What It Takes to Get the Big Story
There isn’t a PR person alive who hasn’t had a client or a boss who wanted them to get top mainstream coverage in a publication / morning show / daily newspaper like the Wall Street Journal, TIME Magazine, CNN, or the TODAY Show. When we’re pitching clients, we want to showcase our wins and tell them about all of the incredible successes we’ve had over the years — while still being realistic and setting expectations for the type of coverage they can expect given their contract size, where they are as a company, and their value proposition for the market.
Recently, I’ve taken to distilling this information / expectation setting into four ways that businesses that are not large or publicly traded (or private, extremely well-funded) companies can get coverage in top mainstream news outlets. They aren’t revolutionary, and they don’t involve super secretive techniques or hacks. They rely on an understanding of how the media operates, what journalists need to do their jobs, and the types of narratives that are covered by large scale news organizations and what matters to them most.
So, let’s dive in:
1. You’ve got some major news around a merger or an acquisition or you’ve raised a round of funding. Great! Whether you’re a public company being bought by a private one or you received a majority stake investment in your organization or you raised your Series A round and are a startup at the beginning of their journey — this type of news gets noticed.
Of course, the larger the valuation or the more recognizable the acquiring / merging company is in the market, the more interesting the story is–especially to reporters who cover M&A or funding activity often, like TechCrunch, Fortune, Forbes, Crunchbase, Axios, The Information, and WSJ. What does this look like in practical terms? A company that’s raised a $90 million Series B round from recognizable VCs and has an interesting narrative/offering in their market space is likely to get covered in most, if not all, of the publications I mentioned above. If you’re raising $5 million in a seed funding round‚ you may only get a few stories. But it’s just the beginning — it’s one leverageable piece of news. It’s not the end or your last shot to talk to those kinds of press. Be patient!
2. Contribute something of value to a large trend or buzzworthy narrative you see unfolding – this includes contributing a statement or quote, participating in an interview, sending examples and data to demonstrate expertise and add a piece of your company’s story that’s connected to these high profile events in the media. Maybe it’s a specific area of expertise you can offer that no one else can on a trend everyone is writing a take on — or maybe it’s some direct data that can support OR refute the common thinking or zeitgeist around a topic.
Providing a unique point of view while using your own authority or expertise on an issue can not just get you in a higher-level media story, but it may also help you, individually, or your company build a solid reputation with this journalist. Journalists value strong sources for stories and information whether you want to speak on or off the record — so nurture those relationships moving forward.
3. You’ve got a “first of its kind” announcement along with some unique implementations, partnerships, and case studies. So, you’re delivering not only a narrative around who you are and what you bring but how you brought about an important change for another entity. Again, working with a bigger recognizable person or company increases your chances at turning your unique tale into a feature story. We can’t stress enough the importance of being able to show and not just tell. We can tell the press all day long that Product A is amazing and does all of these amazing things — but most journalists tend to be pretty skeptical (As they should be! That is their job.) until you can show them that other credible people or entities feel this way about you too (i.e., if you have a case study you can share (ideally it includes assets and quotes) and you know you will have access to the customer or partner for interview purposes).
4. If you are selling software to small and midsized doctors’ offices and urgent cares or walk-in medical centers, what information should you care about? Information about who those decision makers are, how they decide what tech to use, and ways you may (or may not) appeal to them. If you’re a journalist covering their market, what would you want to bring your stories about this industry to life? Stories backed up by data and/or research, right?
As the expert in the space, you don’t have to wait to see what analysts and other researchers are saying about your industry or your current or prospective customer base. Bring in your technical teams (or hire researchers) to put together a whitepaper or drop a survey in the field to get original sentiment data about a certain group or publish original data that could have huge implications in your field. Demonstrate authority on certain topics that matter to you, and, I promise you, you will begin to matter to the publications and journalists on your top “gets” of the year.
It’s important to be realistic about how PR professionals are able to secure strong coverage from top media publications. It doesn’t happen overnight, and it doesn’t happen without the company itself investing time, money, and resources into their own expertise, finding 3rd parties (customers or partners) who will vouch for their greatness, or being first to the table with something that will change the game.
Be best or be first or be original or be timely. You must be at least one of those things for top media to pay attention. So, get to work!