Back to Basics: The Original “Word of Mouth”

At a get together at a good friend’s recently, I was quite amused at the cocktail napkins that she passed out to all her guests. They read, “Let’s bring back the days when social networking was a cocktail party.” As a dental hygienist, social media does not really have a strong role in her job. She works in a business where face-to-face interaction rules supreme, whereas for me “social” has many layers.

But, my friend’s napkins made me really think about one of the main functions I perform at ComBlu – media relations. Social media has undoubtedly transformed the discipline forever. However, getting back to the basics can result in some real success. In this case, the “basics” I am talking about is the original word of mouth – a good old fashioned conversation.

I recently launched media relations programs for two new companies – a healthcare association and a financial services company. In the case of the healthcare association, I took over for another agency, while with the financial services firm, I was asked to augment an internal program already underway. I learned quickly that both companies relied heavily on email communications and wire service distribution to share their news and updates.

Having learned media relations in the pre-email era, I have never been comfortable blasting news to a large number of outlets, all in the same way. Tailored outreach has always been the way to go. So my approach for launching a program for these firms was decidedly different. I suggested we select a targeted list of publications, send the news, and then – are you sitting down – make phone calls to follow-up. Yes, I suggested having actual conversations about the news. I was completely surprised when both clients asked, “Do reporters want to be contacted by phone anymore?”

The answer is a resounding yes. The generations behind me are definitely more adept online but I feel they have lost something in their approach. They are more comfortable hiding behind an email, text or tweet and simply don’t want to “pick up the phone.” But – their loss of this discipline has been my gain. The results of those phone calls yielded more than my clients expected and enabled me to properly introduce myself and really start building relationships with key editors and reporters that cover their industry.

Here are some other tried-and-true media relations strategies that are still relevant today.

  • Build personal relationships. While it is important to follow editors socially to keep tabs on their work, social media “follows” don’t necessarily lead to press coverage. You simply cannot replace a more personal face-to-face relationship. Phone calls do go a long way toward building these relationships and yield the best results.
  • Target your outreach. Know what your key reporters cover and how they cover the news and cater to their precise needs. Blanketing the world with generic news is not the right approach.
  • Make every contact worthwhile. Using Twitter to pitch stories and news to a large group of reporters will not get you very far. This approach will likely be treated as spam. If you want the best attention from the media, offer an exclusive or advance on the news to the appropriate reporter. They love getting a first pass at the news.
  • Press releases still have a place in PR. As I described in a blog a while back, press releases are still valuable communications tools – when not overused.  Legitimate news announcements still serve as tools for market education, and they still contribute to online discoverability via social networks and other channels. But they should be newsworthy, succinct and free of clichés and other buzzwords. This combined with a targeted approach can help you deliver news to target audiences and yield results.

Used as part of an integrated approach to communications, platforms like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest can amplify the impact of PR to build the brand, create a loyal community of followers and attract interested members of the press. But remember that social media is a PR tool, not a substitute. The original social interaction – forming that personal relationship – is a key element of success.

 

 

Pam Flores
Pam Flores

Senior Consultant

Pam is adept at fostering relationships with respected thought leaders and influencers in myriad industries and disciplines. She is an expert in media and influencer engagement and specializes in designing and executing outreach programs that engage and activate influencers to deliver share of voice in ongoing conversations applicable to clients. Pam has 20-plus years of experience in social engagement, media and blogger relations, thought leadership, community building and copywriting.

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