You open the Wall Street Journal, and you can’t believe its happened again. That competitor you despise is once again receiving undue attention. And you know he is just full of it. He hasn’t invested in his offering like you have. And you have been there to pick up the pieces when he has left behind him nothing but destruction and chaos. You wonder how he is so lucky. Why is he always the one who is featured?
The most common reaction to this situation is to research the kind of marketing stuff he does and try to do the same. If he is buying pay-per-click ads, then you buy more pay-per-click ads. If he is relying on a social media ambassador strategy, then you begin googling random marketing terms to start one yourself.
If this is you (or if you think it may be in the future), then I would entreat you to stop.
Stop chasing a competitor’s strategy. Stop thinking you know his strategy.
Instead, employ the best-kept secret to landing more media attention for you and your brand. That is this: start with you. Remember your foundation story. Remember the romance of your product or service. And remember your greatness.
Then tell that story. (If you need tips on this, go HERE). Tell it again and again. Tell it to everyone who will listen and to those who will not listen. Make marketing decisions based on the attitude and direction of your story. Do so unapologetically. Do so even after you have grown weary of your story.
This approach requires no special training. It requires no real budget. What it requires is your belief that you are remarkable and have a story worthy of being told. If you can muster this belief (or fake having this belief) then you will be ahead of most of the competitors that occupy your mind and soul. And it requires a lot of work. Because even after you do the heavy lifting of asking existential questions, you must now summon your energy to tell the story.
Also, this approach – starting with belief and working tirelessly to communicate your belief – is proven to be successful. It works. Here’s how.
A Case Study in Creating PR Luck: Antennas Direct and the TV Liberation Bus Tour
Some background: Cord cutting (the severing of your relationship with a cable or satellite TV provider) is at an all-time high in the United States. The trend is largely due to the rising cost of pay television and its lack of relevant content – most of which is repeatable with less expensive streaming services (Netflix, Hulu and Amazon). However, as more Americans cut the cable cord, they are also missing out on local broadcast television with news, sports, weather and the best entertainment. Also, not enough people know broadcast television is provided in high definition without a monthly fee with a TV antenna.
Antennas Direct is an Inc. 5000 Hall of Fame company and, for the past couple of years, the company has experienced exponential growth. Instead of investing more cash into purchasing space and doing marketing stuff, they decided to get clear on their story.
We led a branding discussion to find the nuanced reasons for the antenna revival and reminded ourselves of the brand’s foundation story and it’s attitude. Armed with our refreshed story, we set out to do something remarkable and create some of our own marketing luck – a tour of the United States in a giant bus. While it may sound random, traveling to key cities and giving away product was in greater alignment with the brand than the purchase of ads or buying marketing attention. Instead, being disruptive and getting the product into households serves the brand more powerfully. In each location, a local broadcaster acted as the giveaway partner, and live media hits took place.
This live coverage in local television markets led to more coverage by national radio programs such as Marketplace by Kai Ryssdall, and other television media. The full extent of the coverage is yet to be realized, but essentially, the positive energy and storytelling led to coverage which begat coverage which begat yet more coverage. Soon our calendars were filled with requests for interviews (the biggest of which I can not share yet, but it is a major network news program).
This level of attention was generated for TV antennas – what most would consider a modern-day buggy-whip, a tired technology. Imagine if you could what some belief and dogged earnest desire to spread your message could do for your brand.
Here are some of the keys to making your belief more compelling for the media:
Finding the right messaging partners
Once you know why you believe what you believe and what your attitude will be, find others that have the same motivations and messaging. The media loves a story that is bigger than just one brand. Serve them best by finding those partners and making them feel special. For the TV Liberation Bus Tour, Antennas Direct partnered with local broadcasters, the National Association of Broadcasters and TVFreedom.org. In this way, our interviews have more depth and meaning because it is less about selling antennas and more about liberating people from their unhappiness with cable providers. We were able to say, without any completely selfish profit motive, that we were granting access to the best television and helping people save money.
Creating a team focus
Public relations results are enhanced best by a group of passionate people who care deeply about a cause beyond personal gain. When no one gets all of the credit, then everyone gets to share in media storytelling success. Do not settle for people who are not team players. Find a group that can function without full need of the limelight. For the bus tour, a public relations team consisted of leadership from Antennas Direct, the NAB, Kolbeco and TV Freedom. When we had successes, we all reaped the rewards. Because we established early on that we were of one mindset and set of values.
Work it. And work it more.
Public relations is not a transactional game. There is no purchase. There must be an earnest commitment to seeing something through that is bigger than a few sales. What you must have is a desire to serve the media as a customer and be a servant also to your story. It must be believed at the deepest of levels within you and your brand’s spokespeople. With the bus tour, travel is hard work. Most of the mornings were 4 AM wake up calls for morning news show programming. There is little rest and a lot of (literal) heavy lifting. You must have passion for the message and believe to work this hard. And it pays off.