How to Make the News, Even When You’re Not the Headline

Feb 1, 2017

Many companies hire PR agencies because they want to make the news, i.e., see their stories splashed on the front pages of USA Today or the Wall Street Journal or featured in a top-tier technology publication. Such a media hit rarely happens overnight, as the bar for a solo feature profile is incredibly high. To put this into perspective, even Steve Jobs had to patiently wait a few years before he became the story.

A PR colleague who used to work for Regis McKenna (Apple’s PR agency of record in the 80s) recalled a meeting in which Jobs asked when she would get him on the cover of Fortune. She answered with brutal honesty. Jobs in turn hurled a glass of water at her. He did call her the following morning to apologize and they continued to work together. And, as you know, in his lifetime, Jobs graced not just magazine covers but books, movies and documentaries.

So if you’re not Steve Jobs and you’re not the story, what’s the next best thing?

Pitch a bigger story

News outlets seek stories with broad appeal and meaning, which will discount most pitches about CEOs and company missions. Instead, craft your pitch around an interesting development in your field that’s happening and not enough people are talking about. A very effective strategy here is to conduct a survey and then report the results. Amendola client Health Catalyst did that last year, garnering considerable coverage. Or, pitch a story based on a larger societal trend or current news event, provided you can make a direct connection to it and offer up one of your company’s thought leaders to weigh in.

Yes, your company and mission can be a facet of the above pitch types, but tread carefully. The goal at this point is to get the process going, become a part of the story and build your profile as a valued source. Think of your company’s media career as that of an actor who is steadily building up his or her credentials, in one increasingly larger role after another. Over time, more audiences become aware of the actor. If the roles are in quality, interesting productions, the audience’s interest and like of the actor will grow as well.

Let your client (the end-user) take center stage

Oftentimes editors are more interested in the end user, not the vendor. They don’t want to report about software, but actual use cases, as evidenced by this article in Network World. Originally, we pitched a broad story about private healthcare data being stored on public clouds. This was enough to pique the interest of a tech reporter at Network World, who then asked to speak to a hospital CIO about the risks and benefits of storing sensitive information on public clouds. The reporter immediately saw the need for a sidebar about a HIPAA-compliant cloud and ended up quoting our client extensively in it.

So you see, being a sidebar or a part of a bigger story are just a couple of ways to prime the pump on your way to being THE story. You just need the guidance of seasoned PR professionals to help make it happen. We stand ready to help only non-water throwers, please.

Marcia Rhodes

Marcia Rhodes is an award-winning public relations and marketing communications expert with more than three decades of experience in PR, media relations, video, crisis and executive communications. She previously held PR/Marketing positions at Accenture, WorldatWork and Six Sigma Academy.