Most technology companies understand that marketing is an important part of elevating brand awareness and generating leads. The beauty of today’s digital marketing lies in the ability to assess performance in near real time, using tools like HubSpot and Sprout Social, among others. Readily available, quantifiable data makes it easier for executives to sign off on allocating budget for marketing. However, the formula for media relations measurement has always been fairly intangible, with success being much more difficult to predict and measure.
And yet, media relations is still the flashiest segment of marketing. Who doesn’t get a thrill out of seeing their company’s name in bold print? Bill Gates once said, “If I was down to the last dollar of my marketing budget I’d spend it on PR!” Media relations may be highly effective in improving brand visibility and credibility, but the process can feel somewhat like an exercise in trust and patience for some companies.
At Idea Grove, our approach to media relations is just as much of a science as an art. We start with the client company’s goal—perhaps they want to increase sales in a new vertical industry, or maybe they want to ultimately get acquired by a larger tech outfit—and then devise a phased plan for achieving media interest and coverage that helps support those business goals.
Our methodology is based on the concept of the publicity pyramid. Essentially, a company must begin by establishing a solid foundation of media coverage with their core trade publications before gradually building upon it with vertical, technology and, finally, mainstream business media outreach. The idea is that each category of coverage is contingent on establishing coverage and credibility with the tiers before it. With each step, a media relations campaign becomes more mature; the message, more elevated; and the brand, more credible and visible.
The foundational stage is IT trades. This audience is very important because they reach core buyers, such as CIOs, IT directors and IT managers: a highly vetted audience. The readers, as well as the writers and editors, have a fairly deep understanding of your business so you can dive much deeper with your topics and perspective. Trades are more likely to cover news about your products and solutions, and give you a platform to write thought leadership content in the form of contributed articles. As you expand your pitching efforts, it’s important to continue to foster your relationships with these trades.
The next level of the publicity pyramid is the vertical audience, which appeals to the interests of a particular industry. For example, an accounting software as a service (SaaS) provider may target financial trade publications, but then also pitch a healthcare vertical about how accounting software automation can improve accuracy, efficiency and visibility in hospital back offices. Media coverage within the vertical tier adds a dimension to brand visibility, reaching a slightly different audience and providing context for how your company’s technology can benefit a specific industry. For products or technologies that serve many different industries, there are endless opportunities within this category.
The third level up is the technology tier. Media within this category are more interested in macro technology trends. Think hot topics like artificial intelligence, cloud computing and IT security. The bar is higher for coverage within this space, as many publications have a very large and broad reader base. For example, although IT executives read IT trades, you’re more likely to reach other business stakeholders like CEOs and CFOs, who also sign off on large technology investments, through technology publications. Technology writers will want to make sure your company is credible within your industry and will likely conduct research to make sure you have a history of solid trade and vertical coverage before agreeing to write about you.
Finally, if it is your goal, you are ready to pitch tier one business outlets like USA Today, CNN or major daily newspapers in top markets, since you have the right foundation of media coverage under your belt. Achieving coverage at this level, the top of the publicity pyramid, is no easy feat for anyone other than the Apples and Facebooks of the world. To be considered, companies must demonstrate relevance to larger economic trends. Veteran communications consultant Lisa Poulson claims that business press view our global economy as an interconnected network of rivers of money and seek to cover companies that influence these dynamics.
As you think about tackling the publicity pyramid, keep in mind that you’ll need to elevate your message and expand your resources as you gain momentum. Media at every level require substantiation beyond just your pitch. Identify and media train your executives to serve as spokespeople. Identify customers, partners and other third parties like industry and financial analysts who can serve as on-the-record references. And original data or research makes any pitch more compelling and credible.
At Idea Grove, the center of our PR program is a strong news bureau strategy. This consists of much more than press releases and product pitches; it includes canvassing various types of press and always maintaining a pulse on media conversations about the industry. This is how we guide our clients throughout the duration of the PR program, align expectations and empower them to educate their internal stakeholders.
Internal and external PR teams shouldn’t operate in a vacuum when executing media relations. By researching media targets, understanding the media conversation about your industry, fostering relationships with reporters and working with you on solidifying third-party substantiation, you can scale the publicity pyramid, providing transparency along the way. Stay tuned for a future post on the media playbook to learn about how to accurately predict media coverage for any PR campaign.