The blessing and the curse publicity is that the strength of your message is largely determined by the opinion of journalists. How they interpret your story dictates whether the result is positive, negative or neutral. This dynamic has always been the value proposition of publicity; allowing the trained journalist to evaluate and interpret your product or service carries with it implied credibility. The benefit is a third-party endorsement. As PR professionals, we leverage media to generate exposure and build awareness for companies without paying for it. But what happens when you become a victim of your own success?
One of our clients has become the industry leader in a hot sector of financial services known as non-traded real estate investment trusts, or REITs. Without getting too technical, these products are real estate investments that are sold through broker-dealers to retail investors. A proactive media relations program helped vault the client from back-of-the-pack to top fundraiser—a bona fide industry leader.
The more press we generated, the more scrutiny the company received. It came fast and furious; often it was difficult, from a media relations standpoint, to make sure the facts were correct. It all came to a head when The New York Times did a big spread on the industry and misstated information about the value of the REIT. The CEO went crazy and we spent untold hours correcting the mess.
We offered an alliterative: self-publishing. Recognizing that the client’s industry-leading position provided a plethora of rich content, we recommended that they consider adding a self-publishing platform to their PR program that would simultaneously increase control of their message. It allows clients to control the frequency and tone of their narrative. As staffs are cut, trade journals, and just about every business publication, are looking for contributors.
The company must have something compelling to say. Their opinions, perspectives and internal sources of data are a wellspring of interesting content for self-publishing initiatives.
Here are five guidelines for an effective self-publishing media program:
- Identify sources of information e.g. quarterly surveys that could be valuable to your industry.
- Confirm the company has authority or integrity that would make the information credible.
- Get “buy-in” from management- that they will support the program and are available for interviews.
- Make sure your agency has skilled writers who can produce copy quickly and accurately.
- Confirm you have bandwidth to manage the process with an agency or freelance writer.
This last point is critical. You are going to be tapping the “brain trust” of top-level executives to unlock this content so it is imperative to have quality management of your self-publishing efforts. Poor management of your content will have the same effect as a journalist who articulates your story poorly.