Your product is not a story
We are often asked what, on the face of it, is a very simple question: “Can you get my product some press coverage?” They will often add; “Ideally in the national press.” Sadly the answer is not as simple as the question. A product in its own right is not a story. And the media are looking for a story. They are not looking to promote your product. “Ah but every time Apple launches a new iPhone or Tesla announce a new car it gets media coverage.” They might counter. Yes, but when you reach the scale of Apple or Tesla you are already a story by virtue of your scale. Mere mortals that don’t have a turnover larger than the GDP of many nation states do not carry the same weight. But all is not lost. While your product may not be a story, there is a story around your product, your customers, your market, your company or around you as an individual. And that’s where your PR efforts need to be focused.
Ask the questions
What we are trying to achieve with media coverage is to identify stories that readers of national and industry press want to read and then weave our product message into that narrative in a subtle way that fits with the story. Not only is this the best way to get your product covered, it’s the best way to get it remembered. People remember stories, not products. To help with your story-telling I suggest you ask yourself a few short questions:
What problems does your product solve?
If you look at coverage for tech products in the media it will almost always be framed in terms of the problem the product solves. Does it save money or time? Does it allow you to do things differently or have more fun? Will it cut down waste or reduce pollution? Start with the problem and you will be talking the reader’s language.
Who is using it and what was their experience?
Moving on from the problem solved, the media needs to be able to believe your claims, while at the same time adding some colour and detail to the story. The best way to achieve both is to research a user story. If the user is a business then try to distil it down to the experience of individuals within that company to home in on the specific experience they had of using your product. Always look for the quirky or unexpected benefits of using the product.
How is my product related to topical issues in the media?
Readers and hence journalists are interested in topical issues. Relate your product to one and you’re half way there. The recently proposed and (un-proposed) changes to NIC for the self-employed generated a raft of stories by entrepreneurs eager to give their view on what a rise in NIC would mean for them. By volunteering their views on a current topical matter they were able to slip in a plug for their business and its products or services.
A lot has been written about cyber-bullying lately so if you had a solution for safeguarding teenagers and children then that would be of interest to education and social care media as technology and national press. Align this with a real world user story and you might even get on TV or radio.
Can I generate a data driven story around my product?
Talking of broadcast coverage, one of the most productive routes to getting on telly is the good old survey. But this doesn’t mean you have to commission an expensive polling agency. It may be possible to derive a story from the data you have within your company. This could be the rise in demand for a certain category of product or increase in sales to a demographic group or a different country. Another route to getting data on your side would be the Freedom of Information Request. There is a whole treasure chest of government data out there that you can tap into to tell a story that highlights the benefits of your product.
So, could I be a story?
Maybe that’s it. You (or more likely your CEO) could be the story. Look at sections like the Sunday Times “How I Made It” column which regularly features the foundation story of entrepreneurs. But again only do this if you have a good yarn to tell. Maybe the CEO came up with the idea for the product while working for charity in sub-Saharan Africa, or maybe the CEO’s kids were struggling with their school work which prompted you to develop your online learning app. And don’t be afraid to open up to the reader. People love a ‘triumph over adversity’ story. If you had three bad years before you launched the product, make that the story and tell it to the business editors. They will respect your honesty and resilience and give you a great little boost to your web traffic as a thank you.
Trust your PR experts
And finally, take advantage of the knowledge and experience of your PR advisers. They will have pitched hundreds (if not thousands) of stories to the media and they know what works. An ethical PR consultant will save you a lot of time and wasted fees by challenging you to think outside the box. It’s disappointing to realise that your ‘baby’ is not such a big deal to the media as it is to you but they should also be able to show you the methods and techniques that will get you coverage in all the right places.