular in the past decade to help close the gap between PR and sales. Providing various metrics and breakdowns to help PR pros explain how PR correlates to sales.

public relations marketing funnel

It’s a tricky scenario. Technically, PR is considered top of funnel in the sales and marketing world. However, if used as part of an integrated marketing plan, it can be an influencing factor in turning the heads of just the right prospect at the right time.

Earning the coverage

This was the very case for our client Larry Waks of Foley & Lardner LLP. A partner at the law firm, Larry represents many clients across food and beverage, distilled spirits, consumer products, fashion, entertainment, media, intellectual property, and mergers and acquisitions.

Dubbed “Lawyer to the Stars” by some of his colleagues, Larry’s innovative and personable approach has made him a go-to lawyer for many in the entertainment industry and allowed him to build an exciting and unique client base.

This includes representing George Clooney, Rande Gerber and Mike Meldman, in the $1 billion sale of the Casamigos tequila brand to global spirits giant Diageo Plc. Larry used his expertise to help develop the recent Garth Brooks concerts at drive-in theaters across North America.

During our recent collaboration with Larry, we helped promote his role in the launch of Travis Scott’s CACTI spiked seltzer. We secured a podcast interview between him and Ad Age’s E.J. Schultz to discuss Larry’s recent work on celebrity alcohol deals and his trajectory as a lawyer to date. The interview was a success—E.J. and Larry had an insightful conversation and great banter, providing for an interesting piece of content that, if leveraged correctly, could be very useful.

Turning the coverage into leads

After the interview took place, Larry and our team worked with Foley & Lardner’s internal marketing arm to alert them of the upcoming article and ensure internal and external promotion from Foley’s channel was ready to go. Meanwhile, Ketner Group worked finalized image and publishing details with E.J.

foley leads from pr

When the article went live on Jan. 20, the integrated effort between Foley and Ketner Group resulted in Larry receiving an influx of notifications from clients and qualified leads within the distilled spirits space. These inquiries led to new connections and ultimately the start of new business projects.

Answering the age-old question

While the above is just a minor example of how earned media coverage can help drive qualified leads, it’s also a testament to the concept of making earned coverage work for you. It’s about taking the quality coverage that the client and PR agency have worked with and ensuring it gets the attention it deserves from an internal and external perspective.

While one example can’t quite answer the age-old question, if used correctly, it can help to create a trickle-down effect of driving sales leads.

How we can help earn coverage

Earning media coverage can be a tough task. If you want to learn how we can help you earn some media coverage, schedule a free consultation with us.

the future of b2b media

The Future of B2B Media

The future of B2B media is a topic worthy of a book. It’s a huge industry with a lot of moving parts, but there are a few trends that stand out to me as defining the future of the industry more strongly than any others.

In general, beyond just B2B, the most successful media companies have the full attention and trust of their audience. Regardless of what they promise – information, entertainment, perspective – they thrive when they capture time and attention better than anyone else.

In my last blog on the future of journalism, I dug into the monetization challenges facing online publishers battling the two-headed monster of Big Tech and the COVID pandemic. While I am confident that the best publishers will benefit, emerging from this inflection point stronger than ever, others are at risk of defeat.

As PR and communications professionals, it’s important for us to consider what the future of B2B media looks like, and how the roles and powerful voices within it will evolve over time.

The short answer is, media companies are finding new ways to stay competitive, while individual experts and corporate brands are simultaneously taking on characteristics of media companies to survive and thrive in the attention economy. We see it playing out something like this:

B2B media consolidates

In a market where revenue disappears overnight, only a few players will remain strong—mirroring the media industry at large. We’ll see the most trusted names in each market consolidate their influence by bringing in the lion’s share of the reduced available revenue.

Those who were already struggling will have to close. The big players will capitalize on the opportunity by investing in new services and staff who help them further monetize their attention share. They have the time and resources to wait out the storm.

Publications monetize new services

“Successful media companies have to have two things. They have to control their own distribution and they have to have their own programming. People that don’t have both either have to rectify that or go out of business,” said Michael Bloomberg, as shared in a great Twitter thread on Bloomberg’s experience.

With big tech platforms like Facebook and Google taking a larger role in distributing the media’s content, publications must quickly build out their own distribution methods. They need to shift from relying on search and social to reaching their own audiences where they are.

We talk about it all the time with our retail tech clients – retailers must be everywhere their shoppers are. It’s no different in media.

In terms of programming, we’re already seeing the most well-respected B2B publications scale services well beyond online and print articles. They host webinars, conduct sponsored research, curate multiple regular newsletters, create video, run conferences (and will find ways to take leadership roles in virtual events), award programs, and more. Those who continue this content mix and find ways to own the distribution will come out on top.

Independent experts change the game

Adding new services that go well beyond reporting the news isn’t the only reason the definition of ‘media company’ is changing.

New content creators are entering the mix, often without affiliation to any media brand. They’re not in it to compete for ad dollars; their currency is attention. They might be company executives, consultants, investors, academics or industry analysts. As long as they have deep expertise and a platform to share thoughts, they can play the game.

These high-relevance industry experts and brands are the thought leaders and entertainers that news organizations can never be. They can take positions that exist outside of pure fact; they can challenge conventional knowledge and accumulate loyal followers.

Social platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube have given SMEs free platforms to become the go-to experts in any domain. They provide a “boots on the ground” sense of reporting objective truth.

influencers aren't truth-tellers

What’s more, these influencers don’t repute themselves as objective truth-tellers. That makes it easy for them to say what they think and use personality and entertainment to elevate their spot in the intellectual hierarchy.

These SMEs will challenge publications for the title of the most reliable and influential voices in the industry. As they do, they will continue to monetize their position. They will offer their own secondary services – selling products, services or time without the overhead or scrutiny that media companies deal with. As this proves an increasingly powerful sales tool, more players will enter the field.

Corporate brands double down on ‘content marketing’

The industry’s savviest entities won’t be left behind in this paradigm, either.

Digitally intelligent and highly engaging brand “publications” will increasingly become entertainment hubs for their industries. This will take the form of both robust blogs and brand-agnostic, semi-independent media entities.

publications become entertainment

Without the need to supplement content with advertising revenue, they will build platforms that offer cutting-edge storytelling experiences.

Funded by corporate profits, they can invest heavily in being at the forefront of every industry conversation. Eventually, corporate profits will help them be among the first to deploy new storytelling technologies such as augmented or virtual reality, or 360-degree video.

In the attention economy, pervasive brand awareness and affinity leads to sales of their core product or service offering. Their media platform can operate at a net-negative cost and still drive significant gains in corporate profit.

Communications professionals take control of audience engagement

Every company today, in some way, is (or should be) a media company. Everyone has an online presence, competes for views and attention, and wants to be a key voice in their industry.

As B2B media, corporate, and individual players compete for attention, they’ll overlap and collaborate more; we’ll continue to see the splintering of long-held industry roles.

But we can’t just wait and see how the future of B2B media affects our approach to brand building. The new market context demands that we also take control of our own content creation and distribution. We all need to be media companies now.

Do you want to propel your company’s growth by adopting a media company mindset, but don’t know where to start?

We’re offering a free 30-minute conversation to help get you started. We’d love to brainstorm with you! Just get in touch.

Media Training

The Media Training Playbook

Every organization needs to make big decisions about their media relations approach. You must determine who within your organization will own the program and identify the conversations you want to lead. Once you’ve done this, you need to ensure your spokespeople are media trained and ready to take an interview on short notice.

Building muscle memory through media training

You wouldn’t send your sports team out to compete against their rival without practicing plays. The team has to build muscle memory and develop chemistry. Media training works exactly the same way. It builds your spokesperson’s muscle memory and familiarizes them with the process. With practice and coaching, they will know a series of plays to implement based on the type of interview.

media training is like sports

Types of interviews:

Your spokesperson may need to take an interview in the following formats:

  • Written responses via email that quote them directly in print or digital articles;
  • A phone interview or on-camera conference call that will quote the spokesperson throughout digital and print articles;
  • A podcast recording that will feature a Q&A style interview that turns into the basis for an article or is printed as submitted;
  • Broadcast interview in which the journalist will utilize an (on average) 30-second video segment of the spokesperson’s interview – sometimes these segments are live.

It’s important to note that each medium brings nuances in the way your spokesperson needs to deliver their message to be effective. Therefore, as you begin your organization’s media training journey it’s important to emphasize the differences in interview formats. The spokesperson’s technique will have to change with each.

For example, broadcast requires an additional set of skills as the spokesperson has to convey key messages via body language in addition to speaking. For broadcast, we usually like to bring in additional partners that solely focus on this medium in order to really help the spokesperson prepare for all of the nuances that broadcast demands.

Every time I advise clients on preparing for a broadcast interview, I kindly ask them to stay away from sounding and looking like Ricky Bobby on this now iconic scene from the film Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. Take a look, and you’ll see why!

Developing a media training process for each type of interview – whether creating an internal training process or bringing in an outside professional – is key.

media training plays

Media training – how to get started

As you build a media training program or work with an agency such as ours to get your spokespeople trained, we recommend the following “plays” to build out your media training playbook:

Play #1 – Knowing why to prepare for a media interview

In coordinating with spokespeople for media interviews, it’s important to discuss the importance of training. They need to know why training matters and how it will help them in the long run. Getting your spokespeople bought in early on in the process is critical to ensuring future interview success.

Play #2 – Spokesperson Do’s and Don’ts

A critical part of media training involves walking spokespeople through things they should and should not do during the interview. For example, letting your spokesperson know which customers they can or cannot name publicly, as well as which facts and figures they can reference versus ones they cannot speak to, is key.

Everything a spokesperson tells the journalist is deemed “on the record”. If something they say isn’t fit for print, the spokesperson must explicitly get the journalist to agree that the information is strictly “off the record” before sharing. This can be very helpful to help them understand context without revealing private info publicly.

Play #3 – Different methods of answering questions

It’s important to identify different ways and tactics spokespeople can use to respond to questions. For example, at times, a journalist’s question may be long winded and a spokesperson’s natural tendency may be to go off on a tangent.

Identify these characteristics and walk the spokesperson through various ways of answering a question. The goal is to deliver quotable soundbites that stand out within the journalist’s report.

You should also practice scenarios in which the spokesperson must politely decline to answer a question if they do not have an answer for it or cannot publicly speak to it.

Play #4 – Practice, Practice, Practice

Once you’ve run through the initial plays, it’s time to put all of that muscle memory into gear and walk through several mock interviews. The spokesperson should be walked through interview exercises designed specifically for the kind of stories and reporters they’ll speak to.

As you do so, identify each reporter’s interview and reporting style and discuss what they respond to and how the spokesperson can adjust their messaging to be more effective for each journalist.

Practice makes perfect! As you start media training your spokesperson, ensure you are going over the above plays and getting them prepared to perform “on the field.”

If you need additional help, Ketner Group is available to help your spokespeople hit the ground running and achieve success! Contact us today to get started on your media training journey.

product or business launch

The Five Steps to a Great Product or Business Launch

Unless you’re Amazon, a new product or business idea probably doesn’t start with a press release. And it probably shouldn’t. When it comes to a product or business launch or announcing the business itself, a more methodological approach is more likely to ensure that the offering and messaging are solid and ready for market.

With a public launch as your end goal, you should start by focusing on some behind-the-scenes work.

Five steps to a great product or business launch

Create a Go-to-Market Strategy

Once you’ve established the need for a new offering and have developed a prototype, the first step towards a public launch is creating a go-to-market (GTM) strategy. TechTarget defines a GTM strategy as:

A go-to-market strategy (GTM strategy) is an action plan that specifies how a company will reach target customers and achieve competitive advantage. The purpose of a GTM strategy is to provide a blueprint for delivering a product or service to the end customer, taking into account such factors as pricing and distribution. A GTM strategy is somewhat similar to a business plan, although the latter is broader in scope and considers additional factors like funding.

A GTM strategy outlines:

  1. A market definition
  2. Target customers
  3. Your distribution model
  4. Product messaging and positioning
  5. Price

With these five components established, you’re ready to move to the next phase of a public launch.

Vet Your Strategy and Messaging

Now that you have a GTM strategy in place, it’s time to vet it with third-party experts. First, review it with your outside PR agency. They can help you tweak your messaging and understand how each key audience will receive it before it’s put under any further scrutiny.

Start your launch by focusing on behind-the-scenes work.

Once you feel your strategy and messaging are solid, turn to the analyst community. If you’re in a position to pay for some additional outside advice, we recommend doing a full messaging review with an analyst.

If not, a round of analyst briefings will do the trick. While analysts are not able to provide robust advice during a complimentary briefing, many will still provide candid feedback. Pay close attention to the questions analysts ask during these briefings, as prospects and customers will likely have the same questions.

Finalize Messaging and Draft a Release

Now that you have spoken with key third parties, use any feedback to refine and finalize your messaging. Once you’ve done so, you’ll be in a good place to draft a press release announcing your offering.

To really strengthen your announcement, we always recommend including a use case from a beta customer. At the very least, source a forward-looking quote from a customer about why they selected the solution.

With strong messaging and a customer testimonial, you have the baseline for a strong release.

Pre-brief Key Media

When you’ve drafted a release, it’s time to begin media outreach. When launching a new product or company, we always recommend that you brief key media contacts ahead of the announcement. You’ll want to start this process the a week or two before your target PR launch date. By pre-briefing the media, you’ll ensure you have coverage the day of your announcement. To prepare for media briefings, review our best practices.

There are two options when it comes to pre-briefing the media:

1. An exclusive

In this scenario, you’re offering the story to just a single high-profile media contact. This approach works best if you have a strong customer use case and the customer is willing to speak with the media.

Remember: With an exclusive, you’re at the mercy of the reporter and any breaking news. That means you might have to be flexible with your launch date and be ready to announce your news as soon as the story publishes.

2. Pre-pitch a wider range of media contacts

A good number of targets is around 10-12; you don’t want to pre-pitch EVERYONE, rather focus on key contacts.

Remember: Make sure that all of your contacts agree to your embargo date. You don’t want the news to leak before your launch.

It’s Launch Day

Finally, it’s launch day! Today, you’ll distribute your product or business launch press release over the wire and conduct day of outreach to media contacts you didn’t pre-brief. You’ll also want to follow up with any media contacts you previously reached out to who haven’t yet covered the news.

During launch day, and throughout the following week, ensure key spokespeople are available to speak with media. If needed, block some time on calendars in anticipation of these requests.

As coverage appears, be sure to post to your website and share on your social media channels.

Mission Accomplished

Once you’ve successfully launched your product or business, there’s still a ton of work to be done. Your broader marketing strategy, from social media to email campaigns, should also support your new product or business launch and continue to reiterate the key advantages you provide by tying them into ongoing conversations.

If you’re planning a product or business launch but don’t know where to begin, reach out. Ketner Group has decades of experience doing just that. We’re here to help.

Broadcast Media Relations During COVID-19

Note: We published this blog post in preparation for Justin Goldstein’s webinar on broadcasting. Since publishing, the webinar is live, and you can catch it on demand!


Broadcast media is booming as the Coronavirus pandemic restrictions only begin to loosen and everyone searches for sources that can provide reliable and timely information. Consider, recent findings from Nielsen show that 83% of consumers are listening to as much if not more radio than before the pandemic.

Clearly, if you’re looking to secure television, radio or podcast placements, now is the time to do so. But, be aware that producers and reporters are just like us and mainly working from home due to the virus. A refined approach is more important than ever to break through your contact’s inbox and earn their interest in an interview. 

Here are a few recommendations to consider:

Provide Key Assets Upfront

Are you in the process of developing assets like b-roll, headshots and bios for your spokesperson(s)? If so, hold on pitching until you have these elements so that you can include them in your first pitch to producers and reporters.

These contacts are sifting through hundreds of emails while trying to coordinate interviews via platforms like Zoom and Skype that they normally don’t work with. There’s a good chance that if a reporter opens your email and doesn’t see at least one or two of these assets listed, he or she will delete your email and move on to the next opportunity. If for no other reason, moving on reduces the stress of sending a follow-up email to ask questions. 

How can you best incorporate this information into your pitch?

  1. In your subject line, note that you’re offering an interview and these assets.
  2. Provide a link to download your b-roll and headshots via Dropbox or a similar platform to avoid your message going to spam.
  3. Include your spokesperson(s) bio towards the end of your pitch so that it doesn’t take away from the story that you’re trying to tell at the top. 

Use Your Voice

Phone pitching is critical in broadcast media relations, especially during COVID. Newsrooms are overwhelmed with pitches, coordinating segments with their producers from afar and receiving updates on Coronavirus-related stories from the public. So, the chances of them responding to email outreach are less than the print/online reporters that you might be more familiar with. 

It will likely be harder to reach reporters and producers directly. Your next step is to call a network or station’s assignment desk and speak with an assignment editor. They are well-positioned to coordinate interviews or connect you with a contact that can do so. You can also leave a voicemail on a producer or reporter’s phone. They often check to make sure that they’re not missing any important messages while away from the office.

Be Flexible

Many broadcast contacts are doing their best to adapt to navigate the pressures of virtual planning meetings and interviews. While you can certainly share your spokesperson(s) platform preference for connecting, try to be flexible.

If a reporter asks to connect via Skype and your spokesperson(s) is hesitant to pursue because they’re not used to the platform, try to schedule a quick training session. Get them to feel confident and comfortable going into an interview rather than push back on the reporter. 

Consider creating video-conference meeting invites for reporters and producers and offering your willingness to do so in your pitch. This removes one extra step in coordinating an interview that they don’t have to manage.

Be aware that if you’re staffing interviews on Zoom video, your video box will appear, so it would be best to confirm with your contact that he or she can have their team edit you out before finalizing their segment. 

Broadcast media is a powerful tool that should be leveraged for your media relations program. But, it’s crucial to approach your contacts in a strategic manner to garner their interest. Your results depend on it.

Attend June’s KG Connects Webinar to learn more

Want to hear directly from Justin about the state of broadcast media and both evergreen and timely best practices for securing coverage?

Join us on Friday, June 26 at 10:00 a.m. ET for the next edition of KG Connects! Learn more and register here.

About Justin Goldstein

justin-goldstein-press-records

Justin is president and founder of Press Record Communications, a strategic media relations agency with expertise in broadcast media. He is an award-winning media relations pro, voted an Exceptional Under 35 by the Public Relations Society of America. He has developed and implemented broadcast media relations programs that have supported clients like General Motors, Best Buy and the Clinton Global Initiative.

In recent years, Justin has coordinated event broadcast press campaigns for the Consumer Electronics Show, Detroit Auto Show and Conference of Mayors. Justin also served as morning drive producer at WRHU-FM, New York’s number one non-commercial radio station. His work has been recognized by PR News, PR Newswire and the Hermes Creative Awards.

developing a media relations strategy

How to Launch a Media Relations Program: SoGal Webinar Recap

This past month, Ketner Group president Catherine Seeds and I had the pleasure of hosting a media relations strategy webinar with SoGal, a global platform for the education and empowerment of diverse entrepreneurs and investors. During this webinar, we provided attendees with key tactics and strategies to consider as they look to launch a media relations program.

We discussed:

  • Why businesses across verticals should consider a media relations program
  • The value of media coverage
  • The key steps to launch a media relations program

The top takeaways:

  • Do your research
  • Get to know your media targets
  • Personalize your conversation with each.

Here are some of the highlights from the webinar:

Why have a media relations program?

A media relations program can drive external awareness for your company through validated third-party sources.  Let’s say your company just landed its first round of funding or launched a new product in the market. If you do not tell your story, someone else will.

By creating a media relations program, you have the ability to tell your story to a member of the media community and reach multiple audiences beyond your own network.

What’s more, a media relations program can help bolster your company’s cache among a particular audience. Let’s say your chief data officer is well-versed in a particular technology within the healthcare industry.

You can generate media coverage by having them provide commentary for a relevant story a reporter is working on. Securing exposure for him/her as an expert on related hot button conversations positions your company as trustworthy and informed. Ultimately, it helps elevate your brand recognition and brings a sense that you can solve tough challenges.

Last but not least, a media relations program can build your company’s digital breadcrumbs. Highly relevant coverage helps you to rise through the ranks of engine search algorithms for your business’ key terms.

Tactics for building the program

As you consider creating the program, you must decide whether to run the program in-house or work with a public relations agency. Depending on what path you choose, we always advise that your company dedicate a single in-house lead. That person, often the CMO, can make sure the agency and internal stakeholders work together seamlessly.

When budget is tight or you’re just starting out, there are many easy and free tools available to help. For media opportunities, HARO and Qwoted are two platforms where reporters look for sources for stories they are working on.

As well, Twitter is an important platform to keep in mind. Identify and follow relevant reporters and engage with them regularly. Plus, they often post to Twitter when they need sources for a story. Sometimes even better, Twitter lets you avoid annoying pitches by keeping up with what they vent about.

Three best practices to launch a media relations program

Once you’ve done your research, it’s time to begin. We often advise these top three best practices to get started:

  • Identify your target audience
  • Identify key conversations you want to drive
  • Do your research and build your top 20 list of media contacts and publications you would like to work with

After that, it’s time to begin your outreach and prepare for interviews!

Get to know your media targets

Many attendees emphasized the value of not just tracking journalists, but building an effective relationship with them. Really, the art of media relations is all about differentiating your company in the eyes of the journalist.

Take the time to really personalize your outreach to each of the media members you connect with. And make sure that the story you offer is relevant. We can’t overstate how much this helps you build an effective relationship in the long run.

As Catherine best put it, “nurturing those relationships will always pay off in the end!”

To learn more, download the complete webinar presentation.