One of the things I encourage people to do – and which we at EMSI regularly do on behalf of our clients – is to tie their message to what’s happening in the news or what’s trending on social media.
It’s a great strategy for promoting your personal or business brand and under the right circumstances can work extremely well. For example, if you’re a CPA, you could offer tips on how to take advantage of a new change in the tax code. A doctor could discuss a just-released study about the most effective ways for treating migraines.
Such situations can make you and your message invaluable to the media, opening doors for potentially longstanding relationships with reporters, editors and producers.
But with that said, I also think it prudent to warn you that not all news situations are equal.
There are times when it might be better to back off from what’s topical, such as during a national tragedy, a serious social issue or a particularly intense political season like the one we’ve just experienced.
In fact, USA Today just published an article about how some people are taking a break from Facebook because their nerves are frayed and their tempers are short from all the political bickering. You want to be careful about getting caught up in the backlash from moments like that.
With that said, let me offer a few points to keep in mind as you ponder when to pounce on the news – and when to lay low:
- Beware the ease of social media. One of the great things about using social media as part of your marketing strategy is that there are no media gatekeepers that stand between you and your audience. You don’t have to convince a newspaper editor, a TV producer or a talk-radio host to interview you. You can promote your brand whenever you like in whatever way you like. But the downside is that you need to act as your own gatekeeper, else you’ll end up on someone’s list of the worst social media mistakes of the year. So give those tweets and posts a little extra thought before you send them out for the world to see.
- Don’t exploit bad news. This doesn’t mean you can’t say anything. It’s perfectly appropriate to express sadness over a national tragedy, for example. Also, if you have legitimate expertise or advice to offer – such as a psychologist who can discuss how parents can talk with their children about a tragedy – then it makes perfect sense for you to get involved. But don’t try to tie your product or service to bad news in a way that makes it look like you’re trying to capitalize on some horrific event so you can increase sales. On social media, where you’re directly reaching your target audience, you risk backlash and your brand could be tarnished. With the traditional media, you risk damaging your relationship with those gatekeepers who might be less inclined the next time to pay attention to what you’re pitching.
- Tread carefully with politics. The moment you inject politics into your marketing you risk alienating half your potential audience, as we’ve seen with the fallout from this most recent presidential election. As I noted earlier, there’s no need to become involved in the heated arguments and unfriending that go on. But once an election is over, there’s nothing wrong with offering your expertise about what a new administration’s plans might mean to a newspaper’s readers, a radio station’s listeners or a TV station’s viewers.
One additional tip I can give you that could help you avoid a PR misstep is this: Whenever you’re pitching to the media, don’t focus on what’s good for you, your product or your service because that’s when you’re more likely to stumble.
Instead, think in terms of the media’s needs and what advice or expertise you can provide that might help their readers or audiences. Take that approach and you should be able to stay on the right track and avoid a marketing disaster.
And that’s the scoop!
P.S. If you need professional help getting your message out to the media, give us a call at 727-443-7115 ext. 215.
Marsha Friedman launched EMS Incorporated in 1990. Her firm represents corporations and experts in a wide array of fields such as business, health, food, lifestyle, politics, finance, law, sports and entertainment. She consults individuals and businesses on a daily basis and is frequently asked to speak at conferences about how to harness the power of publicity.