Why do competitors get all the press?

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Does it seem your competitors always get the headlines although your business provides a better, faster, smarter way for customers?

Do you ever wonder why certain companies are “picked” for interviews in the business press, newspaper or on television or radio programs?

Getting the publicity your business deserves boils down to one simple thing: deliberate effort. Companies that enjoy positive publicity usually do so because they proactively reach out to the media to share their expertise.

While deliberate effort is all it takes, it does come with five important rules that, if followed, will maximize your company’s ability to attract media attention.

• Rule No. 1: It’s all about the audience

Media coverage begins with the audience in mind. It’s all about meeting the needs of readers, viewers or listeners through your expert advice.

This rule requires you to give away knowledge, knowing that some people may incorporate that information without hiring your company. But by becoming an expert source in the media, you will position your company to attract prospects that are too busy to do what you do best.

• Rule No. 2: Target precisely

Do not fall into the natural trap of trying to include everyone in your message. Too broad of a message will overwhelm the limited audience with whom you have the chance to attract. Strategically craft your messages toward a targeted segment that will be most likely to respond.

• Rule No. 3: Avoid ad-speak

Take caution not to sound as if you are trying to make a sale. Businesses often struggle with this concept, particularly those deeply indoctrinated in corporate-think.

“We will only participate in media interviews that promote the company,” the unwritten philosophy goes.

That is counterproductive. Nobody wants to read an article or watch a business news segment that rings of advertising. Moreover, the media will not allow it.

By providing information your audience can use, prospective customers will consider your company a trusted expert they should call when the need arises.

• Rule No. 4: Provide “news they can use”

There are a number of techniques you can use when delivering messages through the press.

One of my favorites is called “policing your industry.” This technique gives the audience advice about how it can protect itself from underhanded tricks of your trade.

For example, an HVAC company could share tips on the questions consumers should ask if a contractor indicated the need for new, expensive parts for their home heating system. Funeral directors could offer consumers tips on avoiding emotional overspending by educating them about federal laws requiring funeral homes to provide consumers a written, itemized price list.

By providing consumers tips on how to protect themselves against potential rip-offs in your industry, you will position your company as trustworthy and credible.

• Rule No. 5: Time it

Using the examples above, an HVAC company would pique the media’s interests as well as stimulate sales opportunities by gaining publicity in early spring or late fall when most consumers get their systems cleaned. Funeral directors should contact the media when the Federal Trade Commission releases its annual report on funeral home compliance.

If your business is cyclical, your busiest season is the time to strike. Think strategically about placement and contact the media at minimum weeks in advance with your ideas.

Keep in mind, media coverage is a two-way street, and there are rules on both sides. It needs to work for you, too, by getting you the right kind of publicity at the right time.

And even if your phone doesn’t ring off the hook after a placement (it likely won’t) you will find the positive coverage you generated will serve as a powerful marketing tool that could make all the difference during sales presentations.

Ken Kilpatrick is president of Sylvia Marketing & Public Relations, a Pottstown-based PR agency specializing in corporate communication, crisis management and litigation support. He can be reached at 610-323-3500 or ken@sylviamarketing.com.

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