Dare to be newsworthy!

Mt everest climbersGood PR is as much about a mindset or attitude toward running your business as it is about how to write a press release or pitch a reporter. Businesses that succeed with PR are keen to differentiate themselves from the competition. They are not satisfied with status quo, unless status quo is leading the pack and staying on top of the marketplace through innovation and consistent marketing.

Normally I can tell if a business is newsworthy in the first five minutes. When talking with a business owner or marketing professional, I quickly zero in on the overall vision for the business, read the commitment to innovation and gauge the track record of funding important activities like R&D and marketing.

So how can you dare to be newsworthy? Does it come from some innate form of chutzpah encoded in DNA or can you learn it?

While it’s true that some people are preternaturally disposed toward PR and seem to attract publicity seemingly without effort, most of us have to work hard to gain the attention of local news media.

Case in point:

A small retail chain of high-end olive oils and vinegars in Austin came to me for help getting more brand awareness and, ultimately, more traffic in their stores. The retailer featured beautiful tasting areas where customers could sample oils and vinegars and talk to store employees about how to make oil and food pairings. The owner not only wanted to grow the brand awareness of his stores but also to make a strong case for paying a premium for fresh olive oils, also known as “extra virgin olive oil” (EVOO), over ones found in most grocery stores.

The challenge, then, became finding what was truly newsworthy about the business and discovering what, if any, trending or seasonal news opportunities could be attached to it.

We discovered several news “hooks” during our interview:

  • Health benefits of olive oils, specifically as part of a Mediterranean diet, tied to Heart Health Month & cholesterol awareness campaigns.
  • The freshness factor of EVOOs found on grocery shelves, where most were older than one year and as a result lost flavor and no longer had the same healthful benefits normally associated with first press extra virgin olive oil.
  • The fraud of EVOOs where the olive oil produced by large industrial olive oil producers in Italy and Spain is cut by cheap substitutes like grapeseed oil but pawned off as 100% EVOO.
  • New uses of EVOOs involving local ice cream chains, special dinner pairings at local restaurants and book signing events involving Tom Mueller, author of Extra Virginity, the Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil.

A thorough review of any business or nonprofit should yield several news hooks or promotional opportunities that can lead to news mentions. In the case of the olive oil retail chain, additional publicity came about by organizing dinner pairings and reaching out to the ice cream chain. It was approach that was authentic to the retailer’s high quality reputation and it netted several interviews ranging from local blogs and print publications to several live TV news shows.

Dare to be newsworthy

Businesses that succeed at generating news are also ones that take calculated risks. They look for innovative, authentic ways to show off their product, either by partnering with others businesses or nonprofits or by taking additional risks like launching new products or expanding to more locations.

Daring to be newsworthy is uncomfortable territory for most businesses. You never know if the investment in time and money will yield the publicity and buzz necessary to grow the business. Unknowns like how much should I spend on a promotional event or new product launch can keep us up at night. Like anything in business, however, it takes a mix of rational analysis combined with leap of faith, a willingness to roll the dice. That might explain why so few businesses excel at it.

The nice thing is you can actually learn to be newsworthy. You can build a PR component into every marketing decision you make about the business by asking yourself how you can tweak the message or event to appeal to media. You can look for ways to partner with others in related businesses to draw attention to your combined products or services. You can look to the calendar for ideas on how to be timely with your promotional events by offering to speak about a given topic (health, fitness, conservation, back-to-school, etc.) in the local TV or print news.

Your options for media coverage are only limited by your own creativity – and willingness to dare to be newsworthy!

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