If you’ve been relying on news releases and other traditional public relations tactics to draw attention to your business, it’s time to update your strategy, said panelists at the “Making a Great ImPRESSion” breakout session at The New York Times Small Business Summit.
Putting news releases out there does improve your search engine optimization, so it’s worth it to put them out there — just don’t expect anyone to read them, said marketing and customer service strategist Peter Shankman. Use Pitch Engine for that, advised Whaling.
Social media can offer your brand a chance to share news in a forum where the people might actually notice — and a great way to interact with reporters from traditional media outlets. But if you turn your Twitter stream into an endless stream of announcements, people will tune you out just as quickly. Want to find a way to marry your PR requirements with the realities of social media etiquette? Here’s what else you need to do.
Be likeable. “You can’t force ‘likes,’ ” said Whaling. “You actually have to be likable.”
But you don’t want to focus too much on how many followers or “likes” you have because it takes more than that. “Having a lot of ‘likes’ will not pay your rent or your mortgage,” said Shankman. “The bank doesn’t accept ‘likes’ as collateral.”
It’s not about the numbers on social media, Shankman explained. Just do a great job with customer service. That’s what counts.
Cultivate connections. If you haven’t already, sign up for Help A Reporter Out, the site Shankman founded to connect news reporters with sources who can offer expert advice, advises Whaling. Then when a call goes out for help in an area related to your business, be quick to respond so you’ll be the source and get to know a reporter.
You also need to identify the reporters who are covering your industry and develop a relationship with them, says Whaling, who recommends using private Twitter lists to track the reporters you’re interested in getting to know. Then you can interact with them and start to form a relationship, but be careful not to be spammy with the information you tweet out.
And don’t ignore people on the street, says Shankman. “Talk to everyone!” The woman next to you on the train could be a reporter and the guy at the dog park could be dating one. You just never know where you’ll make a useful connection.
Track trends. Unless your company is huge, reporters aren’t going to take an interest in your business just because you think what you’re doing is interesting, said Shankman. “Just because you’ve had your best quarter ever, it’s still a fraction of what Microsoft spends on brunch.”
Instead, pay attention to local and national trends and figure out how your business and what it’s doing fits into them, advised Shankman and Whaling. Then you can go to the reporters you’ve connected with and tell them about the connection.
Respect reporters. “Reporters today have to do way more with way fewer resources,” said Shankman. “So respect reporters’ time,” added Whaling.
“Nothing is going to get you blacklisted faster than pestering a reporter with stuff that doesn’t interest them,” said Shankman.
Also try to think about when reporters might have time or need something to write. Fridays are usually slow news days, said Shankman. Those are good times to try to get a reporter’s attention with a story.
Finally, it’s great to start relationships with reporters on Twitter, but that’s not the right place to pitch them a story, said Whaling. Pick up the phone and make the pitch offline.