Getting your HR business covered in the news media can have a powerful effect on lead flow and sales. However, the world of PR and press coverage can seem a little murky to the average business owner.
Let’s find out now how to get into the news media.
I was delighted to talk to my long-time friend and marketing and PR expert, Adam Davidson.
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Ok, over to Adam (thanks Adam!) . . .
How To Get Media Coverage
Ben – Hi Adam, am I right in saying that you cut your teeth on PR while looking after Brand and Offline marketing at CurrencyFair?
Adam Davidson – Largely yes although actually, I’d previously been responsible for PR at Hostelworld and SimonSeeks.com but only as a bit of an afterthought to my other responsibilities as neither of those two companies expected a lot of PR whereas CurrencyFair did.
Ben – So they gave it a meaningful budget?
Adam Davidson – Yes and it also gave me licence to allocate it a good portion of my time and borrow the time of others.
Ben – Borrowing people?
Adam Davidson – Yes, it was a trick I picked up at MoneySupermarket & TravelSupermarket, where we also took PR seriously appointing a Director of PR with a department of five, none of whom appeared very often in print themselves. Instead, emails would go out to staff. There were 600 staff and so there was always somebody in the process of moving house or switching credit card or returning from a bad holiday experience for a journalist to use in their piece. The person may be credited as working for MoneySupermarket or may be positioned as a member of the public but Moneysupermarket would often be credited as providing stats or tables included in the piece and either way it helped us established ourselves as a go-to place for journalists because we were helpful and made their lives easier.
Ben – And you did the same at CurrencyFair?
Adam Davidson – I tried yes, we had fewer channels (one currency transfer v Moneysupermarkets twenty-seven) and fewer staff (100 v 600) but CurrencyFair had staff from a wider number of countries and as the journalists we were targeting were writing about expats this was useful for them.
The other trick I lifted from Moneysupermarket was establishing key members of staff as go to experts in their field. There we had our ‘travel expert’ and our ‘banking expert’ who, after some years of pushing them forward, were eventually pulled forward by the press, radio and tv to comment on that day’s news. Interest rates may have been increased or legroom on aircraft reduced and they’d be called in to say what this meant for savers, borrowers and travellers. They’d more than likely not mention moneysupermarket or travelsupermarket but they’d be introduced or captioned as ‘Banking expert Kevin from MoneySupermarket or ‘travel expert Bob from TravelSupermarket’ and that way while possibly being a little more subtle they caried more weight and trustworthiness (which followed through to the brand) and also they were used (invited) and quoted a lot more often. A further advantage to this approach was that, when talking to brand representatives, journalists are trained to challenge that representative or place them opposite a representative from a competing brand which can result in a frustrating confrontational piece or conversation. When that same person is positioned as an expert on a brand-neutral field all of a sudden, they are more likely to be taken at their word and an easier friendlier conversation takes place.
Ben – And you did the same at CurrencyFair?
Adam Davidson – There was a buzz about Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency and while CurrencyFair did not trade in it, CurrencyFair was close enough to this market for our Founder & CEO to be a credible speaker on the subject.
Ben – Was there anything you did on a daily basis?
Adam Davidson – Yes, I checked the press for articles about currency transfer every day. There are paid services like Notified, Kantar Media & Meltwater that can help you track traditional media and Hootsuite & Sprout Social that can help you track social. I’ve used Meltwater and Sprout Social but found I could do almost as good a job (sometimes a better job) manually and using free services like Google alerts.
Ben – And what do you do when you find an article or post?
Adam Davidson – Well, whether it mentions my brand or not, I contact the journalist via LinkedIn or email (finding their contact details can be a bit of an adventure but it’s usually possible) and praise their article. If they have mentioned my brand, and I agree with everything they have written and (in the online version) they have included a link to my brand’s website, I thank them and let them know that I’m available to help provide comment, stats and images next time they write on this subject (often they will have been commissioned to submit an article on a similar or identical subject once, twice or four times a year). If they have omitted to mention my brand or they have got something wrong or I am unhappy with anything it’s an opportunity to correct them (in a friendly manner). You don’t always get a friendly response but often you do and it can be the start of a productive relationship. On one occasion I got an apology in print and a re-posting of the corrected article public side of a paywall that the original article (containing the mistake) was the (less visited) paid side of. If they have mentioned my brand and have got everything correct but not included a link, I explain that I think that their readers would find it useful if they did.
Ben – Any other tips?
Adam Davidson – Yes, radio stations, especially, but not only, smaller local ones, are desperate to fill time and are often very happy to have someone to interview. If you (or your colleagues) are purchasing ads always ask for an interview to be thrown in. If you (they) are not, ask anyway. Podcasters too often rely on a constant stream of difficult to source individuals to interview and are looking out for sponsors and affiliate deals.
When I spoke about borrowing people’s time that can also include the time of the IT, Finance, or HR staff.
Marketing and PR staff are not unique in driving innovation and having a story to tell. With increased interest in Fintech, Start-ups and business disciplines you can widen your net of coverage by offering editors of Tech or HR publications people and stories. I recall one HR professional in particular who did a good job of sharing his story of how he’d introduced unlimited holiday to staff.
I was lucky enough at CurrencyFair to obtain cooperation and agreement to get some tracking put in place in the form of a simple question on the registration form asking the new customer where they heard about CurrencyFair. In order not to hamper the efficiency of the funnel it’s important that this question comes last and is not mandatory. I found that 25% of people completed this which meant I could extrapolate upward (x4) the numbers mentioning a publication I’d had a hand in nurturing and that way report CPA’s (cost per acquisition) figures encouraging the maintenance of, or increase in, our PR budget.
Ben – And what would you do with that budget?
Well, a monthly retainer with a good PR agency should net you some meaty pieces in the press, ideally getting your brand in the headline, first paragraph and/or image. Unfortunately, they seem to have relationships and favours owing enough that you get two or three but then go a bit quiet which can mean that you end up changing agency every six or twelve months but occasionally you find one you can work productively with over a longer period. You need to put in as much work as they do making sure that they understand your product and feeding them stories and angles. It’s usually necessary to retain an SEO agency too and the same applies. One of my biggest successes came from an idea that was initially mine but was improved by the agency. I thought that, with Valentine’s Day approaching, they could pitch a story based around maintaining a long-distance relationship, us having a number of expat employees that were doing just that and we could offer for photos and interview. The SEO agency thought that they’d have better luck with a piece that compared the price of a date (meal, cinema tickets, drink, taxi) in different cities around the world and they’d introduce me to Cosmopolitan UK to pitch it. Cosmopolitan UK were interested but wanted to sex it up by including the cost of condoms and sheet cleaning, which I felt was not on-brand so the conversation went no further. Instead, the agency pitched the idea, minus the condoms and sheets, to Time Out, Good House Keeping, Grazia, and Cosmopolitan France and they all published the story.
Lastly, it helps to have good in-house SEO, social & community people to produce and maintain posts, blog posts and on-site content that leverages the PR you generate to its fullest potential.
These people can also help or lead the organisation of attending or hosting events which can lead to content either created independently by other attendees or encouraged by your inviting them to contribute to video content, posts or articles you are producing.
Big thanks to Adam for sharing his marketing and PR stories and expertise.
If you want to connect with Adam, you’ll find him here on LinkedIn.
I wish Adam all the best for the future!
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