Not the most glass half-full title for a blog post from someone who’s made a career in an industry where part of the job is to persuade journalists to write about companies, I know, but hear me out.
I have rarely met a client who was not passionate about their organization; to be an effective advocate, leader, or communicator, you have to love your company. And, you want others to see what you see, to get excited about the things that get your juices flowing. And nowhere is that more true than in the world of Tech.
Every startup founder believes their business is a game-changer, a future unicorn, with the potential to transform whatever sector it is in which they operate. The thing is, that is rarely true, and even when it is, it is not always easy to persuade others to share that rosy view.
If that sounds cynical, forgive me, that’s not my intention. My team and I love working with startups; their energy, their enthusiasm, is infectious, and we love being in at the ground floor, working with founders to solve issues of market positioning and go-to-market strategy – it’s exciting. But part of our role as consultants is to say “No” when offered the Kool-Aid, maintain a healthy objectivity, and to wear the black hat.
So no, I’m not being cynical but rather, realistic. The unpalatable truth that startup founders, and even some seasoned corp comms professionals, need to face is that the world is not waiting to hear about their company, that journalists are not dying to write about their business. Sorry. Journalists really are cynical; they’ve seen it all before and are not inclined to do anyone a favor by writing puff pieces.
How to make journalists care about your business
It starts with crafting a compelling narrative, and this is where so many organizations fall at the first hurdle – because they start by describing what the company does.
There are probably a dozen other businesses out there that do the same or something similar, so who cares anyway?
The best question to ask when developing a narrative or set of messages is not “What do we do?” but “Why do we exist?”. Try it with any brand or company you can think of, and you’ll get two very different sets of answers, one very functional, the other much more expansive and emotional.
Does Verizon provide wireless infrastructure, or do they enable people to stay connected with their loved ones?
Does Nike make sports apparel, or do they strive to expand human potential?
If earned media is what you are striving for, try consuming the media. Pay attention to what journalists are writing about and you will see that it is:
And when journalists do write about businesses, it is almost always through the prism of one of these three.
So, if you want to make journalists – and by extension, anyone else – care about your business, you need to frame your story in terms of people, issues, and/or money:
Who benefits as a result of the service your company provides, and how?
What are their stories?
What commercial or societal issue do you solve?
What does the world look like once you’ve solved it?
How much money will you save people or businesses?
Answer these questions first, and you just might make someone care enough to ask you what you do.