It sounds like an opening to a good joke, but the only really funny thing is that they are so often grouped together. Yes, they all have fancy jobs titles, lots of direct reports, huge business responsibilities and the proverbial “seat at the table,” but they also have vastly different challenges and priorities. But as conventional thinking goes, that should not stop you, the B2B tech PR pro, from grouping them together with anyone and everyone that could buy technology into a neat little group of “IT decision makers.”
From a communications standpoint, this is of course complete crazy talk as the differences are what matter. They are the things that allow us to tap into what these distinct audiences really care about and create content that will have impact. And importantly, they help us shift communications from broad-brush strokes to personalized conversations defined by the new era of social, mobile and other digital technologies.
So next time someone says the target audience is the “C-Suite”, “IT Decision Makers” or any other broad brush grouping, remember that those descriptors are about as useful as the term EMEA from audience segmentation and targeting standpoint. Instead, step back, think carefully about the specific person you want to reach – where they live, what they care about, how old they are, what they are passionate about, what makes them laugh, where they go to get information, etc. – and you’ll be surprised by the difference that will make.
The media landscape is changing. This is not breaking news: anyone who works in the PR or media industry knows this. But while this is true, and as we move towards a world in which businesses of all types and sizes are becoming their own publisher, certain habits die hard – habits like considering a cover story in The Wall Street Journal to be the ultimate PR accomplishment.
It’s easy to understand how that habit formed: many top-level executives read The Wall Street Journal on a daily basis, and therefore they want their PR departments (and the agencies they work with) to land that prized coverage. As a result, PR pros have been conditioned to put marquee business press coverage on a pedestal. And look, this can be warranted! Perhaps your clients’ prospective customers are just like your clients’ CEOs and do read the WSJ every day – in which case coverage in the Journal is PR gold. But the likelihood is that just like most of us, the folks your clients are trying to reach are consuming content and information that influences their buying decisions in a huge variety of ways – including through social media.
Want evidence of how the landscape has changed? As of October 2014, The Wall Street Journal had a daily circulation of almost 2.3 million readers. Meanwhile, BuzzFeed draws 200 million readers each month, and 18.5 billion impressions through Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Turns out that many people would prefer to debate the color of a dress than dissect the growth potential of tech companies – and you and your clients need to adapt accordingly.
Again, a marquee piece of business press coverage can be hugely valuable, but if you’re not questioning why it might not be the best fit for your clients’ needs, you haven’t adjusted to the new media landscape – and might be leaving some huge PR opportunities on the table.
What’s the first thing you do when you receive a piece of information that really interests you? Share it, right?
What about information that, albeit interesting, just isn’t in your wheelhouse? DELETE.
Knowing this, why do so many PR people not take the time to carefully research and target the right audiences for their stories?
While the old adage of a “good story sells itself” exists, it certainly doesn’t ring true in a digital world. A good story is fantastic – a PR person’s dream in fact – but it will only be amplified when it reaches the right targets. Ones who will care and then share (and share, and hopefully share some more).
Reach the wrong audience and … crickets.
The lesson here: don’t let a good story fall on deaf ears. Do your homework, find the right people to tell it to and watch your story spread like wildfire.
The first rule of how to pitch: there are no rules. There are suggestions for a course of action, but observing them as a sort of public relations 10 commandments and ignoring both direct signals and the advent of modern technology is a surefire way to fail. Some sweet, blessed times, all it really takes is a simple email out of the blue. Frequently, it does not.
After that, the suggested course of action in this PR-choose-your-own-adventure is “call-down” to “follow-up” (yay, prepositions!). “Follow-up” is really just an extremely abstract, loose concept defined more by its outcome then its action (in other words, the act of following up means little to anyone compared to the outcome of getting a result). Sure, sometimes a call to a reporter is a quick, efficient way to get their attention and hook them with your angle. Other times, you’ll take a cursory glance at a reporter’s Twitter before said call and find something like this:
Then it is time to stop and think before dialing, my friends. What is our goal? Results and happy media contacts, and the above are pretty clear indicators that this is not the way to get them.
That does not, however, mean to give up. Poke around, do your research and go with your gut.
For example, we’ve found the best way to get many reporters’ attention these days is a DM:
And Snapchat is no longer just for selfies with your roommates:
Sometimes, they even give you your own hotline:
One reporter even mentioned that his favorite pitch of all time was texted to him in verse. (Note: we don’t personally recommend this unless you’re feeling particularly confident in your rhyming chops and the receiving reporter’s appreciation for you artistic efforts.)
Moral of the story? Media relations is not ‘one channel fits all.’ Remember that you’re trying to reach a fellow human being. Do your research, think, and be creative.
Check back tomorrow as we examine another PR industry myth. Screenshot credit: Twitter, obviously
Ten years ago, PR and media relations may have been close to synonymous, but the role of a PR professional has evolved extensively. We’ve moved beyond the focus on media to assume a more strategic role at the heart of all communications.
2015: PR as a strategic marketing partner
If your PR plan doesn’t have a media, social and content play, then it’s missing some critical components. Each of these should tie into each other. We are constantly working to guide our clients to create compelling content that can then be used for media and social. These areas of communications should no longer be operating in silos.
Check back every day this week for another PR myth debunked, and chime in on Twitter with the hashtags #PRmyths and #TheNewNorm.
We all know that tech communications is evolving rapidly. But amidst the constantly changing technology, workflow and communication challenges we all face on a daily basis, the really interesting thing is that a new norm is slowly forming. Strategy, execution and measurement are beginning to converge. Old myths are being challenged. And a new playbook is forming around creative destruction, co-creation and authentic omni-channel storytelling.
First, this convergence of strategy, execution and measurement has enormous implications for what the new norm looks like in technology marketing. Strategy and execution are merging as the stakes are raised for strategies to pay off quickly.
And they are not the only things. Measurement and strategy are converging, as well. We used to conduct marketing and communications measurement after the fact and ask ourselves, how did we do? What might we do differently next time? Realistically, we’d do this once a month, in some cases only once a quarter, just because we were so busy executing we had little time to measure. But now the data that’s available to us on the impact of our communications is everywhere, it’s instantaneous, and it’s imperative that we learn from it.
Meanwhile, execution and measurement are merging. Traditionally, measurement would rarely actually impact how we were executing, because we waited for the final results to show up before we bothered to look at the data. As we learn to filter out the signal from the noise and become more adept at reading data signals intelligently, we can stop doing marketing and communications in the rear-view mirror and start looking at our instrumentation as we’re driving forward, not after we’ve finished the trip. Then we can adjust both our strategy and our tactics in real time to change the outcomes we’re measuring.
And all this means that as a marketing and communications function, we have to converge, as well, and collaborate more closely and fearlessly than ever before. Drop the silos. Don’t let org charts and reporting structures get in the way. Strategists and planners, creative designers and developers, project managers, relationship managers, data analysts—the entire team needs to gather around the table and recognize that it’s all connected now, and sharing information and insights faster internally is more important than ever. All too often, it’s our own internal political and organizational friction that limits our success.
And when we do gather as a team and start thinking collectively, it becomes that much easier to see through some of the more unhelpful myths that are getting on our way:
Communication innovation isn’t always about inventing new words. Sometimes, technology companies get caught up in category creation and creating new must-haves and catch phrases that nobody has ever used before. This is actually a time-consuming and costly approach. With all the white noise that already plagues most technology categories, the wiser approach is to engage in a little creative destruction, rhetorically speaking. Challenge existing myths and hype, be the voice of reason in a crowded discussion, and create some space for new ways of thinking.
Thought leadership isn’t a dictatorship. The next myth is that thought leadership is all about educating an audience and telling them something. In fact, thought leadership is about curating a discussion and asking your audience to see a current problem or challenge from a new perspective. Once you’ve cleared your rhetorical space of the b.s. and hype that’s clouding people’s understanding, you can co-create a point of view with your audience through the use of viral questions and interactive content strategies across multiple channels.
It’s not all about gorgeous content and keywords.
Nobody will deny that brilliantly designed content and engaging form factors such as videos and apps work wonders to capture people’s attention and imagination. And clearly the right SEO strategy will boost visibility. But unless those eye-popping experiences and keywords lead to a measurable shift in sales, stock price, talent recruitment or some other KPI that the CEO cares about, it’s hard to justify even the most conservative of invoices on creative content. What’s really needed is for content creators to converge their thinking with the business strategists and data analysts around the table and come up with the omni-channel narratives and experiences that also lead to cash.
This the new norm that we see, and it’s just part of what we’ll be discussing in our upcoming series on The New Norm. There are many other PR myths to explore, and new ways for technology communicators to work together. We’ll be taking a look at them more closely in our upcoming series, and we invite you to share your ideas with us, as well.