Several weeks ago, I was very fortunate to appear on one of the panels at Techweek Detroit focused on how entrepreneurs and startups can generate awareness in the media. Moderated by Jeff Musson, CEO of Dynamicnetwork.com and founder of Northof41.org, the group’s panel featured some of Detroit’s most esteemed members of the media, including:
- Robert Huschka, Executive Editor, Detroit Free Press
- Dan Duggan, Managing Editor of Custom and Special Projects, Crain’s Detroit Business
- Alexandra Bahou, Digital Reporter and Web Producer, WXYZ-TV
The purpose of the panel was to provide members of the local tech community – many of which are entrepreneurs – with a behind the scenes look at how to get their company noticed by media decision makers.
For entrepreneurs, company leaders and anyone else looking to engage their company in a media relations strategy, here is some advice shared during the lively panel discussion:
- When thinking through your media strategy, start by identifying your goals first. If you’re looking to partner with an agency, it’s imperative to ask what a successful client and agency partnership looks like to them. Once those key questions are answered, then you can begin to look at the bigger picture and define the strategy and tactics required to reach success.
- Identifying core audiences is critical. All the panelists shared how important it is to ensure your story pitch focuses on why the particular media outlet’s audience should care. As part of this discussion point, I shared that when we connect with a new client, we will sometimes hear about the importance of a mention in a national publication, like the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times, as a metric of success. After digging a bit deeper, we’ll discover that their targets are part of a very different audience. We’ve found great success in targeting specific industry verticals through local, regional and national professional organizations and trade publications. While readership is smaller, it’s the right audience.
- On the broadcast front, Alex Bahou touched on how critical it is for stories to be visually engaging for TV. Some companies are a natural fit for TV because they have a product or service that offers a fantastic visual, while others struggle to offer something attractive for a broadcast audience. When telling your story, it’s important to identify the best visuals for these opportunities. For tech companies, product demos are often the way to go.
- The panelists also discussed the importance of entrepreneurs, subject matter experts and other professionals serving as industry thought leaders. This is a tactic that is sometimes overlooked. When looking to land media coverage, it doesn’t always need to be about you. All panelists stressed the importance of sources serving as thought leaders and commenting on broader industry trends, breaking news or other events that they already may be covering as a method to gain awareness through media coverage. Even if your particular technology only applies to a niche audience, if you’re looking for awareness in publications like the Detroit Free Press, you have to consider the average reader and ways to make your product/service relevant to them.
- Understanding how to actually reach the media was also covered. Many attendees were curious about the best approach to connect with busy editors and reporters. Most panelists shared their preference for email outreach.
- My final piece of advice to attendees: Do your homework. The importance of understanding what reporters are covering and starting a dialogue with them on an informed note is great. Read previous articles, or check out their social channels to see what they’re sharing. It’s great to convey your understanding of their work in your introductory dialogue. Relationships are the foundation of an effective media strategy, so this is a great place to start.