I wanna be on Page 1 tomorrow

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By Francis Moran

One of the first of what I like to call “Francis’s favourite fictions,” or “Everything I know that’s wrong about PR I learned from technology company executives,” was a line from the CEO of one of the very first tech companies I pitched when I originally ventured out on my own in the early 1990s. “I want to be on the front page of the Ottawa Citizen tomorrow morning,” he said.

I was a lot younger, thinner and more intemperate in those days, so I replied, “Okay. Go home and shoot your wife tonight.”

Right answer, just not terribly delicately put. However, he got the point and I got the gig.

What I was trying to say, of course, is that media relations usually doesn’t work that way and, for some companies, it never works that way. In fact, at inmedia, our objective is never Page 1 tomorrow. Rather, we try from the very outset to build the kind of foundation for an ongoing media relations effort that will generate meaningful coverage over the long haul. In the technology B2B space, where virtually all our clients are new, small and/or completely unknown, this means we first must thoroughly educate target media about the client, its story and how it will be of interest to the journalists and their audiences now and into the future. If this process delivers immediate coverage, so much the better, but that’s not the primary intent.

This first company was also the first time I tried out what has come to be known around here as a ramp up and roll out, or the media and analyst launch of a company that builds the foundation I’m talking about. The company had recorded many newsworthy successes in its history and had a market-leading presence in its space. However, as we also like to say around here, they call it the “news” business, not the “olds” business. So most of those achievements were now just so much fishwrap as far as the media were concerned.

What I did was develop a comprehensive set of materials that told the company’s complete story, including a timeline of its growth and successes and a couple of case studies that showcased its leadership position. I then sent that package out to the media I had identified, through research, as being at the intersection of Writes-about-this-subject and Influences-my-client’s-market. I followed up with each of them, had great conversations about how my client might feauture in future coverage, and even generated some really good immediate hits. Over the long run, I generated a constant stream of coverage about the client, including, eventually, a Page 1 piece in the Ottawa Citizen.

If a client today tells me the same thing — “I wanna be on Page 1 tomorrow.” — I tell him or her much the same thing. I just use a slightly more subtle approach now.

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