Every day, your sales team interacts with one or more decision-makers, influencers and gatekeepers who will decide if your product or service gets in the hands of hundreds, thousands or hundreds of thousands of end users.
These interactions are accepted across the business world as part of bringing the right people through your sales funnel. They also replicate the same engagement strategy used by your communications team to build trust through positive media coverage. Media gatekeepers such as reporters, editors and producers are the industry’s decision-makers, influencers and blockers. They hold many of the keys to putting your message in front of your target audiences.
“Sales and profits don’t happen by themselves, and neither does good PR,” says Tien Wong, a technology investor and founder of CONNECTpreneur, the world’s largest monthly pitch event. “The right media sources are high-leverage relationships which can help garner a lot of eyeballs for your company.”
But just as you don’t expect to get a sale with your first meeting, you’re not likely to get your message in the press with your first email or phone call. Here’s how to replicate the process that created your sales and marketing success to build a successful, long-term media strategy.
What’s Your Plan?
Most sales happen because of a dedicated business development, cold calling, or marketing and branding plan. Goals are established, a strategy is developed, and an infrastructure is built to execute the strategy.
Your company might use an ad campaign which relies on prospects calling the office, rely on event sponsorship strategy to build relationships with sales leaders, or use digital marketing to bring prospects to your website. Each of these relies heavily on having the right people trained the right way, a long-term financial investment, and technical infrastructure.
Trust-building media coverage is secured the same way. You have to know:
- Which media outlets are most trusted by your target audiences.
- Which messaging styles are most preferred at those outlets.
- Who the most important gatekeepers are at those outlets.
- How to most effectively communicate with those gatekeepers.
Without a plan, you’re just hoping. And that’s a strategy for failure in sales and media.
Build the Right Relationships
A lot of business-to-business sales depend on finding the right entry point. Sometimes it’s the CEO; other times, it’s a department head or division leader. As “Challenger Sales” and “Never Split the Difference” make clear, the best salespeople uncover all of the relevant decision-makers, and tailor their message to each one.
Securing positive media coverage in the right outlets requires building similar relationships. For example, a reporter might use your quote or cover your event, but it’s the editor who decides if your message and reputation fit the outlet’s needs for the story.
Success comes from finding the right people with whom to build the best relationships, and then providing value to those gatekeepers with your message. Just like in sales, your message must resonate or you’ll never close the deal.
Sales, Profits and Media Coverage Require Cultivation
Todd Rowley, Virginia regional president for Old Dominion National Bank, points out most salespeople have to sell by Friday so they can eat on Monday. But if you aim to close in three, six or 12 months, it changes how you present yourself to potential prospects. You focus more on building relationships and understanding your customer’s needs than negotiating a price on Day One.
When your first pitch to a media gatekeeper falls flat, it’s not the end of the world. It’s an opportunity to pursue the relationship. Gatekeepers receive hundreds of emails per day, despite having limited time and space for including outside experts in stories, interviews and programs. Your media team should take a sales-like approach to following up and maintaining a persistent presence. For example, keep tabs on the outlet or reporter’s content and reach out when you have a story that intersects with the reporter’s likely upcoming content.
Being impatient in sales can mean someone else gets the contract and the commission. Being impatient with cultivating relationships with the press means someone else is building trust with your prospective customers, partners and investors.
Or, as Wong put it in an email, “It’s important to treat the development of these media sources as if you are tending to a garden. If you nurture these relationships over time, they will bear fruit.”