Get Coverage Where Your Customers Are

Rolodex Filled with Business CardsAs communications professionals, we all have our “holy grail” of coverage. Maybe it’s the Wall St. Journal or the New York Times. It could be Vanity Fair or Pop Sugar. Maybe it’s Spin or Maxim. But does the pursuit of a clip to put in a frame come at the expense of pursuing solid coverage in smaller trade or audience-specific outlets?

The importance of trade press and niche outlets is hard to argue against. For every TechCrunch, there  is a Commercial Construction & Renovation Magazine. Keeping this in mind, I was intrigued when I saw a tweet from somebody that I respect that he was compiling a media list for an upcoming announcement.

So, I called up Allen Stern, who is the founder of Cloud Contacts, which scans, transcribes and connects your business cards on social networks, email services and CRM systems about how he approaches PR. What makes Allen’s perspective valuable is he is also the founder and editor of Center Networks, a news blog that focuses on start ups and Web apps.

Know where your paying customers are

The top piece of advice Allen shared was to make sure you know where your paying customer base is getting its information. He said that while he has been featured in the major tech blogs, they don’t generate new customers. In fact, one site’s feature on him is his top referrer, but he can only track one (yes, one) paying customer to that coverage. Instead, it was a passing mention on another site that catered to his ideal customer base that has driven the most customers.

When you are thinking about where to go (with news), think about ‘Where are your customers? Getting featured on TechCrunch if you have a food product might not make as much sense as getting on 10 different food blogs.

Allen Stern

This same idea applies to the role a company’s executives play in its communications strategy, he said. The most impact a CEO can have on a company is to be out making deals and networking. The current trend of communications plans are to have the top executives speaking to customers through a blog. But the reality is that for most small and medium-sized businesses, deals still happen in person.

Allen took this to heart, moving to Austin earlier this year so that he could more easily travel to events outside of the tech echo chamber. Instead, he is making an effort to attend industry conferences such as BlogWorld (disclosure: I am speaking there. Join me!) or real estate conferences.

Pitching the pitch man

Of course I had to ask Allen how he approaches PR for CloudContacts after receiving thousands of pitches over the year. So he shared his top three tips with me:

  • Due diligence. Make sure you are researching the outlets on your pitch list. While this may sound like PR 101, Stern says he still gets numerous pitches that start out with “I see that you write about Twitter, so I thought you’d be interested in…” But he said he never writes about Twitter.
  • Make your pitch interesting. Stern said if you are pitching him for the first time, don’t send a note and attach a press release. Instead, send a short 5-6 bullet point mail with links to more information.
  • Stay at it. Be persistent. Don’t be afraid to follow up on a pitch, especially if it’s the first time working with him, Allen said.

As the silos around communications continue to break down, being able to tell a story is essential. Being able to get that story in front of the right people is even more important. How will you share your stories?

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