When you think about the best ways to attract the attention of customers and prospects, you probably reflect first on tactics such as social media, paid advertising and email. These are all excellent marketing strategies. However, there is one more that is often overlooked – public relations.
Nothing has a bigger impact on a customer than having someone outside of your organization expound on your strengths. Customer testimonials are an important part of this strategy, but media coverage can be as well.
I started my career at a high-tech public relations agency back in the days when MTV played videos and getting my client Macromedia’s Flash multimedia product on it was a big deal. Boy, have many things changed since then. But one constant is the power of the media.
The definition of media has evolved to include websites, blogs and YouTube channels as well as traditional newspapers, magazines and TV. There are a number of considerations when determining your PR strategy including:
National or Local: If you serve customers around the country, you should include national media in your outreach. However, local pro AV integration companies can still get a nice business boost from a call out in the town paper.
A few years ago, I worked for a life sciences company that had a PR agency for the industry and national media outreach. However, I created my own list of local business reporters. I would send them a quick email with our latest news and follow up by phone to offer an interview with our executives.
My main goal with this outreach was for our employees to see local coverage of the company. It’s a great way to generate excitement and goodwill. For integration companies that do a lot of local business, you have the added incentive of reaching potential customers.
Target Audience: Who are you trying to reach? If you serve specific vertical markets, you may want to compile a list of media outlets that serve the real estate or healthcare industries. If you are selling to homeowners, where do they live and what media do they normally consume? If you don’t know, identify some existing customers and ask them about their media habits.
Format: Do you already have or could you create some great video content of recent projects or would you be better to stick with written media? It’s important to think through your capabilities rather than pique the interest of a media partner and then not be able to deliver the video content they need.
Patience is the Key to Success
Public relations is a long-term play meaning that it’s rare to get quick hit coverage that immediately boosts your revenue. More commonly, you will need to spend months if not years reaching out to your list of contacts.
As you build relationships with these contacts, you will see coverage increase over time. But don’t forget one of the best parts of this equation is that it’s free.
You are trading your time invested in ongoing outreach for free coverage that is often more impactful than paid advertising.
What if I Don’t Have Anything to Say?
It’s easy to think that your little business doesn’t have anything media worthy to say. After all, you’re in the trenches every day and the projects you are working on seem pretty routine. It’s important to remember that to people outside your industry, what you take for granted can seem pretty interesting. It’s all about how you position it.
Here are a few examples of the types of content you should share with your media partners:
News: This is probably the easiest category to identify – when you have hard news to share. Maybe you are expanding your facility, hiring a number of new employees, starting a big new project, securing new investors or bringing on a new executive. These are all very specific pieces of news that warrant a press release.
Press releases are written following a specific format. You can find examples and templates online. The biggest advice I would give is to make sure that your message is clear.
Would someone who has no idea what an integrator is and has never heard of any industry technical terms still understand why your announcement is important? You should focus on the benefits for your customers, the local economy, employees, etc.
If it’s really big news, you may want to pay to put the press release out through a wire service such as BusinessWire or PR Newswire.
There are also a number of free online press release distribution services. In many instances, though, you can just email the announcement to your media contacts and offer to arrange an interview with a company executive and/or customer for more details.
Hot Topics: A great way to get into media coverage is to keep an eye on what topics seem to be hot at any given time. These days, there is of course a lot of discussion about enabling remote work. If your pro AV integration company has been building out videoconferencing and remote work solutions for clients – you have something important to say on this topic.
Too often, the media is contacted only by manufacturers who want to talk about their products. What the reporters really want is examples of how companies are using the technology.
You could put together a “media pitch” describing the critical role you play in designing and building remote work solutions. It would be important to be able to offer not just an interview with an executive from your company but also someone from your customer.
The best way you can ensure media coverage is to pull together all of the elements of the story for the reporter. When you have a detailed pitch about the story idea, your company executive available and also a customer to interview, your chances of success increase tenfold.
Thought Leadership: Being considered a thought leader in your industry isn’t going to just happen like magic. There is usually a strategy in place for the people and companies that reach this level.
Some of the elements of this type of plan include:
- Select an executive from your team who is generally well spoken and would enjoy spending time with the media over the next few months and years. Picking someone on the executive team who would view a press interview on the same level as a root canal is counterproductive. Try to find someone who has some interest in the role even if they are inexperienced. You can hire a consultant to conduct media training to get their skills up to snuff.
- Identify a couple of topics where your pro AV integration company and executive have an opinion about where the industry is headed and how success will be achieved. You want to work out some key messages long before the first interview.
- Reach out to media contacts as you would with a hot topic. The focus, though, will be more on your executive’s visions rather than a specific project example.
- Investigate speaking opportunities at industry events whether they are in-person or virtual – including opportunities to participate in webinars. The manufacturers you work with likely have robust PR programs and may be looking for partners who can speak about specific implementations. You can also keep an eye out for the Call for Speakers announcements for industry events.
How to Get Started
One quick way for your to get started with some PR would be to reach out to our sister site, My TechDecisions, and submit a recent project for our Project of the Week. Each week, we select an interesting project to profile in education, corporate, retail, hospitality, etc.
Our My TechDecisions site reaches IT professionals and technology decision markers across a wide range of industries.
You can submit your project examples on the site to gain exposure with the people who are implementing new technology solutions.
Bringing It All Together
Public relations is another of what I have referred to previously as a “top of funnel” marketing strategies. It is a way to cast a wide net to attract potential customers. At this point in the marketing funnel, you are trying to catch the eye of prospects but it is often a long road from initial exposure to your brand to a final purchase.
The most likely action a prospect will take after reading about your pro AV integration company in media coverage is to visit your website. It’s extremely important that your website clearly communicate your company’s areas of expertise and how you stand out from the competition.
You also want to have some lead generation activities on the site so you can capture visitors’ contact information.
You should have a couple of educational downloads available on the site behind a registration wall. You could also offer an email newsletter as well as occasional webcasts that would also require registration.
After putting so much effort into your public relations plans, it’s critical that when someone gets to your website you have a mechanism to collect their contact information.