By Thapelo Manyathela
It’s 2013 and I’m then working as a freelance sound engineer in my aunt’s backroom. At this poin,t I’ve recorded, mixed and mastered five projects that haven’t hit any major stores. This for me at the time was disheartening, in light of how much work and sleepless nights I’ve put in on projects I thought would blow up. It’s not like the music was bad, I mean people were responding well to it – in our circle of family and friends. But that was not enough – we needed more ears and eyes to push the boundary beyond family and friends to broaden the spectrum and get noticed.
One would say: “you need to know someone that knows someone” in order to stretch your horizon and gain publicity. The thing is, they never tell you who this someone is. You would have to forgive me for thinking that this “someone” is dressed in a black suit, guarding the gates to the land of milk and honey (aka fame) with the hammer of Thor. What does this even mean? Who holds the right to enter this Promised Land? The elite maybe? I don’t know.
The truth is, the so-called “elite” does not exist, it’s all folklore, a grown man’s tale. On the other hand, actual gatekeepers do exist but they do not rule with the hammer of Thor. Instead, they roam the street with notepads; and rule with an iron pen and quick fingers. Who are these gatekeepers? We call them the media. These men and women are the real pioneers of information distribution in a world of print and online media. These are the people you call to get that burning press release out to the world beyond your backroom. You can often go from zero to hero overnight, and that’s the honest reality.
Just like any existing brand, your objective is to engage with your potential audience through networking, relationship building and sharing your story. In the words of Seth Godin “A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a customer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.” Trust me, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to make this happen, but it does take one to maintain relationships. If you are already hyperventilating because you are not a rocket scientist, you can buckle up and relax. By the end of this piece, you’ll know what it takes to be a rocket scientist in the public relations (PR) field to nurse those important relationships. I know it sounds like a mismatch, but we need rocket scientists to hit the ground running. Pay careful attention to the following, and you’ll be ready to stimulate publicity around your brand.
- Create a hook: Make sure you have a story that draws your audience into your web of awesomeness. According to Robyn Gravestock, a hook could be your headline, an image, a video, a thought-provoking question, an amazing statistic or even a PR stunt deliberately designed to add newsworthy value to a client’s message.
- Create press kits: Creating informative content (that could include photographs, news and a sample of your work, for instance) is something that’s taken for granted. You would need this to show a journalist that you are serious about what you are presenting and that their thoughts count when it comes to sampling your “product”.
- Create a contact list: I used to be under the impression that a journalist is a journalist, and they write and publish anything that comes their way. Well let me just say, I got a rude awakening when my stories weren’t published. For any brand to succeed it needs to know where to place stories in order to get the best outcome. A list of specific media contacts that are aligned with your brand would be a good start to get the word out there. This makes the stress of content distribution a bit lighter because you have an idea of where you are headed.
- Build Relationships: Again, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to build relationships but it does take one to maintain them. At this point, you need to make sure that you are in frequent communication with the contacts you have built. Most PR agencies build relationships well, but then leave them hanging by the wayside because they can’t maintain them. How do you maintain these relationships, you may ask. Have coffee or lunch date with journalists but keep in mind you are building and maintaining a relationship so no pitching will be done on the day – bring yourself and leave the pitch at home. Muck Rack statistics show that 63% of journalists view their relationships with PR pros as mutually beneficial, if not quite a partnership.
- Be part of the scene: This would be an extension of building relationships and will fall under networking. Being present at external events will give you huge points not only with the media but also with potential stakeholders as you become recognizable and hard to miss.
- Create your own medium for press: According to Optinmonster 60% of people find it hard to produce content consistently. What I grew to notice is that most agencies rely solely on what they give the media and forget to build their own platform when the media doesn’t bite. It’s important to have these platforms where content (like interactive social media pages that share client news and successes) are showcased. This shows the past, present and future of the brand as a whole, which builds transparency not only with the media, but with potential clients that would like to get involved with your brand as well.
In the words of Gary Vaynerchuk “You can’t be successful by just saying it – you have to have the talent to learn and also be willing to put in the work.”
For the sake of your brand’s growth, you need to familiarize ourselves with the above text. That’s a message from me to the guy in the backroom frustrated at the world because nothing is coming together. I would suggest building that contact list and making friends in the right places – that way you are aligned with your journo friends that want to help your brand get some exposure. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to build relationships but it does take one to maintain them. Tap into your inner scientist and maintain those relationships.
(Thapelo Manyathela is an Account Executive at Africa Communications Media Group. He has a diploma in PR and is a self-taught writer that comes across with a simple yet informative style of writing that engages the reader).