You hear it everywhere: journalism is dying and the written word is not as powerful as it once was. I heard this from the first day studying for my English and strategic communications degrees, and I still hear it today. But the fact of the matter is, that is completely false. Words are, and will continue to be, one of the most effective forms of communication for everything – the way we communicate is just evolving.
As a public relations professional, words are all we have to make a first impression, and in turn, words are what will make our brands stand out. One of the hardest things to remember is less is more. I learned this through the KISS principle – Keep It Simple, Stupid. Insults aside, I find this principle incorporated into my writing in my day-to-day work at MBB+, from e-mail pitching to media outlets to crafting knock-out social media post for our clients.
Words are how we get attention, incite emotion and ultimately, create action. Below are three ways that I’ve seen communication evolve, specifically related to earned media.
The classic: pitching
Gone are the days of sending press releases via fax or mail. Like most communication today, pitching is most effectively done online. This can be done through a media monitoring service such as Meltwater, your personal e-mail (which I prefer), or even through a social media site such as LinkedIn or Twitter.
The catch: you have to be informative, professional, endearing (but not creepy), efficient and to-the-point. Simple enough, right? I find myself spending at least 15 minutes on personalized pitches per person for a message that might go unread or sent directly to a spam folder. While this can be daunting, I like to see it as a challenge. Specifically tailoring subject lines helps increase your chances of your pitch being read, and making a personal connection helps keep the pitch feel more conversational. The tone of your first pitch sets the stage for your entire relationship with that media contact, and ultimately comes down to how you use your words. For more tips on how to effectively pitch media, check out this blog post.
Outside the box: press kits
Sometimes, we have to let our products speak for themselves… with a few helpful lines from us, of course. This is attained through distributing press kits to media outlets in hopes of gaining coverage. Press kits generally include the product in question so the contacts can see the product benefits for themselves, as well as supplemental materials like a press release, informational packet, and my favorite, a hand-written note.
It’s important to provide context to the product through press releases and supplemental materials in case the media contact in question is unfamiliar with the product. Similar to pitching, you want to keep these short and informative, but attention-grabbing. The person you’re trying to connect with likely has a busy schedule, which means they are less likely to spend an hour flipping through your press kit, and more like five to ten minutes. With that being said, you need to find the right words that stand out to the recipient, and in turn, have them consider featuring your product.
The icing on the cake is a hand-written note. Hand-written notes are so easily overlooked in today’s society. Taking the time to reach out to that contact and connect with them through a few words is sometimes what makes a world of difference. This also helps you, and more importantly your brand, stand out to the media outlet in question. It’s amazing what the power of words can do, especially when you take the time to write them out.
On the web: social media
At MBB+, we also manage social media accounts for our clients – another great example of how communication has evolved. Each client has a voice, and that voice has to be achieved through, you guessed it, words! The less is more principle especially applies in the social sphere – with people’s schedules getting busier and busier, it’s harder to stand out. Finding the right tone for your client is key; should your words be used sarcastically? In a quirky manner? Maybe it’s a nonprofit and you’re trying to communicate a devastating statistic. How your brand uses words on social media directly affects how people feel about your brand, and if they will ultimately make the buying decision we all strive for.
Since social media is so conversational, it takes a mix of your brand’s words and other sources to achieve a good balance of content. To supplement your brand’s promotional posts, you’ll want to share what other sources have said about your brand to further emphasize your brand as the best in its category. This can be done by sharing a recently featured article as a result of your media outreach, or even a local blogger who used your product on their website. Why? It’s one thing to use our own words to talk about how great your product is – it’s completely another to hear it from a different, sometimes more-trusted source. Not only does this keep the conversation going, but it also opens the door for your fans and followers to comment and engage with their own words, which is the goal with social media. Ahh, the power of words. Need I say more?
At the end of the day, words will be what drives awareness, which ultimately drives sales and makes for happy clients. Our words create action. Let’s chat to find out how expanding your business’s marketing plan into earned media can help elevate your brand.