Journalists love a good startup story.
A new business is likely to get its first round of coverage with one of two news events: It just landed a big chunk of change from a high-profile investor, or it’s bringing something new to the table.
What happens, though, after that first big wave of public attention?
Things get quiet. Employees are heads down, putting that investment money to work, and leaders wonder how to sustain the media buzz when they have nothing significant to promote.
Most every company has a story worth telling, but sometimes it takes a little digging to find it.
Here are four ways to score coverage when your organization is in between headline-worthy announcements:
1. Look internally.
Instead of thinking about promotional and product-centered stories, think about the indirect ways you’re influencing the world. In many cases, all a communicator has to do is look inward.
Gravity Payments, a company that many people had not heard of because of its niche services (processing credit card transactions), made news when the CEO decided to set its minimum annual salary at $70,000.
Average Joe now takes notice, because stagnant wages and the rising cost of living have been an issue in his own life, and for so many other Americans. Instead of limiting communication to an internal memo, Gravity realized that this internal policy was actually a big story—one that is still generating coverage.
People like to read about companies who treat their employees well, and if it’s unique it has even more appeal, such as Domo’s $2,000 bonus that helps pregnant staffers buy maternity clothes.
If your company isn’t planning on doling out newsworthy perks anytime soon, there are less glamorous cubicle-oriented stories that can earn attention. Maybe your company’s annual poll (or embarrassingly flattering Glassdoor reviews) showed that employees are really happy. What about the company culture has led to that, and wouldn’t that be an insight worth sharing?
2. Think locally.
Never underestimate the power of local coverage to get through quiet times.
It allows your brand to connect with geographically diverse audiences, and you’re catching readers who are already invested in the story because it concerns their community. It’s an authentic way to create brand advocates and work with other local businesses and investors. Plus, creating relationships now with local journalists means they’ll know you well when they move on to outlets like The Wall Street Journal or Forbes.
Google’s education division has this down to a science. Google is a big name and will get a journalist’s attention in basically any media outlet. If you search for Google Education using the news filter, you’ll see steady, weekly coverage—stories about local teachers who have achieved something great with Google Education, students who are more engaged in their classes at the local school or Google’s sponsorship of some small-town initiative. It gives a gigantic company that trusted mom-and-pop business feel, creates positive perceptions and showcases real-life results—all over the world. That’s powerful PR.
3. Speak your mind.
Everyone has an opinion, but what makes one stand out is experience and expertise. Those things become especially relevant when they can be linked to a timely discussion, so think of possible guest posts and op-eds that would have a timely or special interest appeal.
One reason Gravity Payments’ $70,000 salary move created so many waves is that it fit perfectly into an intense national discussion about stagnant wages, the shrinking middle class and the rise of CEO pay over the last few decades. At the same time, the story highlighted the company.
Think about the areas of public concern in which your brand fits—and can legitimately speak to—and get your opinion out there. If you dare, get political, as long as people have a reason to care why you are taking a stance. That’s what Marriott’s CEO did when North Carolina passed controversial laws affecting the LGBTQ community.
Peter Metcalf, CEO of outdoor gear supplier Black Diamond Equipment, got an op-ed placed in Outside magazine (reaching readers who would absolutely be interested in buying his products) about getting data on the economic impact of outdoor tourism to inform policies on public lands. The CEO of CommuniGator wrote an op-ed about the data protection legislation in EU. You get the idea.
Another angle (outside of anything timely) is the advice post. Use an executive’s insider knowledge and years on the job to provide tips, predictions and lessons, as ClearCompany’s CEO did for Entrepreneur.
4. Go the trade route.
From time to time we all get clients who are really excited about an update to their complex (and really boring) software or who think a development within their company should be global news when only a handful of those in the biz would care. (“But now the mop head can swivel and pivot!”)
When you do have news but it doesn’t have mainstream appeal, turn to the trades—that’s what they’re there for. If you consistently bring solid stories to the trade media, you’re going to be a constant presence in your industry’s news (and, again, build relationships with journalists early in their careers).
Take Airbnb for example. It’s a huge company that is continually in the headlines, but not too many people ran a story on its partnership with Qantas Airlines, which was relevant only to airline members in Australia. Yet Traveler’s Today, Condé Nast Traveler, tnooz and Australian Financial Review all covered it.
Look at CBRE. The real estate giant could stop people in the street anywhere in the U.S. and ask them, “Do you care about the sublease we just finalized with [insert unknown contractor here]?” and I’m confident they’d get a resounding “no” from each person.
Still, Commercial Observer, which covers commercial real estate trends and happenings, publishes CBRE news at least twice a week throughout the year. Skift, a travel news site, writes about Expedia a few times a month. These particular items that won’t make it into The New York Times are reaching the people who do care about it. That’s PR efficiency at its best.
Please use the comments section to share your own ideas and examples of loud coverage in silent times.
Jane Callahan is president of JKC Communications. A version of this article first appeared on Muck Rack,a service that enables you to find journalists to pitch, build media lists, get press alerts and create coverage reports with social media data.