Companies like Airbnb, Birchbox and Lyft launched their businesses almost entirely on public relations. Instead of buying TV ads, they focused on creating a great product and cultivating relationships with reporters and media sites. Over time, small stories in small markets turned into bigger and more important coverage worldwide -- and the rest is history. PR can make your business famous overnight, but it’s up to you to keep it from being yesterday’s news.
When Pressboard got started, we didn’t have a marketing budget or any clients. Heck, we didn’t even have a working product. We just had an idea that we hoped people would like.
Luckily, some of the people who did like it were reporters at tech and advertising publications. Because we were doing something new and different in the marketing world, we were a good example to use in stories that identified trends and changes in the industry. The impact of the coverage was immediate: People read the stories, found out about us and started reaching out -- until they didn’t anymore.
Thanks to the rapid media cycle, after a few weeks of buzz, our big wins started to fade away. It was an important lesson to learn early on. Media coverage is critical for building your brand, but if you can’t keep it alive, it will disappear from the public eye faster than the "Balloon Boy" drama (Remember him? Didn’t think so).
Why does earned media work so well?
Earned media is aptly named. It’s achieved because you’re doing something newsworthy and impactful, and that says something. Third-party credibility is key to driving any business: We trust certain people and what they say. You would never hire someone without doing a reference check or host an important event at a restaurant without reading a review, would you?
There’s incredible value in authentic press coverage -- for readers, future customers or even potential investors. When a trusted news source endorses what you’re doing, it’s a seal of unbiased approval that bumps up your brand in your customers’ consideration set. An Ogilvy study even found that 65 percent of journalists agree that the more the media covers a brand, the more credible the brand appears.
It pleases our pattern-loving brains.
Humans aren’t all that special. We’re smart, but so are dolphins and pigs. We’re strong, but not in comparison to lions, tigers and bears (oh my!) or apes. Fortunately, we have an unfair advantage that no other species can touch: We’re experts at recognizing patterns. This skill -- the ability to extrapolate which berries were poisonous, who was a friend and who was a foe -- is what has kept our species alive.
Today, this survival mechanism has evolved. For example, when a person or a company is associated with a trusted source, such as a reputable news property, our brains trust the company being highlighted as well. We’ve simply swapped berries for businesses.
So, what do you do once you've got it?
The news cycle is constantly churning (the Washington Post alone publishes nearly 500 stories a day), so even the most sensational of scoops won’t stay on the average reader’s radar for long. After all the work you’ve done to get a journalist’s attention, it’s critical to find ways to keep your story at the forefront of people’s minds. I’ve picked up a few tricks over the years to maximize every piece of coverage that comes my -- and now your -- way.
1. Get it on your homepage. It’s not really bragging if someone else is doing it for you. A simple news site logo or excerpt with “as seen on Fast Company” can help highlight a positive story or review, regardless of when it was originally published.
2. Keep those social shares going. We regularly share our past press coverage on Facebook, LinkedIn and in our newsletter. We’re adding new subscribers and followers all the time, and many of them want to hear about how we got started.
3. Most importantly, give it a boost! What’s the most effective way to get your story in front of people? Put the same time and money into distributing it as you would a traditional ad or piece of custom content. One way to do this is by investing in paid boosts on social media. You can magnify that powerful earned media cred exponentially with every dollar you put toward it, so use your advertising budget to push the elusive press coverage you’ve already received. You’ll be surprised at just how powerful it can be.
Press coverage is an incredible opportunity, so don’t waste it when it comes your way. After all, if an awesome story about your brand gets published in the New York Times but no one sees it, did it ever really happen?