I was in an unfamiliar city in a historic building, exploring the space with a reporter I’d only emailed and communicated with over the phone. As we reached yet another floor, our elevator opened to a darkened space. Rows of abandoned desks were visible. A space that I can imagine was once alive with so much activity and buzz now sat silent. My guide continued, “…and this floor used to house all of our business writers. That whole section over there [points left] was once full of a team of reporters whose only job was to cover Huge Corporation X.”
My visit to this large, well-known daily newspaper continued much the same way for hours. The veteran journalists who were left told similar tales. You’ve probably heard stories about newsrooms being slashed, as this isn’t anything new. In fact, the trip I’m recounting above happened nearly eight years ago. Yet as the media outlets shrank, clients still clamored for coverage – to build their brands, to tell their stories, to forge relationships with their audiences.
But this article isn’t about all the avenues that have been created and expanded as traditional media contracted. My message today is all about discoverability – pursuing every viable, applicable avenue to broadcast your brand story, provide something of value to your audience, and put your company on their radar screen.
Let’s face it. A lot of LIFE happens online these days. It’s where people keep up with their friends, get questions answered, figure out which products to buy … and it’s where they get their news. Your brand probably fits into many of these categories, and it’s your goal to be discovered. Here are just some of the ways you can do this:
- Write valuable content. See what I did there? I said “valuable content.” That means providing answers and guidance to your audience, helping them solve common problems, and asking for absolutely nothing in return for it. Don’t use your content as a sales tool in disguise. People see right through that nonsense. Use it to be helpful. If you’re helpful and they know they can count on you, they’ll come back. They’ll tell their friends. Not sure where to start? Think about it this way. What are the top questions asked about your product or service? What are the top things you wish people would ask? What are the top problems facing your audience? If you begin to craft your content here, you increase your chances of being helpful AND you increase your chances of being discovered online! Why? Because you’re framing your content in a way that people are likely searching for it.
- Pursue (almost) All PR Opportunities. It used to be that clients would be hyper-focused on one outlet. Back in the day, all of us PR folks used to hear things like “I want to be on the front page of the Wall Street Journal” or “Get me on Oprah.” Today, we counsel clients to not scoff at the opportunity to be quoted on a popular blog, or purse an award or inclusion on an industry list. Remember, it’s all about the discoverability. All those things live online, and in many cases, the sites are very well ranked. Your audience has a great chance of finding you, and in an ideal world, getting a link to your website. Notice I put the word “almost” in parentheses above. I say that because obviously you don’t want your name associated with something that’s not legitimate or that seems like a scam. Check it out, and don’t be afraid to go for it.
- Traditional Media is Still Golden. The flip side of point number 2 above is this: traditional media is still a great way to broadcast your brand. For over a decade, we’ve seen huge spikes in web traffic, phone calls (and yes, even sales) when a big story hits the media. So when you do get a big media hit, especially a national one, be ready. Again, these stories live online, are shared on social media, and start conversations. As a side note – a good friend in the media told me, years ago, that the first thing she and her colleagues do when they get a pitch is to vet the source by reviewing the company’s website. Even if you have a great pitch and a great story, they won’t cover it if your website stinks or they can’t figure out what you do at a glance.
- Engage Your Team. As the leader of a company, you have a wealth of knowledge and resources within your team, and they can help you be discoverable in a variety of ways. Encourage them to share and provide insight on things they’re experiencing on the front lines every day. Those stories are valuable and provide real-life scenarios that can be helpful for your audience, and might be interesting to traditional media. Encourage them to share content with their networks of professional connections and friends. We know from experience that teams who are engaged in the process are discovered and experience much greater results than those who aren’t.
- Be Yourself. Let your real brand personality shine through. Don’t try to be something you’re not, as your audience will see right through it. Craft stories that bring that personality to life, and speak in a unified voice that’s authentic.
From the Darkened Halls Emerges Light
While there are many dark and empty spaces where lively media once existed, we know that the light of discoverability now shines brightly. Be willing to put yourself out there. Sometimes that means being vulnerable, but that means you’re being real and human. Be social and engaging. Be helpful. Solve problems. Create community. Look for opportunities. If you shine your light in the right places, you invite the opportunity for it to shine back to you.