Today’s PR pros have numerous tools at our disposal – from social media to blogs, media relations to conference outreach – to ensure our organization’s (and those of our clients) key messages repeatedly reach our targeted audiences. And in today’s rapidly changing media landscape, relying on just one of these aforementioned strategies is no longer enough. The most successful communication plan incorporates a strategic mix of tactics to effectively rise above the cacophony and have a lasting impact.
Creating a Successful Communications Plan
While every brand’s communications program is slightly different (they’re dependent on and driven by unique goals and challenges, after all), we find most thought leaders benefit from a combination of media relations and conference outreach. Not one over the other. A blend of both. Media coverage can help give your spokespeople a voice, allowing them to become known for their unique ideas. However, in today’s 24-hour news cycle, front page coverage doesn’t live on the front page very long. The impact of a single media hit isn’t as significant as it once was. Speaking opportunities get thought leaders in the room with the right people, whether that be journalists, or potential contacts and business partners.
Many clients who approach us to spearhead their media and conference relations are surprised to learn how similar the strategies are – and how they differ. Here’s what you need to know about the biggest similarity and the greatest difference:
What’s the Same: Relationships
When it comes to both media and conference relations, the importance of building relationships cannot be overstated. We say this a lot, but what does it mean? For starters, you’re not only reaching out to reporters or conference organizers when you have a timely pitch; no one likes a one-sided relationship. Instead, you’re in regular contact, checking-in often to ask about their conference planning or current writing focus, and gauging if and how you might help their efforts. Whenever possible (and if geography allows), schedule a coffee meeting and connect on a personal level. Once reporters and conference organizers see you as a resource – and as a real person – they are more likely to think of you when they’re setting an event agenda or reporting on a story. And when you’re top-of-mind, you’ll find they proactively contact you, rather than the other way around.
What’s Different: Time
By far the biggest difference between media and conference relationships is the time it can take to secure, execute and reap the results of an opportunity. While feature stories or print placements can take weeks or even months to come to fruition, most media opportunities move quickly, posting within a few days (and sometimes hours!) of a pitch. It’s not uncommon to secure an interview for your client in the morning and see the article go up in the afternoon. The payoff is often swift – and who doesn’t appreciate near-immediate gratification.
Conference opportunities, on the other hand, require a significantly longer window. Organizers plan their events months in advance; it’s crucial to connect with ample time to secure your spot on the agenda. But keep in mind, an initial conversation with time to spare doesn’t guarantee success. And once you’ve landed a speaking opportunity, it’s almost always several months until the actual engagement. Setting expectations early can help ease any disappointment at the slower process.
According to the rule of seven, your target audience needs to hear your message seven times before they take action. By implementing a multi-pronged program that includes both media and conference activities, you’ll be one step closer to making that message stick.