If you’re a startup or small business that’s decided to go the DIY route with your PR, you need to understand the realities of today’s media universe.
While there’s some truth in oft-heard platitudes like “The media world is undergoing massive change,” there’s a bit more to it.
Here are 7 things any startup or small biz undertaking DIY PR should know about the media:
1) More media than ever. Though some North American cities don’t have a daily newspaper anymore, the volume of media has exploded in recent years. By the end of 2011 there were over 181 million blogs (up from only 36 million 5 years earlier), according to Nielsen. As of April 2012, Tumblr alone hosts over 50 million blogs and houses over 20 billion blog posts.
2) Less resources for everyone. Traditional media outlets don’t have the resources they used to, and the “new” media – who are often armies of one or a few – will NEVER have the resources once possessed by their “old media” counterparts.
This means as a startup or small business owner you need to make it easy for media to cover you. It begins by understanding what is newsworthy, having a compelling story, being available to media, and having ready-to-go assets they can use.
3) The beast is hungry. All media have become markedly more “content hungry” as a result of the social web. There’s real pressure to feed the beast, and keep content fresh. It’s no easy feat in light of the media resource crunch currently going on.
There’s a silver lining here for startups and small businesses: if you understand media and know how to do PR you’re in a great position to score coverage. This is especially true if you can approach media with content that is ready to go (that they can repackage or republish easily).
4) Errors happen. The media, like the rest of us, are prone to making mistakes. However, the media’s propensity to make mistakes is not going to decline in a content-hungry world where both “old” and “new” outlets lack resources.
As a business owner, you need to try to give media succinct and clear information that mitigates errors. You also must be forgiving and understand that minor mistakes in a piece are not the end of the world. If you’re startup lands a piece in the local paper and the reporter spells your CEO’s name wrong, cut him some slack – the article in the paper is still going to do lots of good for you.
5) Old media still matters. PR – specifically media coverage – is a great way to build credibility. And while there’s no doubt that web-based outlets like TechCrunch or Vitamin Daily are viewed as credible, old school media brands like the Toronto Star or CBC have built their reputations over the years and have serious cachet.
Old media coverage tends to impress when shared on the social web and usually exposes a business to a wider audience swath than a blog or specialty website (yes, there are exceptions, so take this as a general rule).
6) The differences between journalists and bloggers. There’s a lot of confusion around the words “journalist” and “blogger.” Want an easy way to tell the difference? A journalist answers to an editor and gets paid to produce content, a blogger answers to their audience and may or may not get paid for their work. Note, also, that journalists are often bound by specific codes of ethics, while bloggers are not (though many claim to be).
7) Most journalists go into journalism because it’s a calling. Ninety-nine percent of professional journalists don’t take home Anderson Cooper-esque paycheques. Journalism involves long hours for low pay, a situation that’s not going to change with radio, newspaper and TV outlets experiencing declining revenues. Most journalists are drawn to their work because they view it as a higher calling and/or essential to society. Practically speaking, this means you mustn’t craft pitches to media that sound like ads for your company or product. Those go straight to the trash folder.
In sum, remember that you CAN get media coverage for your business. Just try and be aware of the world media work in and craft your offerings accordingly.
Jackson Wightman is a Montreal-based PR agency owner. He recently created MakePR, an integrated online program of study that teaches small businesses and startups how to score media coverage on their own, without the help (or expense) of PR pros. MakePR’s program features guest experts including PR agency owners, bestselling authors, and journalists from the Globe and Mail, National Post, Mashable.com, Flare, LOULOU, and PR Daily. Readers of Notable are invited to subscribe to the course for 50% off using the coupon code NOTABLE. Offer valid until November 20, 2012.