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4 tips for doing media relations right in 2014

We recently met up with a group of marketing-communications industry professionals (from newbies to seasoned pros) to share ideas about how marketing, specifically media relations, would be changing and moving forward in 2014.

Knowing that many of our Small Biz Buzz readers are new to PR, media relations and social media we thought it would be helpful to outline some key things you need to know about building an effective and useful communications strategy this year. If you’re new to the business of marketing, it can be hard to keep up with the newest trends while simultaneously learning the fundamentals. So be sure to keep these core things in mind as you plan for a successful new year in marketing and publicizing your business.

Remember that media relations extends beyond the media. This is sometimes a tough concept to grasp, but it’s key if you want to earn your business continuous buzz. While journalists are crucial to offering a third-party perspective about your company, they aren’t the only stakeholders you can involve. Employees, for example, are the closest to your business and are in the best position to speak highly and factually about your brand. So make sure you have a strong internal communications plan in place and are communicating openly and honestly with your staff. Investors, analysts and even customers are prime groups to reach as well. Keep those key players happy and they can become some of your biggest brand advocates.

Surprise! Media pitches don’t have to be all about you. Shocking, huh? But think about it. More often than not, a journalist’s interest spans far beyond a company’s new product line or community service initiative. Journalists like trends, major issues, legislation–things that affect more than just your company and its employees. So in 2014, revamp your pitch strategy. Try discussing a larger trend story that’s relevant to what you do and find a way to insert your brand into the conversation.

A great example of this approach comes from Fred Sainz of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). Sainz and his team landed some great stories by sending out a series of pitches updating the media on the status of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which was under consideration by the U.S. Senate at the time. The pitch didn’t promote all of the work HRC had been doing behind the scenes to pass the act–it simply provided credible information in real-time about the status of the act. The series of pitches was helpful to the journalists as it provided them with accurate details and it effectively kept HRC top-of-mind and positioned the organization as a topic expert.

Mousetrap“The early bird gets the worm, but it’s the 2nd mouse that gets the cheese.” This quote by Johna Burke from BurellesLuce struck a chord with us. Why? Because so many business leaders (and marketers) think they have to be the first to market, the first to jump on the newest trend, the first to try something new, otherwise they’ve missed out. But  prematurely jumping on an opportunity can lead to failure. This year, realize that there can be value to being second–you get the opportunity to analyze your competitors’ successes and failures and make improvements for your own brand. In many cases, that can be a more productive strategy than jumping the gun on a campaign just to say you were the first to do it. By “moving second,” you have the opportunity to research, analyze and adapt.

Have a clear crisis communication plan. Over the years, companies have gradually been learning that you can do absolutely nothing wrong and still fall victim to a crisis. You might accidentally hire an employee who publicly embarrasses the company, a hacker might maliciously crash your website, you might have a manufacturing problem that forces you to recall your product or you might have a particularly clever upset customer. So you have to have to be prepared.

The irony is that while most business leaders expect that they’ll have a crisis within the next 12 months, only 1/3 of them actually have a crisis communications plan in place. That’s lunacy. Especially in this day and age when we all know social media can spread news like wildfire. So set up a well thought-out, written plan for how to navigate through a variety of problematic situations. At a minimum, your plan must include specific steps to follow, people to contact (internally and externally), key timing considerations and a digital response plan so that you can effectively handle communication online.

Do you have questions about how to step-up your marketing game this year? Share your thoughts in the comment section below or reach out to us at