Working with the Press and Public Relations

A product marketing individual’s interaction with the press and public relations (PR) is centered around influence and relationships. In order to influence, it helps to understand their incentives.

The press wants to share stories that have broad appeal and capture as much attention as possible. To accomplish this, the stories they produce and share must have relevance and be unique. They need to produce content at a frequent cadence that captures and retains the attention of their audience. It’s difficult but if you’re able to help PR professionals with this, you can both build a symbiotic relationship. You’re helping share knowledge and helping them create stories of relevance and interest. If done well, your product and brand can receive some airtime that can generate significant awareness.

Before understanding how to help PR individuals and influencing press coverage, it makes sense to understand the gamut of roles a public relations department covers, including:

  • Press relations: The ability to place positive information in the news media to bring attention to a product or firm associated with the organization
  • Product publicity: Publicizing and garnering attention for products 
  • Corporate communication: Developing internal and external messages to communicate information about the company that is favorable it
  • Public relations: Developing and strengthening relationships with the local and national community
  • Crisis management: Effectively responding to and mitigating the fallout of a negative event or publicity

Helping the Press and Influencing Coverage

The press, particularly in technology, want to know more about their industry and trends. And they’re not afraid of digging deeper to understand the nuances. They’re curious about the industry and they’re incentivized to do so. Having deeper knowledge about the subject builds their expertise and allows them to provide a deeper analysis of stories. These elements help them contribute to a story that resonates more with readers and builds a moat around that piece—that story is likely more exclusive and retains reader attention more than one that simply doles out information at a surface-level.

The implication: the press wants to genuinely understand the topic at hand—its essence, its connection with trends, and its significance.

Telling a Story

You can help them with this. Think like a reporter and have a clear understanding of the essence of the story you want to tell, the headline you envision, and why this story matters. Before having a conversation with the press, have clarity for the purpose of the call: help the reporter understand the topic and the 1-3 points you want to get across.

Storytelling is a powerful method in accomplishing these goals. As with any story, a cogent narrative and specificity helps. When conveying a story about the implications of a product, mention specific use cases or when possible, specific customers who benefited from your product. Specificity and the use of examples makes the story real and memorable. Leveraging information from your product positioning exercises provides clarity to the story, defining:  

  • The current challenges in the market today
  • The user who faces these pain points
  • The best methods to address these pain points and how your product fits in this narrative
  • The tangible benefits users have received
  • How the solution provides unique value in the market and how it’s different from that of competitors

It’s a challenge to tell stories that are general, and yet specific; neutral, but intended to garner attention to your cause; deep enough to add value, but not lengthy enough to lose the attention of the individual on the other end of the conversation. It’s critical, then, to treat conversations with the press and PR individuals as just that: conversations. 

Provide enough context to the trends in the market, the target user, and then pause. Make sure they understand. And don’t avoid or deflect their questions but rather, find ways to connect the conversations to those points you defined to get across. 

Being Consistent for Amplification

Consistency matters. If messages are inconsistent between the story the press tells, what your sales team shares, and what your collateral conveys, the message is not just diluted, it’s lost. A strong alignment of messages has the opposite effect. Imagine a prospect hearing the exact message from an email you sent out at 10:00 p.m., solidified by an article they read the next morning, and yet again, from an animated explainer video a few days later. 

Telling a consistent story across initiatives solidifies the message to prospects and for everyone else—employees, existing customers, and supporters. As a result, the message is amplified in the market. If they’ve listened to the same story multiple times, they’ll likely be able to tell it to others.

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