How to Get the Media to Help You Sell

Last Updated Oct 28, 2011 2:53 PM EDT

If you're in Sales and have to work with a marketing or PR group, do them a favor and email the URL of this post to them. If you're in Marketing, I suggest that you bookmark this post, since it contains knowledge gleaned from reading thousands of press releases and media letters.

Let's get started.

Why do you want media coverage. Simple. You want to sell more.

Positive media coverage plays two important roles in a sales process. First, favorable coverage can convince a prospect to contact your firm. Second, favorable coverage provide credibility that might help convince an existing prospect to buy.

There are two basic ways to get the media to cover your product or firm. The first is a press-release, which is like a shotgun pointed in the general direction of a bunch of targets. You fire off the press release hoping it will "hit" somebody as an interesting story. Sometimes it works; mostly it doesn't.

The second way to get media coverage is more like a sniper rifle. You send a customized email aimed at an individual reporter or newscaster, explaining exactly why the story that you want told would be of interest to his or her individual audience.

This second method is much more likely to get your positive coverage, so I'm going to explain exactly how it's done. I'll start with the basics. Your email must answer two questions:
  • Why is this story newsworthy to the readers of this publication?
  • Why should this particular reporter be interested in this particular story?
Savvy readers will note that these questions are VERY similar to the questions that prospects have when you contact them about the possibility of buying your product. The only difference here is that you're selling, not the product, but your messages about the product.
Unfortunately, many sales and marketing professionals make the same mistake in their media letters that they make in their sales letters: stuffing them full of features and functions, rather than intriguing the reader into wanting to know more. To make matter worse, they lard them further with buzzwords and biz-blab.

Here's a perfect example (with comments afterwards) of what NOT to do:

VERSION #1: WHAT NOT TO DO
Subject: Acme Releases Warehouse Management SMBs [1]

Hi Geoffrey [2],

SMBs face the same challenges as large enterprises and require solutions with the capabilities that enable them to successful navigate each challenge. [3] As supply chains become increasingly more complex, SMBs require solutions that fit their specialized needs, provide the deep functionality of enterprise solutions, are easy to implement and maintain, and will grow as their business grows. [4]

"Acme" today launched Acme SCM Warehouse Management Business Edition to meet the needs of SMBs to help improve inventory accuracy, optimize work and task management, and maximize the utilization of warehouse space and personnel. [5] Utilizing built-in best practices, the new solution is designed for rapid implementation and easy maintenance - two critical elements required in an SMB solution.[6]

If you are interested in arranging an interview, please let me know.[7] "
COMMENTS:
  1. Message title is dull and meaningless. Why would I care?
  2. Informal greeting clashes with email's generic boilerplate style.
  3. Say what? That's circular logic. And what's with the typo?
  4. Who says? If this is common knowledge, why state it here?
  5. It does lots of stuff; so do other packages. Why is this better?
  6. This entire sentence consists of meaningless buzzwords.
  7. Call to action is weak. Likely response: the delete key.
I need hardly say that the example is based on a real press release, which probably created little or no interest anywhere in the media. By contrast, here's an email, on the same subject, that is almost guaranteed to get SOME kind of response.

VERSION #2: WHAT WILL ACTUALLY WORK
Subject: Interesting Story Angle on Supply Chain [1]

Dear Mr. James [2],

I've run across a breaking story that's perfect for you. [3]

One of my clients, Acme, has figured out how to simplify supply chain software so that even small businesses can use it. [4] Since supply chain is a classic "enterprise" application, this is quite a feat [5] and (according to Gartner [6]) unique in the market. [7]

I notice you've written in the past that "supply chain is increasingly important in complex business-to-business sales deals." [8] If you're game, I can set you some interviews with customers [9] who are doing AMAZING things with supply chain as a sales tool and trouncing their competition in the process.
COMMENTS:
  1. The title will pique the reporter's interest.
  2. A professional greeting shows respect.
  3. This suggests that you've done your research.
  4. The is the gist of the story. No detail or buzzwords required.
  5. Answers the question: "Why is this newsworthy?"
  6. Citing a credible source adds credibility.
  7. The story is now even more newsworthy.
  8. Reporters LOVE it when you quote them.
  9. By offering to do the legwork, you're vastly increasing the likelihood that the reporter will respond.
Once again, savvy readers will immediately notice that the second version follows the rules of good sales communication. It's all about benefits (to the reporter, in this case) and only peripherally about the product (the message, in this case.) And it's stripped of the BS; just the facts.

Once you get the hang of this kind of thing, it's easy. Just as with selling, you have to "get into the mindset" of the reporter and figure out what's going to motivate the reporter to "buy" your story. Simple, eh?

READERS: You'll find plenty of similar tips and techniques in my new book How to Say It: Business to Business Selling now available for pre-sale here:

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  • Geoffrey James

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