Every business leader, thought leader, or influencer, with limited exceptions, wants to get their story in a top-tier publication. They believe that appearing in Forbes or Huff Post or The New York Times will bring instant credibility and guaranteed success for their brand. When they sign on with a PR firm, the first thing they usually want to know is how quickly we can get them top-tier placement.
My advice to them as a PR professional with more than a decade of experience helping businesses to succeed is to take it slow. Top-tier coverage is a great goal to have, but if you go after it too quickly, it could be more of a curse than a blessing. Learn to crawl before you walk. And learn to walk before you run.
When startups, small businesses, or emerging thought leaders launch into their first media campaign, they often have a lot of passion and a lot of expectations. What they lack is credibility. And that is what media outlets are looking for.
Building credibility for a brand so that it can attract media attention is just like looking for a job. You know that you are a skilled professional with a lot to offer, but until your resume reflects that, you will not get a second look. Brands looking for media exposure need to build their media resume. They need to be able to show the media what they know, how well they know it, and how skillful they are at communicating it.
Starting from scratch might feel like a crawl, but you need to start somewhere. Even if it is your own blog, start building a media resume that you can share with people. This will start to build your credibility. Think of it like starting a career; no one falls into the CEO chair. When it comes to media exposure, the first placement is usually entry-level. But the good news is that moving up in the media ranks happens much more quickly than moving up in the corporate ranks.
It is also important to think of entry-level placements as a time to practice communicating with the media and responding to inquiries. Like anything else, practice makes perfect. You may want that Forbes interview, but if you have not honed your skills, you could come off as ill-prepared and unrefined and someone who they will not invite back. With low-tier placements, the stakes are lower. It will feel like you are crawling, but it will teach you how to walk.
Filling your media resume with low-tier and middle-tier placements will build your credibility and your connections. As you show that you can provide expert opinions and comments, you will build trust with the media. As a result, outlets will not only ask you back but also refer you to other outlets. At this point, you have moved from crawling to walking and your credibility is increasing.
For businesses, it is helpful to understand that building the credibility of your key leaders will also be helpful in building the credibility of your businesses. If the founder, CEO, or owner of a company comes to be seen by the media as an expert, it only increases the reputation of the company. But keep in mind that most media outlets are not looking for a CEO that is only able to talk about the new widget that his or her company created. Rather, they want to hear from an expert widget creator about what makes an effective widget.
Once you have proven yourself to be an effective crawler and walker at the low-tier and medium-tier levels, it’s time to start running after top-tier placements. By this point you have an impressive media resume, plenty of media professionals can vouch for you, and you have plenty of practice communicating about your industry, your expertise, and your brand. When you are given the opportunity to speak to a journalist at Entrepreneur or The Washington Post, you will be ready, and they will be impressed.
The author, Mark Kaley is a publicist with OtterPR, one of the top public relations firms in the US. A creative, driven, analytical, and business savvy marketing professional, Mark has consulted with more than 100 clients and more than 500 small businesses through the public relations process and assisted them in getting their products and services to market, securing financing, and working with management to improve efficiency and profitability.