Are you a good pool player? And what does the game have to do with PR?
Pool pros don't just sink the shot in front of them. They consider the playing field and how to best position the cue ball to run the next shots.
Similarly, these days PR is not just about getting the immediate coverage: It is also about the "next shot," or secondary (read: curated) coverage that can make all the difference in winning the attention of the desired audience.
This article will discuss the changing ways that people get information and how to boost the odds that your news gets to all the right places.
The New World of PR
There used to be a straight line between PR effort and results. You announce your news, work the media, coverage happens, and on to the next. Good "ink" was sure to hit home with your audience.
Now PR is more like a game of pinball. You put your news out, the info gets sliced, diced, puréed; ricochets around the social networks (if you are lucky, and the buzz is good); and it's curated. In fact, people may notice your news only when it appears on Twitter, LinkedIn, or their Facebook News Feed.
Sure, many still turn on the TV to stay on top of current events, pick up a newspaper or magazine, or type in the URL of their favorite news site. But, more often than not, they are getting news from aggregators, sharers, and curators—whether via algorithms (in the case of LinkedIn and Facebook), from their friends on Twitter, or via professional curators such as Huffington Post and BuzzFeed.
Where does that leave you if you are readying a launch or you have news to promote?
To get the attention of your intended audience, you need to understand how and where they get information—and work hard to ensure that your news is right there.
How can you give your info a fighting chance in this curated, multichannel, content-saturated world?
Some variables are simply beyond your control. You can't just order up headline-grabbing news. And, sometimes, the PR team is given press releases, clients, and campaigns that are not so obviously interesting.
However there are ways to boost the odds that your news makes the cut. The following tips won't transform a routine announcement into a viral success, but they can help to ensure that you reach the right audiences with your information.
Know where your customers are
Find out what publications and bulletins they read, which social networks they're on, and which influencers they follow. Coverage in the right places is the first step toward getting your content curated and shared elsewhere. Finding the top sharers and curators can be helpful info when crafting a communications strategy.
Prioritize media targets
Where do the sites that your customers read get their news and info? Be sure to include syndicators such as traditional news wire services (e.g. AP, Reuters, and Bloomberg) on your list of PR targets. That approach works best when you have hard news or your company is public.
Also, some publications get curated much more than others. How do you find them? It can vary by industry and network (e.g., TechMeme has its leader board, and NewsWhip's blog shares the names of publishers that get the most play on Facebook and on Twitter.)
Apply media relations techniques
Yes, you can—i.e., pitch curators. First take the time to read and better understand the outlet. Then, contact the editors to learn about their criteria and pitch your news if appropriate. (Here's how the top business press editors pitch LinkedIn).
Tap social sharing
Make your information easy to share: for example, can your press release headline easily fit in a tweet? Does your blog have social sharing buttons? Sharing is another form of curation.
Think like a curator
The top curators have their own formula and approach (see "Curate Content Like a Pro"); but there are some common threads, and ways they adapt content to their various needs:
- They often look for stories trending on social, and pick news from reputable outlets.
- Headlines can make all the difference. The top curators pick stories that will pop, and the often tinker and do A/B testing. If your content already has a great headline, that will help it to get picked up (see "Writing Headlines That Pop" for quick tips). Generally, use impactful words at beginning, avoid repetition, keep it short and punchy, and include keywords
- Connect your content or news with causes and timely topics.
- Use lists and images.
- Make it brief and authentic.
Write for people, not algorithms
The top curators also often rely on algorithms, and you may be tempted to crack the code and optimize content accordingly. That's a mistake. If you live by the algorithm, you can die by the algorithm. In the world of SEO, for example, we've all heard the stories about Web traffic fails following changes in Google algorithms.
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Follow these tips, and you can become the brilliant "pool player"—the PR hot shot (I won't say hustler) who gets the primary, earned coverage and also reaps the secondary, curated coverage.