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How Aerospace and Defense Contractors Can Get More Media Coverage

The most effective way to get more news coverage is changing. Here’s how to be more successful.

defense industry press coverage

In the old days of PR (which means recently), success at getting media coverage for your company was due in part to building lists of reporters, blasting out news releases (via mail, fax or email), pitching editors with the tenacity of a cold-calling sales person, asking favors, etc. Looking back, it was a shotgun approach to glorified begging in order to get as much media share of voice as possible.

Sadly, this approach endures today despite the declining results that it yields.

In a recent New York Times article (linked here and below), a reporter tells the story of how modern technology has exacerbated this shotgun approach to media pitches. And how it is tarnishing the reputation of companies that still use this antiquated method.

Swatting at a Swarm of Public Relations SpamThe Haggler typically starts his column with a complaint, and this time it's the Haggler's turn to complain. Specifically, the Haggler would like to complain about the complaints he's getting. "In January," one of them began, "we traveled to Myanmar and purchased two wooden statues in a shop in Yangon."

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There is even a popular blog that skewers the futility of this outdated approach, Bad Pitch Blog. A common theme of the blog is highlighting the ineffectiveness of those PR tactics and how the practitioners look like analog  jackasses in a digital world.

So unless you have a high threshold for pain and enjoy banging your head against the wall (you are aerospace and defense contractors after all), there is a better way to earn more media coverage. It still involves your head, but more for thinking and less for banging.

Successful PR should start with the reporter. If your approach to reporters is to build a long-term relationship of trust and helpfulness, your will reap what you sow.

Conversely, if your focus is primarily on you and your demands for media coverage related to what you’re pitching right now, you will be much less successful, if at all.

To find which reporters and news organizations to target, research tools like Cision and Vocus can be worth the subscription price to make sure you’ve got a good starting point. A word of caution about those tools, however. They also offer the ability to spam reporters, so don't use that feature.

Once you’ve determined your media coverage targets, continue researching them. Investigate what they’ve written before. Follow them on social media like Google+ and Twitter to find out what they’re working on and see if they are asking for help.

Otherwise, when you first contact a journalist, don’t focus on your needs, focus on their needs. Ask them questions like:

  • What stories are you looking for?
  • When and how should we contact you?
  • What challenges are you facing?
  • How are you being evaluated/measured?
  • What are your goals?
  • How can I help you?

Think of your media relations outreach as customer service. The more that you can be a helpful resource to the reporter for story ideas, research, etc. the more you will ultimately benefit. Instead of thinking about how a reporter can help you, approach it from a standpoint of how you can help them.

Keep in mind that reporters and the news organizations that hire them are under enormous stress and pressure amidst the changing world of journalism. Most journalists are busy and underpaid.

One great way to start meeting and helping reporters is on HARO (Help A Reporter Out). This site is now owned by Vocus but was started by Peter Shankman, who describes HARO as:

the de-facto standard for thousands of journalists looking for sources on deadline, offering them more than 200,000 sources around the world looking to be quoted in the media. HARO is currently the largest free source repository in the world, sending out over 1,500 queries from worldwide media each week.

Once you register (for free) on HARO, you can scan the daily emails and respond to information requests that fall within your area of expertise with precise, concise answers, which also help to explain why you should be a source.

If a reporter does mention you in a story, THANK THEM! If they are on Twitter, @mention their name and include a link to their story. And while we’re on the subject of Twitter for media relations, if you retweet something from a reporter, don’t use the retweet button. Instead, copy the reporter’s tweet and compose a new one with “RT,” the reporter’s Twitter handle and then include an edited, appended tweet. That way, the reporter is much more likely to see (and appreciate) your retweet.

What PR approaches have you seen that are working well (or badly)?

photo credit: RubyGoes via photopin cc

The Principal and Founder of Artillery, Douglas Burdett is a former artillery officer and Madison Avenue ad man. He also hosts The Marketing Book Podcast, where he interviews authors every week about the latest in modern marketing and sales.

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