Running in alignment with an advertising campaign or in isolation, a PR program should be integrated into every brokerage’s marketing plan in order to generate interest among the firm’s target audiences. Importantly, an effective campaign doesn’t always necessitate the need for big budgets, with the key ingredients required being time, effort and know-how.
Like the mortgage broking industry, the media is evolving at a rapid pace. The internet is playing an increasingly important role in the delivery of news and you would have undoubtedly heard terms such as 24-hour news cycle, digital media, social media and the like bandied around. While it’s true the media is quite different to days gone by, the fundamentals involved when approaching the media remain largely the same. So don’t be deterred by the jargon.
Following are some general tips to guide you in getting your face in the media.
Be proactive: It can be a lonely exercise waiting for a journalist to cold call to speak about your business or ask for comment on an industry issue. You need to be proactive and engaged in the process. Generally speaking, it’s only dubious operators or the proactive who make headlines.
Be available and responsive: The media is a deadline-driven industry, so if a journalist makes a request for comment or information then you need to act promptly. Ask the journalist the timeframe for the response and make sure you meet it. If you can’t assist them, let them know immediately so they can try elsewhere.
Deliver what you promise: You don’t want a journalist to form the view that you’re unreliable. There are plenty of people vying for media exposure and journalists favour those who assist them to do their job. They have long memories.
Understand deadlines: Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines - make sure you understand them. Don’t call a daily newspaper journalist at five o’clock to pitch a story or for a discussion about a development in your business. They will be busy putting their stories to bed and you could, quite possibly, be met by the sound of a dial tone. Similarly, if it’s a weekly column or monthly magazine, make an effort to understand the editorial cycle and make your approach a timely one.
Target your approach: Target the media outlet(s) where your news or story concept will best sit. Is it an industry-focused issue, or does it have broader appeal? Also, target the right journalist. Do some research and find out which journalists have covered a related angle in the past, or simply call the publication or media outlet and ask them who the most appropriate person is to contact.
Mode of approach: Does your news angle warrant a press release? Sometimes a targeted email highlighting the key points is the best way forward - it subtly implies exclusivity where as a press release can suggest that you’ve ‘shopped’ it all over town. Once you have determined a topic or issue that warrants media coverage, consider how best to communicate with the media targets you have identified.
It’s editorial – not advertising: Just because something is of interest to you or your company doesn’t necessarily mean it will be to those outside it. Try to expand the media appeal of your development by linking it in with broader industry trends or issues. Remember, it’s the role of advertising, not editorial, to flog your wares so you need to be subtle.
Figures, statistics and research: The media loves them as they qualify views and opinions. Pick-up today’s newspaper and count how many stories are based on research findings, figures or stats. Poll your customers or quantify your statements where you can.
Images and vision: If you plan to be active in the media, then it’s worth having professional shots taken. Bear in mind, however, mainstream media generally don’t accept supplied images. If you are targeting TV, then think about how a story will translate visually – ‘no visual, no story’ is the saying.
Cultivate relationships: This doesn’t mean you have to embark on a circuit of boozy lunches with journalists. Relationships are largely formed on trust and this comes through supplying them with accurate, trustworthy and timely information.
Matt Paterson is a partner at Six Degrees, a PR firm specialising in the mortgage broking industry