3 PR pros discuss how brands can reach out with their stories

Communication PR

Media relations

3 experienced communicators gathered to discuss ever-present challenges for communicators, and how to solve them in today’s media landscape. The panel consisted of:

Marita Wengelin, Head of PR at Max Burgers

Charlotte Henriksson, Senior Strategy Consultant, and Adviser at Gullers Grupp

David Fidjeland, Content & Engagement Director, Telenor Group

Below are a few of the questions from the audience that we, unfortunately, did not have time to address. Also, we have summarized their advice for best practice. If you want to hear the rest of the discussion, you can watch our webinar here!

Unanswered questions

1. How do you stay updated? And stay relevant in the comms & pr sector in relation to your professional development?

Charlotte: As a consultant, I need to stay updated on a lot of different businesses and expertise areas. I do that with the help of business intelligence systems but I also, have tailored own news flows to tap in on high-interest topics to stay relevant. Also, I read a lot of books, see a lot of films and read up on reports.

David: As a communicator, it’s important that you set aside time to regularly update yourself. To some extent, this can be considered a daily task, whether it involves browsing the news or reading up on PR and media developments.

Personally, I would recommend reading up on both national and global news, subscribe to relevant newsletters, and follow various communication-related magazines and websites. In addition, keep an eye out for relevant books and reports. 

There are also numerous groups on social media were communicators frequently discuss amongst themselves the challenges and opportunities they face.

Marita:  Thank you for joining! Since I work with PR and corporate communications I stay updated by subscribing to daily or weekly news within the fields I primarily need to cover, for instance, sustainability and food & beverage. But I also follow the news around the world from different global sources to see what is trending. I reflect and analyze to see what this could mean to our business, both in strengthening our reputation or if it is a risk to our reputation. I also cover at least twice a day what is written about our brand and our competitors using business intelligence systems and media insights. So in brief – I consume a lot of news and I try to stay curious and open-minded.

2. In the international telecoms space, being a small, specialized company, my experience is that it is very difficult to get any earned media. The media outlets expect we buy a media package to get coverage, that in the end is fully our messages, not journalistic work.

David: More and more media outlets are setting up their own content creation teams, which makes pitching stories increasingly difficult. As Telenor is a large multinational telecommunication company, our situation is a bit unique since we own critical infrastructure and have millions of customers. Consequently, the media interest is to some degree always present. For most companies, that is rarely the case. If you are a small or relatively unknown brand, or your story is product or marketing related, pitching journalists will often lead to questions about buying content articles instead.

My advice is to be diligent in researching journalists and media outlets. Try to find journalists who have covered similar topics before, adapt your message and make the story relevant and newsworthy. And focus on what makes your company or product special. How does your story separate you from the rest?

Depending on what you’re trying to achieve, you can also try alternative approaches. E.g. conduct a survey (thus increasing relativity), jump on current public debates, invite journalists to sit-downs or simply offer them exclusivity (if the objective is to build long-lasting journalistic relationships), etc.

The pitch won’t always be successful, but keep trying.

Charlotte: I think that depends on what news you are trying to get out and at what time.  Everything is about news value if not see what conversations to tap into, with the message you want to convey and tailor the hook.

Marita: I understand it is difficult to get earned media if you are a small business and perhaps working b2b is also more difficult than b2c. My advice to you is to be a bit careful to buy a media package including native advertising since that format is close to earned editorial publicity. Sometimes that can scare journalists away from actually publishing “real” articles.

Some advice from me to get earned media is to be a bit creative and “invent” news:

  1. Collaborate with other companies in your field to become a stronger voice when you approach media.
  2. Do a poll or a survey to get interesting data to create an interesting angle for media to cover.
  3. Timing is also crucial for news to be published. If something is trending or happening in the world which you as a company might have a solution to – use it in your communications.
  4. Be in opposition to something, do not be mainstream all the time – media loves conflicts!
  5. Get to know the journalists who cover your field – read/listen to their articles and understand them better, so you can adapt your communications and make the journalist’s job easier.

Best Practice on how to reach out with your stories

1. Have a plan and follow it
You need to have a solid plan as a foundation for your outreach, and then you can improvise from there. Do your strategic and operational analysis based on this plan. Based on the results, you can iterate and optimize. What worked, what didn’t work so well? Think about your messaging, and what content the plan should consist of. The content is after all that you want to distribute, so make sure this is solid and interesting.

2. In media relations, you must focus on the packaging.
Help yourself by helping them. Don’t just send out emails to every journalist out there. Be diligent and do your research. Find the ones that cover your business or topics that are relevant for your business or the message. Think about the quality and not the number of pitches. This will help you build and maintain good relations with journalists for years to come.

3. How to frame a message? Start with creating a content plan
Have a plan that sets clear guidelines for how you should frame a message on different channels. The message might be the same, but you need to talk about it in different ways on different channels. Success depends on your ability to adapt the message to the culture of each channel

4. Follow the data!
There is creativity in the data. You can do so much with statistics and data, and you should play around with it. Do not limit yourself to data, but try to build creative concepts on around what the data tells you. See what works, and try to improve on that. The two are dependent on each other. Creativity is how you get people interested because the data in itself might not be educational or interesting enough to catch people’s attention.

Creativity needs to be grounded in something, and data can be that foundation. 

If you want to learn more about how to reach out with your stories, check out our webinar here.

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