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A wall of televisions at a Future Shop store in 2002. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)
A wall of televisions at a Future Shop store in 2002. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

Mark Healy

How to get media to tell your story Add to ...

An earlier column examined the need for small businesses to do some up-front work to have a point of view, a tight message, trained staff and a plan in place before trying to engage media to get their stories across.

Let’s now talk about strategies and tactics for leveraging media, by category.

Mass media

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You should think about leveraging mass media for brand building, not for near-term sales. In the marketing war, this is your air cover. Media outlets will be less likely to want to “pump your tires,” as my friend Mike Clarke says, and more likely to seek out an expert opinion or a point of view on an industry or an issue.

To build any sort of mass-media strategy, the motivators of the outlets must be understood. Of course, it is often more nuanced than this, but mass-media outlets generally care about stories with broad appeal, with human interest elements, which are somehow tied to the economy, health, education and popular culture, since headlines in those areas draw eyeballs.

We always give the same three pieces of counsel: make friends with reporters and editors, get known as an expert with a POV, and hire a PR shop if necessary (they house experts in their field, and they have pre-existing relationships with outlets). As for tactics, seven are well established in engaging the media and getting roughly what you want:

  • Develop a great culture, win an award – always media worthy.
  • Host or sponsor an event (note: trade publication cross-over tactic).
  • Do research, publish the results (again, note: trade publication cross-over tactic).
  • Connect the story of your company or its key product to the economy, health, education or pop culture.
  • Tie your story into current events, since they are always disproportionately covered.
  • Emphasize benefits, not features – connects to broad appeal and human interest.
  • Target your pitch to reporters and editors you know versus writing your own generic press release.

Social media

Social media is much better suited to near-term, highly specific goals such as promoting a new product or a sale, since it is even more time sensitive and targeted than other media options. This is the new trench battle of marketing, where you are duking it out one customer at a time.

To build a social-media strategy, the motivators of the platforms must be understood. Most of the platforms – as well as the users/followers/viewers – are going to gravitate toward stories with popular appeal, with visual or surface-level interest, and that showcase humour, music, arts, rants, celebrity and lifestyle. This is not always true, but it’s true often enough to plan for it, thanks to the nature of consumption, which is normally short and rapid.

When building out a social-media plan, choose your platforms wisely (Facebook is not always the answer); have a pre-defined voice and aesthetic (branding is about consistency); and hire a digital shop if necessary (the landscape changes fast). We have established six tactics to employ when executing a social-media plan:

  • Connect your brand to popular content or trending topics.
  • Facebook: act like a person, not a brand – users are already tired of obvious marketing ploys.
  • Twitter: be interesting, not salesy – don’t bombard, and only put up on-brand tweets – the appropriate frequency is once a day.
  • LinkedIn: start or join a group, post a job, keep all employee accounts up to date.
  • YouTube: act like an expert, not a salesperson or a commercial (same as above).
  • Use social media as a bridge – direct mass media and trade publications to your platforms to capture individuals.

Trade media

Trade media is a unique animal. These outlets are in place for a different purpose – generally to promote an industry and its participants – and they have different motivators, so you should have a particular strategy. It is not unreasonable to think of trade media as a lead-generation engine, and to try to promote your company and offerings.

In this case, the motivators are entirely different. Trade publications look for stories with industry, community or niche appeal. They look for stories with subject-matter interest. And stories are often tied to industry trends, transactions and new innovations, products or processes.

When building out a trade-media strategy, shift your mindset to specificity (the background preamble required elsewhere is not required here), and imagine you are speaking directly to customers (some trade publications will allow companies to pen articles). By actively joining an industry association or an editorial board, you may get the inside track on publication or speaking opportunities.

Five tactics to employ include:

  • Host or sponsor an event (note: mass media cross-over tactic).
  • Do research, publish the results (note: mass media cross-over tactic)
  • Buy your way in: purchase an ad in a trade publication.
  • Hire an industry-recognized expert, who can write or be interviewed.
  • Buy or sell a company or division and the transaction will be picked up.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Mark Healy, P.Eng, MBA, is a partner at Satov Consultants – a management consultancy with practice areas in corporate strategy, customer strategy and operations strategy. Mark’s focus areas inside the customer strategy practice include consumer insights, customer experience, innovation and go-to-market strategy. He is a regular speaker and media contributor on topics ranging from marketing to strategy, in telecom, retail and other sectors. Mark is known as much for his penchant for loud socks and a healthy NFL football obsession as he is for his commitment to Ivey and recent Ivey grads. He currently serves as chair of the Ivey Alumni Association board of directors. Mark lives with his wife Charlotte and their bulldog McDuff in Toronto.

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