Growing PR in a Time of Decline
When times are tough, not only do consumers stop spending money on non-essential items, but businesses also see a decline in revenue, with layoffs, slowdowns and budget cuts being the order of the day.
This means that PR pros need to step up their game to keep their clients (or brand, if in-house) from being affected by the recession as much as possible or even take advantage of the situation by turning it to their benefit.
Many in the industry are convinced that in times of decline and as businesses tighten up spending, they’re ‘the first to be chopped from the budget.’
Businesses need to know that earned media can keep them relevant and help them reach sales goals. A key part of this is volume of coverage in outlets across all tiers, according to Forecast Labs Director of Growth PR Danny Groner.
This is a time of many changes across PR strategy. And yesterday, we hosted a chat about a new approach to PR that can help you cut through all the noise that’s only getting louder.
We welcomed Groner as a webinar special guest in discussing his path to receiving inbound story requests FROM journalists, and how newsjacking has been a key part of this success for his client portfolio.
What is growth PR?
“Growth PR” is a category of PR that Groner coined himself to describe his newsjacking-centric approach to media relations.
It “really harnesses all the talents and abilities and skills and ambition that I do have, which is essentially to be the quiet puppet master behind the scenes suggesting the right stories to the right publications at the right time that happen to include my own company’s interests.”
Groner said he spends almost his entire day scanning the news, social media and the most prominent websites to figure out how he can make himself a resource for journalists to lean on, and get great coverage for his clients in the process.
Building a media network
Now for the burning question. How do you get journalists to reach out to you for story opportunities?
The path to inbound story requests starts with being a personable, investigative journalist yourself and mapping out a network of journalists you maintain relationships with, Groner said.
At any given time, he believes it’s important to have relationships with about 300 different journalists to have a steady stream of news opportunities.He breaks this down into three main categories:
1. Top tier publications that cover your industry. Here, Groner recommends starting slow and steady relationships with 8-12 reporters that you really want. For example, sending a brief email commenting on an article they wrote and briefly introducing yourself as a future resource on a few topics.
2. Second tier publications that cover your industry. For this category, you don’t necessarily need a relationship with these journalists, Groner said. These people are on deadline, often to write multiple articles each day, so they need to hear from PR people. Ideally, you should have 8-12 reporters in mind within this category that you can always email on the fly with a story.
“I don’t just want the top tier publications, I want everything,” Groner said. “If I only wanted The Wall Street Journal, I’d be fired by the time I got it.”
Pro tip: These pitches are often most successful coming from someone directly connected to the company rather than a third party advocate, Groner said.
3. Everybody else. Here, focus on identifying the remaining 270 journalists that you can position yourself as a go-to resource for. This means keeping up with the conversation across all platforms, and always offering to help out in ways that are directly relevant to what the journalists are focusing on at the time. This is a great opportunity for sharing contrarian viewpoints on larger topics to make your clients’ stories relevant where they may not traditionally be (newsjacking galore!).
‘Now that you’ve positioned yourself as a journalist resource across the board, they can begin to think of you and refer back to your offerings when they can’t think of anyone else,’ Groner said. If you keep up with your network, this will continue to happen more and more.
Newsjacking to new extremes
As you build a network of strong relationships with journalists across a wide range of beats and tiers, you’ll realize you’ve already begun the newsjacking process! In fact, you’ve been doing it all day.
By keeping up with the conversation and becoming part of it, you will start to see where your company can be a part of something bigger that serves your company, journalists and their audience.
“What I try to think about is, how can I contextualize? How do I take what I’m being told by the company that I represent and put it in a broader focus and use it as a breadcrumb to tell a bigger story where 100% of the time, my company will not be name-checked in the headline,” Groner said. “But how do I punch above our weight class by pitching something where we are one of several different industry experts, better for me if it is the leading expert, and then our company magically lands in the seventh paragraph with a quote? That to me is a win.”
Let’s hear an example!
In 2020, Groner was consulting for a dog company. Without having a background in the dog or pet industry and without connections with dog-related publications, he landed this company in The New York Times. Upon extensive research on the company and its workings, he learned that with demand rising so high for dogs, the company occasionally had to resort to shipping dogs on private jets. All of a sudden, Groner’s gears are turning. This is now a travel story. By pitching this out as part of a larger story about people chartering private flights once they couldn’t get on others, or it was deemed unsafe to get on other flights.
“At that time, this company had no business being in The New York Times,” Groner said. “But once this was a travel story that intersected with dogs, we were the best and the brightest.”
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