The media can open up the US market (pic: Nik Shuliahin)
Raising your profile in the US means planning your media campaign, says Michael McCuish
As Bill Gates famously said “If I was down to my last dollar, I would spend it on PR”. It is hard to underestimate how important a targeted and effect media relations programme is when you are looking to be successful in the US market. The difficultly is, like most industries, the US media has been smashed and battered by the pandemic.
The US media market was already ever-shifting and at times challenging to read and predict, but there was at least a tested structure which could be relied on.
The pandemic led to many publications being starved of advertising funding, so editorial inevitably suffered. Contacts, which had been built up over years, were no longer employed – many excellent media were sadly out of work. Journalists were required to cover the pandemic, so other stories were put on hold. Many of the best ways to create connections with influential media such as in person events and meetings, were not an option. The journalists who were still working were inundated with pitches and stories: Companies and PRs were finding more emails going unanswered.
So, now as the industry starts to recover, what can you do to ensure you have an effectual US media relations campaign? The first is to pick your media targets very carefully. Publications like USA Today have a massive readership, but if the demographics of the people who read it do not match your business’ target consumers, any achieved coverage is not likely to result in a strong RIO.
Good media coverage should raise awareness and create agency. Ultimately, it should lead to an increase in business. The best way to ensure this happens is to makes sure you are in the right media outlet at the right time. The US press landscape is vast; take time to make sure you are toiling to get covered in the right outlet. Niche, bespoke, and targeted are all very good things when it comes to public relations. Furthermore, you are far more likely to make a strong, positive connection with media if you pitch them with relevant, specific information.
The next step is to make sure you have something newsworthy to say before you consider making contact with a journalist. Is what you are saying new? Is it unique or especially interesting to the specific readership, listeners, viewers of that media outlet? If not, it is prudent to spend some time thinking of why your business is special. In short, why should anyone in the US should care what you have to say?
It is important to make sure that your press outreach is specifically tailored to be of interest to US consumers. Often the easiest way is to talk about how your target reader or viewer can get involved – what can they do to interact with your business. Linking it to an appropriate holiday or existing event is always useful. The media will be looking for stories around most big US holidays and events; if you can find a way to make your business relevant, then it is more likely to be covered.
When you do achieve coverage in a US publication, it is important to remember that this is only half the job done. To make the coverage as effective as possible, your business should be shouting about it, posting and sharing it as much as possible.
At the end of the day, just like anyone else, a media outlet wants as many views as possible. If you can show that you are a willing partner and that the coverage of your company will help attract people to that publication’s website, they will be far more likely to cover you again in advance.
It also helps to raise the journalist’s profile. Often, they will be freelancing and looking for more work – if covering your businesses is a big win for them (as well as you), it is likely to make that professional relationship stronger. It is also important to thank the journalist – it sounds simple, but often businesses forget that there is an actual person behind this work. Editorial is earned and bought through trust and skill – that should be celebrated with gratitude.
Michael McCuish is a public relations director and consultant in New York and formerly worked for Visit Scotland