Getting Ink in The New York Times Is Not a Business Strategy
Today’s 24/7 news cycle comes at us constantly, with astounding speed and volume. So, it’s natural for our clients and their competitors to want to do something to cut through that noise to get attention and grab some headlines. Yet, too often we see companies go about it in the wrong way (remember the SnapChat filters — yikes!). Likely, the thinking behind these PR fails started with a goal of getting ink or likes, rather than being grounded in business strategy.
Business strategy is how a company capitalizes on market opportunities to achieve their objectives. One key factor in business strategy is determining the source of volume. Volume can come from attracting new or existing customers, offering new or existing products/services (by repositioning a product so it has a new use), stealing volume from a competitor, upselling features or products, or introducing entirely new products or services (the least likely option).
Only after a business objective and strategy are established should media relations planning, as part of a broader spectrum of tactics, begin. Grounding any media relations program in a client’s business goals dramatically increases the success of any program and smooths the path to buy-in from leadership. So how do we do that?
First, we align on the business strategy. This can be harder to do than you would think, because it’s natural for the conversation to drift toward communication strategy. When we hear things like “raising awareness” or “creating a new narrative,” we take the conversation back to how the client will drive volume. Who is buying what, and is the purchase an additive or a replacement of a competitive product?
Once we align on the business strategy, we assess the factors that will impact that strategy. By examining what’s happening in the industry and culture, what’s happening with competition, and how the brand is seen, a clearer picture emerges from which we can draw implications for the business.
Then, based on those factors, we establish goals for media coverage and how to drive it, including what stories to tell, where to tell them, and what support is needed to generate the most credibility. Do we need a story that demonstrates the company’s unique expertise? Do we need data to establish value for a specific category of product? From deep dive data viz, to survey statistics, to an endorsement from a thought leader or celebrity, there are many PR tools to leverage. Here are a few examples of how business strategy has driven our programs:
- Business goal: Acquire more large physician practices who have existing contracts with hospitals and health systems.
- Media Strategy: By starting with the business strategy, we were able to develop a media strategy and plan that focused on large physician practices and the things they care about most. Had we not started here, we likely would have targeted hospital and health system executives to win their contracts. While they are an important audience to influence, they were not the most important audience for driving volume.
- Business goal: Increase utilization of telehealth services by employees who have access to the service through their employer.
- Media strategy: Establishing consumers as they key audience to use the service, rather than getting more employers to buy the products, framed the strategy. A consumer won’t be reached by taking the tech angle that we would pitch to a healthcare IT trade. Instead, the strategy focused on what matters to the busy employees — convenience and saving time at the doctor’s office by using telehealth from their homes — and pitched consumer-focused publications.
- Business strategy: Formally enter the crowded population health market with a tech solution targeted at hospitals/health systems.
- Media strategy: Develop a more holistic POV on population health and have clients tell the story, focusing on things like social determinants of health and behavioral health, to showcase how technology can have a broader impact on pop health and can enable a hospital/health system to deliver more impactful services.
Of course, it’s important to remember that to really move the business strategy forward, companies should take a multichannel approach that complements their media relations program. After all, if media and other communication efforts are based on business strategy, everything will be working in tandem to generate to maximum output and drive volume.