So your company has just signed the biggest deal in its history and you want the world to know, but how do you go about getting the news out there?
The best way is to get the story into one of the numerous publications covering the local technology industry where your customers, peers, partners and probably rivals can read all about how great you are.
Examples of such publications are Reseller News and its Fairfax Business Media stablemates, Computerworld, CIO and PC World.
But how do you do this? It means speaking to a journalist and they are a scary bunch, right? All they want are stories filled with salacious details that they can splash on the front page under shock-horror headlines.
If this is your view of the media then read on, because in this issue’s How To… we aim to demystify media relations and give tips on how to ensure your story makes it into print.
For some, the easiest way to manage their media relations is to appoint a public relations firm.
One such company is Pursuit PR, which until a recent local management buy-out was the local office of global PR practice, Text 100.
Pursuit PR senior consultant Paul O’Leary says it’s important to fully understand the journalist’s subject area and publication, along with the client’s business. To do this, he believes reading industry publications and attending events are essential.
“You have to know what the journalist’s editorial goals are. You have to research the publication and the outlet and follow what the journalist covers. There’s no substitute for keeping up with your own reading as a PR person.”
O’Leary says his role is to provide objective advice to clients, so he must be able to honestly critique a client’s story idea.
“We have to add value every time we talk to a journalist. There has to be a good story or an insight into a client’s business they haven’t had before. We advise clients to think carefully before approaching a journalist to avoid time wasting.”
If a smaller company is considering using a public relation firm, they should first consider what they want to achieve for the money spent, he says.
“Firstly, no one will charge you for talking. Any organisation, large or small, should think carefully about what they want from PR and how they think it can meet their organisational goals. Then it’s a matter of setting clear expectations about what can be achieved within a set budget.”
Express Data sales and marketing general manager Paul Plester says his company has an Australian-based public relations representative, but staff have enough local experience to know which stories to pass on to the media.
“We have media training in place from our person in Australia, just to ensure we’re consistent in what we say and do.
“We want the media to talk about what we’re doing in the marketplace, but we also have been around long enough to know it has to be interesting to the journalist and to their target market too. So we don’t ring up about every change to our website or anything.”
Plester says most of Express Data’s press releases are versions of those put out by its vendor partners, which have already been approved by the vendor.
“We understand and stick to their messages and all we do around announcements is ensure there’s a New Zealand perspective on it. Our value add is delivering it to the right people.”
IBM communications manager Liz Hampton says its objective when approaching the media is to provide stories about IBM’s business, technology and services.
“We always invest a lot of time in meeting the media, so we gain a feel for the types of stories they are writing. We monitor the local business and technology stories to see what is being covered and to get an idea of trends.”
Hampton says because IBM is a global corporate, it keeps an eye on what is happening with the company overseas.
“If there is something that is of interest, then we try and angle it to the local market such as the IBM business centre on Second Life. When dealing with trade media we provide concise information to help them with their stories, but don’t deluge them. If we have an expert who can talk about the story subject, then we will make sure they are available. We really think about what we are trying to convey when sending a release to publications such as Reseller News.”
She adds that events such as the IBM Forum and business issues generate the most trade media interest.
“Forum is an opportunity to meet with our business partners and there are a number of opportunities for stories about what we are doing with clients. With business issues, we organise discussions by getting in a roundtable of CEOs and inviting the media along.”
Her advice for a small reseller who does not have the budget for an internal communications person is to think about what messages they want to convey.
“Have a look at different publications and decide which is the best one to use. When contacting the editor, make sure you clearly convey what the story is about in a concise manner. Time is precious for the media.”
Inside the media machine
Editor Louis van Wyk has some suggestions.
So what do journalists look for in a good story?
At Reseller News the first question we ask when approached with a story is: What is in it for the channel?
Our goal is to provide the paper’s readers with news that will help them in their business.
A new product may well boost productivity ten-fold and cut costs in half, but if it is not going to be sold through the channel our readers just won’t be fussed.
In this case, get in touch with our sister publications – Computerworld or CIO if it is a business product and PC World if it is for home businesses or consumers.
If you are actively hunting resellers for your product, then we will consider it as a story, especially if you can offer our readers a new source of revenue with great margins and excellent support.
Above all we want to report the news from the industry and we want to know who is doing what to who, and are they happy or unhappy about the situation.
We want to write about local resellers, integrators, distributors and ISVs succeeding and sometimes failing.
People stories are also a great hit. The IT channel is a tight-knit community and our readers love to hear about what their peers are up to.
Therefore we love getting hot story leads.
So a sure way to secure our attention is to supply us with such leads.
And the best way to engage with us is directly.
Most journalists do not expect the best stories to pop up in their inboxes, but drop us a line and have a chat, and hopefully you will see we are not that scary.