This second instalment of my blog on popular tech PR myths focuses on relationships with cybersecurity journalists and the success of campaigns measurement. On the face of it the two would appear completely unrelated. But in fact, they are as integral to public relations as cause and effect are to physics or yin and yang to Ancient Chinese philosophy. Quite simply, the more journalist friendships you have the more success you will enjoy when the time for campaign evaluation comes around.
This emphasis on relationships is why we invite people out for drinks and organise fun nights out. To the casual observer, it must appear nice work if you can get it. But it’s still work. Most people in our profession are sociable and outgoing. Technology journalists by contrast tend not to be naturally gregarious. Fortunately, the occasional fun evening with some friendly faces is usually incentive enough to tempt them out. Right now, the challenge is to maintain these relationships and start new ones at a time when the pandemic leaves office desks unmanned, travel discouraged and opportunities for social engagement severely curtailed.
Here, then, are a couple more myths to add to the three in my previous blog.
Myth 4: It’s about who you know
Yes, but only up to a point. One of the first things prospective clients ask is who we know in the media. The underlying assumption is that because we are on good terms with one of their target reporters this will automatically translate into coverage.
Journalists receive hundreds of stories every day and have so many outside pressures to contend with that it is just not possible for them to use our material every time. The truth is that the relationships we have with the media are strictly professional and no journalist will print an article simply because we ask them.
Preserving that relationship requires us to respect their judgement and only contact them with stories that we know follows the grain of their editorial thinking. If we cannot see a way to do that, it’s best not to offer the story at all rather than put the relationship at risk. No one wants to be the PR responsible for an editor blacklisting the client following a bad experience.
Who you know is also misleading because journalists come and go. One minute we may have a great rapport with someone, the next they leave and we have to start all over again. As in other walks of life change can work both ways.
Occasionally one of our top contacts will get a new job at a national newspaper or a TV station. Or perhaps a reporter that never takes our calls will leave to be replaced by someone who is more open to PR pitches. Arguably therefore, it’s as much about what we know as who we know.
Myth 5: It can’t be measured
As already mentioned, there are many external factors that are impossible to control. In consequence PR has always been open to claims that it cannot be measured in hard ROI terms in the same way that other promotional activities can. However online PR tools like Meltwater and the arrival of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn has made campaign effectiveness a lot easier to gauge.
Social media can be especially helpful for reaching audiences that are niche and difficult to reach. A single article in the right publication and tweeted with the right hash tag can immediately put you on the radar of hundreds of prospective buyers.
That’s why more and more media campaigns are tightly integrated with digital ones. For top stories, the old-style press pack has been replaced by specially constructed web pages packed with infographics, eBooks, video and other creative digital content for journalists and their readers to click through to.
Monitoring how these assets are consumed allows us to measure campaign traffic and levels of audience engagement.
Tech media relationships and measurement form two bookends of a cybersecurity public relations campaign. Successful journalist relationships are more likely to be founded on careful research, knowledge of the industry and the issues journalists write about.
Meanwhile, web-based PR tools and social media engagement levels developed in recent years are helping firms measure the influence of PR campaigns far more accurately than was ever possible in the past. To sustain them both at a consistently high level is among the most challenging, yet ultimately rewarding, aspects of our specialism.