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.

woman shopping for clothes in a store

Sensory Marketing: A Retailer’s Friend or Foe?

It’s a no brainer that emotions influence buying behavior. Advertisers use tactics daily to grab our attention and drive brand awareness. Similarly, our five senses can also be used to influence our behavior, whether it’s through the attractive color of a sweater or the smells in a candle store. But there’s one sense that online and brick and mortar retailers are realizing can be their biggest weapon or biggest downfall: touch.

What is sensory marketing?

Haptic perception is the process of recognizing objects through touch, and haptic marketing, or sensory marketing, can help retailers sell products through the sensory effect a product can have on a shopper.

Sensory marketing takes place when a shopper squeezes an avocado to see if it’s ripe, samples a lip gloss or lifts their arms to see if a new shirt fits. While this is not a new concept, these examples of sensory marketing are done in physical settings.

E-commerce’s role with sensory marketing

Before COVID-19, a Retail Dive survey found that more than half of shoppers visit a brick and mortar store to touch or see a product they may end up buying online. So while e-commerce may be touted as a more convenient option, it often fails to mimic the in-store experience due to the lack of physical touch and ability to test out or try on products.

The letdown of making a major purchase online and have it not meet expectations when it arrives – not to mention the hassle of returns – can be a main deterrent and reason why shoppers still visit brick and mortar stores. The act of touching or testing out a product reassures the shopper that their choice is the correct one.

Sensory experiential marketing

The pandemic has created an unprecedented opportunity for savvy e-commerce retailers to use technology to continue taking market share from stores. But it’s important to consider if online retail can ever fully match the same experience that physical stores offer.

Traditionally, online retailers have worked to alleviate haptic marketing growing pains by offering trial periods or samples of products. And now if you shop online, retailers have detailed product information and high-quality images, so consumers know when they’re buying a cotton or rayon top.

Now, with artificial intelligence and virtual or augmented reality, consumers can even visualize larger items in their own space – such as a new couch or a Christmas tree right in their living room. When done through a device, haptic marketing has also taken an experiential turn.

Common in the gaming world, a viewer’s phone can buzz or vibrate when watching a video. Imagine watching an ad for running shoes, and every time the runner jumps, you feel the impact on your phone. While it may not be effective in conveying how the shoes fit on your own feet, this new form of marketing can definitely increase brand awareness.

Retail’s relationship to emotion

The use of sensory marketing can be very nostalgic as the five senses are tied to emotions. When you’re sitting in a store, debating which couch to buy, you imagine yourself sitting on it in your own home. This is harder to imagine behind a screen. Luckily, when there’s a barrier between the shopper and product, e-commerce retailers are getting smarter about how they market these products.

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.

The New York Times Building at Night

The Future of Journalism

The future of journalism will be defined by two parallel forces: algorithms and trust.

Online media has been in constant evolution since print newspapers and periodicals first moved online.

Industry innovation since then has mainly delivered new ways to cover and share news: podcasts; webinars; video; social media.

But the non-stop battle for readers and revenue never disrupted the fundamental business model of publishing. Outlets continue to generate revenue through either subscription-based or ad-supported coverage.

More recently, powerful new forces have put this model into question – one slowly and one suddenly. The response will define who maintains their positions as the gatekeepers of information moving forward.

Big Tech is poaching ad revenues

One major financial burden for digital publishers is Big Tech. Google and Facebook, in particular, have built their own news distribution and advertising platforms that offer larger audiences and more personalization options.

Quote with image of wrinkled newspaper: It's more appealing for advertisers to circumvent the publishers

It’s a natural if not inevitable evolution. Newspapers and periodicals curated and distributed great writing to a broader audience than the writers could reach alone. Big Tech simply does the same at a greater scale. It curates the best of the best for the biggest audience.

The publishing industry model has always financially rewarded the organizations with the biggest audiences and best ROI for advertisers. Big tech now wears that crown.

In response, many of the biggest publishers are lobbying to require tech companies to pay for the news they use. This would provide some relief for content producers but doesn’t address the competitive disadvantage of the model itself. It’s a band-aid option that prevents the industry from addressing larger issues at hand.

Money flowed from inefficient print newspapers to online publications because it delivered a better user experience and better ROI for advertisers. Even if regulators force Big Tech to share revenue with publishers, the same forces will continue to disrupt the online news industry from within.

The pandemic effect

The throes of a pandemic offer a fascinating glimpse into the true state and future of media and journalism.

Decision-makers and stakeholders need answers, guidance and insight into the factors influencing their livelihoods and lifestyles. That’s why many reliable publishers are experiencing huge surges in web traffic and engagement.

Publications like RIS News have built a reputation in their industries as being the gatekeepers of great content – and are rewarded for doing so, especially in times of increased need for information.

In a vacuum, this would be a harbinger of a revenue windfall.

However, the pandemic has led many brands to cut back on their ad buys with publications. This has resulted in a slew of media layoffs and furloughs, a cruel irony at a time when public interest in consuming content is high and the need is great.

Ultimately, a protracted pandemic and its economic fallout will accelerate the trends already underway. Ownership groups will consolidate risk, stack premier writing talent within fewer publications and double down on making sure those few outlets maintain profitability – at the expense of the rest.

The industry will get more top-heavy.

A symbiotic relationship

Although the pandemic will continue inflicting pain on the publishing industry, it eventually will come to an end. Similarly, Google and Facebook aren’t in the business of putting media out of business. In fact, it’s the worst thing they could do.

These tech platforms can’t – and don’t want to – create their own content. They prefer to identify and elevate the best content for each audience. Their algorithms do just that. And that’s why they’re so successful.

In a way, big tech is bringing rigid order to the Wild West of online publishing. They are the new gatekeepers of ‘good journalism’. And for better or worse, they don’t define winners subjectively. Behavior and preference data and search ranking algorithms leave no room for those who don’t follow the rules.

The role of trust in an open internet

There is another important factor working in publishers’ favor: platforms have issues of their own when it comes to policing their pages. Facebook especially has been battered by the fake new phenomenon. 

In an unregulated and open internet, trust comes at a premium. Ethical publishers will have a monopoly on trust that advertisers and brands will gravitate towards.

This does not mean that all online publishers will recoup the revenues they pulled in before big tech stole the show. Rather, well-defined and highly loyal audiences will continue to rely on digital publishers who exemplify those characteristics.

A new playing field defines the future of journalism

The importance and role of high-value content are the same as they have ever been. In fact, with questions about fake news and overt bias running rampant, it’s more critical to media sustainability than ever.

Publishers are just operating on a new playing field where new referees have reset the rules.

This game, like any game, will have winners and losers. But the players who create the best content for their audience’s needs will forever have a key role in defining the future of journalism. And readers and advertisers will reward them for it.

why coronavirus environment inspires content marketing

The Emerging Role of Content Projects in a Coronavirus Economy

About two weeks into quarantine, once the length of coronavirus stay-at-home measures became truly apparent, I felt a pressing desire to reconnect with old colleagues and friends.

It wasn’t just me. All at once, it felt like everyone was checking in each other people, working to gain insight into the true reality of the situation.

As unique as our professional experiences were, they were a lot of similarities.

Two things also became overwhelmingly clear:

  1. The marketers we talked to were planning to invest more in content this year than ever before.
  2. We had become very well positioned to help. Over the past year, we have been scaling up our graphic design and marketing capacity, as well as envisioning more project-based services.

The first-hand stories we heard from our friends were reiterated in overall industry trends.

Marketing budgets are getting cut 

In response to economic uncertainty, companies are decreasing marketing budgets. 

US spending on search advertising will decline by between 8.7% and 14.8% in H1 2020 – removing $6 billion to $8 billion from promotional budgets, according to eMarketer.

Canceled events are taking a toll on lead gen

Stay-at-home measures mean events of all kinds are canceled, a massive blow to one of many companies’ primary sales and lead gen channels. While webinars are filling in some of the gaps, they aren’t enough on their own.

Content converts, particularly now

Content has always played a key role in supporting all parts of the sales funnel: increasing overall awareness, generating leads and nurturing leads through close.

On average, conversion rates are six times higher for companies using content marketing, according to Aberdeen Group. 

marketers are investing more in content than ever before

But in the present coronavirus environment, content offers the unique advantage of rewarding time rather than financial investments, and it can promote a variety of expected outcomes.

Content can help you sell to your company’s future products and services. For example, let’s say you’re creating a new product to address coronavirus disruption in your industry. You can publish thought leadership content today that promotes the benefits of an ideal solution, drumming up demand in anticipation of its official launch.

Content can also help you highlight evergreen features that are always advantageous. If your product has a short deployment timeline, create content that highlights this value.

Content marketing supports the entire funnel

When we talk about content, we’re not limiting our conversation to long-form content, which is extremely influential but not the end-all-be-all. We’re referring to:

  • Blog posts: Great for lead generation through SEO and can be shared across every channel.
  • Infographics: Increase your reach; other companies love to share these.
  • Email marketing: As sales cycles shift (and possibly lengthen) email helps you stay top of mind. 
  • Press releases: Distribute company news publicly while validating market leadership and generating coverage.
  • Byline articles: Wonderful for thought leadership, boosting SEO and increasing awareness. 
  • Research: Identify yourself as the expert in your category through independent research. For inspiration, check out how we helped Adlucent capture attention during Amazon Prime Day last year.
  • Long-form content (eBooks, whitepapers, etc.): When hosted behind a gated form on your website or an ad, it directly generates leads. Repurpose this comprehensive content by turning it into more digestible thought leadership byline articles and blogs.

How to outsource content projects

Given the new urgency to create highly relevant and engaging branded content, we are now offering project-based services that help you grow your business without the commitment of a retainer.

We’ve always believed one of our biggest differentiators is that everyone on our team is a great writer.

Our new focus on end-to-end content marketing services means that we can help you write, design and promote content for any audience.

We’d love to talk with you about content ideas you’re mulling over, content types you’re considering or campaigns you hope to launch.

In addition to offering more project-based services, we’re also now offering a free, 30-minute consultation to our contacts. Take us up on our offer by emailing us at [email protected].

Person reviewing printed survey results at computer

How to Create a Research Survey Press Release That Gets Results

As part of our new webinar series, KG Connects, we recently invited Jeffrey Henning and Tony Cheevers of Researchscape to give attendees an overview of the types of PR surveys and custom research they have been working on during the COVID-19 crisis, as well as their best practices for conducting newsworthy surveys.

As PR practitioners, we know that some of the best media coverage is powered by data that can tell a unique story. In other words, it’s a PR goldmine if you can find those one-of-a-kind nuggets of data that will generate the publicity you are looking for.

According to the Researchscape team – and PR people all over the world – stories that can place a company in the larger context of sweeping changes, backed by recent data, will resonate best with journalists.

There is never a bad time to field a PR survey. In fact, Researchscape has conducted 21,000 surveys since March 1. Three out of four research surveys today have a COVID-19 angle.

But, how can you ensure that you are putting the right information from a survey into your press release or proactive pitch? Better yet, what are the best practices for setting up your survey for long-term success?

According to Researchscape, focusing on the following five processes will set you on the right track:

Set Goals

As with any PR and communications campaign, setting a goal focuses your efforts and saves time and budget that might have gone to extraneous details.

Companies should develop long term goals such as building brand awareness, generating leads or developing content for a content marketing strategy. Executing a PR survey should also have short term goals such as providing support for a product launch or leveraging a holiday or trending story/event for coverage.

Remember this critical first step or risk losing the overall vision of your campaign.

Design and Field the Survey

Now that you have your goals set, the next step is to brainstorm possible headlines that you would love to see – kind of an “in a perfect world” exercise with your team! Researchscape suggests you “let your team’s imagination go wild, envisioning the results that would best drive coverage.”

Once you come up with your dream headlines, now is the time to come up with the questions. This is where academic discipline and a little bit of art in surveys comes to play.  According to Researchscape, the main problems that lead to inaccurate survey results and will reduce credibility with reporters are asking leading questions or encouraging acquiescence bias.

A good rule of thumb: a well-designed questionnaire can provide material for two or three news releases. As outlined in a Researchscape whitepaper, the average survey news release typically reports the findings from five questions (not including demographic questions).

A 15- to 20-question survey can easily provide content for three or four news releases.

Develop Campaign Assets

Most survey news releases simply include a summary of key findings of the survey, without commentary or context. But, with additional effort and detail, you can get far better results.

How to get survey results covered by media:

Include:

  • Exhibits: These include high-quality charts and graphs that can be used by reporters. Don’t forget to put your company’s name in the graphic!
  • Topline Results: These should accompany the press release and include the full list of complete questions and the answers selected for each question. As one reporter says, “I want to see what the questions are and what order they are asked in.”
  • Methodology FAQ: Don’t push the methodology summary to the last paragraph of the release. Create a methodology document or section in the release that answers the questions that journalists are trained to look for in surveys.

Write the News Release

Once you develop campaign assets, it’s time to write your killer press release(s) and make your push to key media.

Rule of thumb: Journalists prefer timely content. Announce your findings as soon as you can.

When writing your survey press releases, pay attention to these common mistakes as reported by Researchscape:

  • Overgeneralizing
  • Being overly precise
  • Claiming a margin of sampling error
  • Reporting on questions with too few respondents
  • Failing to disclose the basics
  • Not linking to resources
  • MISSING THE POINT!

Adapt and Re-Use

You’ve drafted a strong press release, pitched it to your key media targets and have secured press all while building brand awareness and generating leads – now what?

Do it all again next year, of course!

At Ketner Group, we have had clients conduct the same survey for consecutive years with great success. It allows us to do year-over-year comparisons so we can give reporters “trend reports” that provide more than just a snapshot in time. This is one of the best ways to become a go-to expert and thought leader on a given topic.

For more information about the process of creating newsworthy PR surveys, I encourage you to read the Best Practices for Newsmaker Surveys whitepaper from Researchscape that analyzes more than 3,000 surveys done over seven years.

Put Your Ideas in Motion

If you need help designing or getting the most out of your next PR survey project, connect with me at [email protected] to set up a free 30-minute consultation.

People shaking hands during a business meeting

CMOs and Media Relations: A Symbiotic Relationship

It’s quite possible that chief marketing officers (CMOs) have had to answer the following question countless times; “do we need a media relations program?”  

Spoiler alert… the answer is yes!

In addition to creating thought leadership and external awareness, a media relations strategy helps feed top of the funnel marketing initiatives. As well, a robust media relations program provides the sales team with additional ammunition throughout the sales cycle.

However, CMOs and heads of marketing hold the secret ingredient to make a media relations program succeed – driving the relationship.

A symbiotic relationship

During my time as an agency-side PR professional, the best agency-client relationships and most successful media programs I’ve seen have had a CMO at the wheel.

CMOs provide a holistic awareness of what is going on throughout their organization and understand the type of information that is most helpful for their customers and prospects. As such, CMOs can serve as the ideal conduit for information to flow between internal and external audiences.

Developing a strong media relations program requires knowing how your company serves customer needs and how industry trends affect the market. There’s no better person to lead that than the CMO.

Making the connection

As you position your company for media interviews, keep in mind that the CMO can serve as a primary spokesperson for the reasons discussed above. In the past, some of my clients have flagged concerns about having the CMO take interviews.

However, given their leadership over corporate and product messaging as well as customer needs, CMOs have proven themselves to consistently offer unique and valuable data and context during media interviews.

During every media interview, CMOs should look to create a personal relationship with each media contact. It’s no secret that reporters have to move at the speed of light to cover breaking news. They need a portfolio of sources they can tap to gather a balanced perspective of what the breaking news means for a particular community.

As CMOs connect with new media contacts this is a time to share the particular topics they can offer expertise on and available to discuss as news evolves.

After the interview, we often recommend that the CMO connect with the reporter. The best way is on social media, discussing recent stories, current industry trends or even funny discussions taking place in the Twittersphere. Just as CMOs do with customers, it’s about building a relationship with the media to stay top of mind.

A CMO’s media relations strategy during COVID-19

From a media relations perspective, today’s environment demands increased responsibility in the type of information we share externally.

CMOs need to take the personal media connections they’ve made and analyze how their company can further serve reporters’ needs in an efficient and responsible manner.

It’s about asking what kind of information is needed and useful for the reporter, as well as for their customer base. As well, CMOs also have the responsibility to work with their communications team and PR agency not only to align timing for company announcements with other marketing campaigns but to ensure the media and public will be receptive to the forthcoming announcement.

It’s critical to have all stakeholders and experts on hand to evaluate what is appropriate to announce and what should be put on temporary hold in the current climate.

We all hold a responsibility to limit misinformation and provide helpful commentary. CMOs across organizations can serve as guardians, conveying information that is helpful and informational in a time of crisis.

Strengthening the CMO-driven media relations program

As CMOs continue to get more comfortable with their media relations programs they can succeed by serving as conduits of information, fostering a personal relationship with media contacts and serving as guardians against the spread of misinformation.

Marketing and media relations go hand-in-hand, creating new paths of growth for a company and a powerful asset for brand building. The secret ingredient to making these programs work together lies with the CMO.

When and why press releases

The When and Why of Press Releases, and Considerations for Today’s Normal

When it comes to tracking relevant industry news as a PR pro, it’s important to read press releases in addition to what the media is already actively covering. By using an RSS feed (maybe that’s very 2000s of me), I receive the news from the source rather than reading it second hand in the media. This is helpful for a number of reasons. It keeps us ahead of rapid response opportunities for our clients and new business ideas for Ketner Group. Perhaps even more importantly, by reviewing hundreds of releases a day, I’ve learned a lot about the when and why of press releases.

Since early March when the COVID-19 pandemic became a reality in the U.S., I’ve seen the number of press releases in my newsfeed drop considerably. But for good reason. A lot of the news we’d normally announce simply isn’t important at the moment. During normal times, there are a handful of categories that press releases fall into. While press releases aren’t altogether obsolete now, there are several additional considerations that should be taken. We’ll explore all of this below.

When and Why: Customer Stories

PR professionals, particularly in B2B, often argue that customer news is the most important. Customer stories validate a vendor’s product offering and provide real-world case studies – both for the media and an organization’s broader sales efforts. You can announce customer news at two stages of the relationship. First, upon signature (a customer win) and second, once results are achieved.

Unfortunately, customer releases are also probably the most difficult to procure for most B2B clients. Customer PR and marketing teams are often hesitant to sign on to a release. Internal customer stakeholders don’t always see the value or they’re afraid of giving away trade secrets to competitors. However, customers are more likely to participate in media activities if there’s a financial incentive. Given that these stories are so helpful for replenishing the pipeline, sales teams should make an effort to negotiate these incentives during the contract and renewal process.

Considerations for Now. If your industry is operating more or less as it normally does, there’s likely no harm in doing a customer release right now. But, your media targets may be stretched and not have the bandwidth to cover the news.

On the other hand, if your industry has been largely disrupted by the pandemic and its effects, customer releases are pretty much off-limits. The exception is if the customer news is directly tied to the crisis. In that case, customer stories are incredibly valuable and the media are eager for this content.

When and Why: Product Releases and Updates

In general, product releases or updates aren’t meant to drive a huge amount of media coverage. Don’t worry, a few opportunities exist to drive mentions. The exception of course is if you have a truly revolutionary new offering. While that is rarely the case, it’s important to make product news available to your customers, prospects and investors.

When it comes to product news specifically, turn to the analyst community. Use paid analyst relationships when you can to vet your messaging and ensure the offering resonates with your target audience. If you don’t have a paid relationship, pre-brief analysts before the news is public. Friendlies might still offer valuable feedback that can help you tweak your final messaging.

Like any release, customer validation is key when it comes to product news. Again, this can be negotiated. Ask beta users to provide a quote in exchange for early access to the product. If a customer quote is off the table, anonymize any benefits or improvements from those tests or aggregate the results from a collection of customers.

Considerations for Now. Unless there is a direct application to help users manage the current situation, product releases probably don’t make sense right now. But, like customer releases, with a relevant angle, the media might be interested.

When and Why: Company News

Company news comes in a variety of forms. A leadership change, a new service offering, an upcoming event, a strategic partnership or an office opening. Like product news, company news doesn’t usually drive significant media mentions. But it’s important to make your stakeholders aware of this news.

In general, it’s important to get this news out both over the wire, on your website, to analysts and to any media friendlies who cover this type of news. Unless you represent a Fortune 500 company, you don’t need to pitch top-tier media. Don’t waste your time or theirs.

Considerations for Now. At Ketner Group, we recommend that you post this news on your websites and distribute over the wire. That way it’s on your website so customers and prospects are ensured it’s “business as usual.” By distributing it over the wire, media have access if they desire. However, we don’t recommend directly pitching the news to media. Reporter’s inboxes are overloaded and editors are directing their teams to focus only on timely coverage related to the crisis.

When and Why: Unique Research

Proprietary research. It’s the holy grail. It’s the gift that keeps giving.

For PR professionals and media alike, unique research (done well, of course) is the biggest blessing a client or solution provider can provide. At Ketner Group, we can’t sing the praises of good research enough. While it often requires a significant upfront investment, the payoff will be worth it.

A robust research study can be divided into multiple releases – not to mention multiple bylines, thought leadership pitches, social media posts, email campaigns and more. Plan to repeat the research on a quarterly or annual basis, if you can.

Considerations for Now. If you completed your research during “normal times,” you might be in bit of a pickle at the moment. But look for ways you can tie in the current situation. For example, our clients RSR and Symphony RetailAI completed a joint supply chain study just before the crisis set in.

Initially, we thought we’d need to wait on the news. However, we were able to find a tie in, identifying how “retail winners” were prepared for the current situation and others could learn from them. As a result, the news generated considerable interest and coverage. Now is also a good time for real-time research focusing on the current situation. If you have the time and budget for research now, we highly recommend proceeding.

The Nevers

While the above might not encompass all types of releases, it’s a good overview. There are also times and situations when press releases simply don’t make sense. One scenario I see way too often is a release that’s distributed over the wire that simply quotes an executive’s opinion about a particular trend or piece of news. This is a waste of money! Trust me, I’m the only one seeing it.

A short release costs roughly $400 to put over the wire. There are much better ways to get your opinions out; namely, blogs, bylines, pitching reporters directly offering the perspective for a story idea and rapid response (AKA newsjacking) pitching.

Final Press Release Considerations

In general, if you’re considering whether or not a press release is necessary, ask yourself a few questions. First, is it newsworthy? Will the media cover this news? If not, is this the best way to disseminate the news to my intended audience? Would a blog or a social post be more appropriate? And especially right now when resources are stretched, is the time and cost needed to write and distribute the release worth the return?

If you don’t know the answer to these questions, ask your PR partner. A good PR partner will always ensure that your time and money are well spent when it comes to press releases.

Don’t have a PR partner? No worries, we’re here to help.

How to do media relations and PR during the pandemic

How to Approach PR During the Pandemic

The media relations landscape has never changed so quickly. Virtually overnight, media relations has pivoted to “all coronavirus, all the time,” as editors and reporters work feverishly to understand the impact of a virus that has upended all of our lives.

How can a PR agency communicate in a crisis like this? It can be summed up in a single word. Pivot—and the faster, the better.

In the last few weeks, we’ve worked closely with our clients to quickly adjust their communications programs and meet the needs of editors, reporters and other audiences.  Clients have stepped up to creatively collaborate with us and become part of the media conversations that are changing hour by hour. We’re proud of the way they’ve responded. And in working with media on behalf of our clients, we’ve identified four essential principles for PR during the coronavirus pandemic.

Read the room.

The worst thing PR professionals can do right now is send pitches that are tone-deaf or irrelevant. Now is the time to understand and respect the changing needs of editors and reporters, and only offer them the information that matters to them now. Save the routine communications for later; otherwise, you’ll lose the respect of the very people you’re trying to reach.

As one reporter recently shared on Twitter: “Dear PR friends, this is simply not the time to be casually dropping in to see what types of stories I’m working on or telling me about your client’s new skincare product. Please, spare my inbox just once in these trying times.”

Share your insights.

Does your company have unique insights that can help reporters better understand the current crisis? Now is the time to step forward, but only in an unbiased, non-promotional way.

For example, one of our clients, a leading national law firm, created a Coronavirus Resource Center to share insights on legal issues arising from COVID-19; it’s become a rich resource for business media. An ad-tech client created an infographic that advises brands on how to shift their advertising strategies in real time. We wrote an op-ed for another client on managing supply chain crises.  And we’re coordinating media interviews for another of our clients since one of their consultants is a former retail executive who helped his company navigate the SARS and H1N1 crises. We’re working with a number of our clients on media strategies during this crisis, and we’d be glad to share more examples.

Lead with empathy.

As my colleague Kirsty shared in her blog about how marketers can adapt to Covid-19, empathy is essential. Acknowledge that editors and reporters are operating in a high-stress, fast-changing environment. They’re working longer hours than usual, and they’re worried about their families and friends just like the rest of us. Even a simple recognition that you’re emailing them in a time of crisis will be appreciated.

Think beyond the current crisis.

In a webinar on the state of the retail economy today, IHL analyst Greg Buzek said there are two ways retailers will mark time after this year: BC (Before Coronavirus) and AC (After Coronavirus). We haven’t reached the AC phase yet, but it will happen. A new normal will emerge, and communication needs will shift.

We’ve already seen a few glimmers of hope. This week we surveyed key editors and reporters, asking them how we could better serve them as they cover the COVID-19 pandemic. A reporter for a top-tier national publication responded that her coronavirus coverage was actually starting to slow a bit, and she was returning to stories she was working on before the crisis.

There will be a time for new product press releases, customer announcements, case studies, blogs and thought leadership content that’s not focused on coronavirus. We’re not quite there yet. However, now is the time to begin planning, focusing on “AC” strategies, and developing the kind of content and media relations programs that will resonate in the AC era. Companies that do this will be the ones that succeed as we emerge from this present crisis.