As the founder of a tech-focused communications firm, I’ve seen how media attention can swing from one hot topic to the next shiny new thing. Over the past three-and-a-half years, my company has focused almost exclusively on running communications for blockchain companies. (If you haven’t heard of blockchain, it’s the technology underpinning bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.) When the price of bitcoin hit $20,000 in December of 2017, a flurry of media attention descended on the industry, and not all of it was positive. (Disclaimer: I own some bitcoin.)
Needless to say, I know a thing or two about how to cut through the noise in a loud industry. Regardless of whether you work in technology, health care, hospitality, entertainment, consumer products or something else, these five communications tips will help you make an impact, no matter how crazy the media environment may get.
1. Build thought leadership.
Thought leadership is any kind of story or content that is non-promotional — just smart people sharing their expertise. Companies often discount the value of thought leadership because, if it’s done right, the only place the company is mentioned is in the author’s bio or in a disclosure.
It’s natural for founders to want to see their company name plastered across the internet in the headlines of top-tier publications, but it takes time to get there. You may notice that even in more niche spheres like blockchain, the biggest players get the lion's share of the press coverage. Part of the reason for this is that money drives markets and the media, but a small fish can still get attention by having something interesting to say.
I’ve found that when our founders share their wisdom and offer perspectives on trending topics in the form of op-eds, they gain credibility and awareness for their companies over time and increase the chances of being quoted or mentioned in that top-tier outlet.
2. Don’t discount the small stuff.
As I mentioned in my first point, unless you have Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos on your team, it’s unlikely that a startup will gain top-tier media coverage coming out of the gate — and that’s with a talented team, a great idea and the experience to back up your promises. The reasons for this are simply that reporters don’t know the project yet, so even if you reach out to all the relevant writers with that big announcement or juicy exclusive, there’s no guarantee you’ll land coverage.
This reality not only underlines the importance of setting reasonable expectations with the company you represent, but also highlights why smaller, niche publications are incredibly valuable. The readership is often hyper-targeted to a certain audience, so landing coverage in these outlets contributes to what our team calls “the snowball effect.”
To put this in context, if you reach out to your favorite reporter at TechCrunch with exciting news of a new product launch and the writer finds absolutely nothing about the company on the web, that writer may be reluctant to stick his/her neck out to cover a company with no validation from other trusted sources. To the contrary, if that writer finds a slew of fascinating op-eds drafted by the company founder, a handful of podcasts featuring various team members and a smattering of company mentions and founder quotes in respectable publications, that exclusive story starts to look much more attractive.
3. Punch-up your email subject lines.
This one should be a no-brainer, but it’s a surprisingly common mistake communications professionals make. Reporters receive hundreds of emails each day, and most of them already have enough work on their plates, so unless the email subject line really grabs them, they’re unlikely to open it. At the very least, crafting an email subject that is punchy and to the point demonstrates that you respect the writer’s time.
I would add that you shouldn’t email a writer unless you are sharing news they would be interested in based upon their previous coverage. If you bombard them with messages that aren’t relevant, it’s only a matter of time before a spam filter is created for your address.
4. Tell the story you want to see.
As much as all communications professionals dream of getting their companies featured in all the top publications, there is also something to be said about creating your own content. I encourage all of our clients to start a Medium channel where they can publish company updates and perspectives on trending news.
Unlike op-eds, which should not be promotional in any way, a company’s Medium channel is a space that can be used to educate people about how your product works and why it’s important. More frequently, I notice newsletters including links to Medium articles composed by company founders alongside MIT Technology Review, TNW, WIRED and other top-tier publications.
Another strategy is to go out on a limb and start a YouTube channel or podcast that allows you to feature other thought leaders and experts in your sphere. Last year I founded Crypto Token Talk, a newbie-friendly podcast focused on all things blockchain and crypto. The podcast has been a great way for me to meet and learn from fascinating people in the blockchain community with whom I may otherwise have never come into contact.
5. Share your successes.
Never underestimate the importance of sharing your team’s wins. The great work you do for your company or clients deserves to be recognized. When you land a quote, get a thought piece published or see that feature story finally go live after months of communication with the writer, celebrate by posting to social media and across your networks. It also helps to drive more eyeballs to that great coverage.
Remember, when that big story takes off, it’s because of all the legwork you’ve done to create a snowball effect through building thought leadership, paying attention to all media opportunities, no matter how small, crafting punchy emails and telling the story you want to see.
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