Case Studies: Media Relations Gold

By Jon Boroshok, President - TechMarcom

 

Business today means doing more with less (and for less). The media is no exception. As PR pros, we contact the media on behalf of our company or clients, often to find that they're more interested in ticker symbols and financial data than they are in products or personalities. The press seems to not have time for new vendors or smaller companies.

 

So how do we pitch our story without being perceived as wasting journalists' valuable time? Unless your company or client is large and/or public, the announcement of a new product or service (don't use the word "solution" - it's considered as marketing hype) may not be news to a reporter.

 

But who is buying the product or service? If the end customer is a large public company, then you might have a shot at coverage. Don't underestimate the value of case studies! While the media is tired of pitches that amount to nothing more than marketing hype and salesmanship, they're still interested in results and success stories. Real problems solved for real (paying) customers are attractive to reporters. There's gold in third party "endorsements," which the media finds far more credible than anything a PR practitioner or vendor can say.

Too many reporters were burned by here today-gone tomorrow upstarts and their flacks pushing vaporware in the dot-com gold rush. Once bitten-twice shy, they understandably want direct access to whoever is buying the new product or service. They want quantifiable data, they want names, and they want to ask questions without a PR rep serving as a gatekeeper.

 

The media does want to hear a vendor executive pontificate - they want to speak with a customer who has laid down cash and bought into that vision, and they want to know how well it worked and what problem it solved.

 

A client/company doing well in this economy may be news, but the company must be willing to be interviewed and share financials.

 

This creates several challenges for PR practitioners. Have your clients secured permission to mention their customers in press releases? More importantly, are their customers willing to speak with the press? Are their customers happy? Quite often, this is all overlooked until the PR practitioner steps in. One of a PR practitioner's best value-adds is the ability to develop and pitch case studies to the proper media contacts. Here are some suggestions about how to do it:

10-Point Case Study Advice

1. Make sure your client/company secures permission to mention their customers in press releases. Have this permission written into all new contracts whenever possible. Include an agreement that they will speak with the media as a customer reference. Often this becomes a negotiating point in the final contract, and can be used to your company's advantage.

2. Understand and accept the fact that customers may not want publicity. Your client may be their customer's competitive edge, and a well kept secret. Having their problem and solution featured in an industry trade journal is like giving information to the enemy.

3. Speak with the customers yourself. Interview them to see if there is a good story, and if they're someone you can safely share with the media. If possible, coach them about the types of questions they'll be asked, and how they might answer.

4. Speak with your client's sales team. Let them know how case studies/success stories can drive sales and help them earn more money. This should inspire them to look for good story opportunities for you to convert into coverage.

5. You can write up a full case study and produce nice slick marketing collateral for the sales team, but don't send that to a reporter. It will look too much like nice slick marketing collateral. A simple one or two paragraph abstract is more appropriate to share with a reporter or editor. They'd rather hear the story when they speak with executives at your company and your customer's.

6. Refrain from use of marketing hype, buzzwords, and hyperbole. Try to think and write like a journalist instead of a salesperson. Be honest and upfront with the press. Make sure you can tell the story yourself, and then offer the brief abstract to reporters, along with contact information. Offer to set up interviews, but don't expect to be permitted to participate or listen in.

7. Be prepared to offer the success story as an exclusive within certain media categories. You're likely to be able to offer the story to only one vertical in your client's industry, one in the customer's industry, one general business, and one general tech publication/broadcast. Competing media often do not want to run the same stories. Of course if you have multiple customer references, you have multiple media outlet too. Develop a media list and a ranking system to determine your top choices, and work your way down as needed.

8. For added value, share case studies and customer references with analysts you've already briefed about/with your client. This may lead to better analyst quotes and/or referrals to analysts' media contacts.

9. Keep case studies fresh. Anything more than a year old is history. Update it or retire it.

10. Once studies have been shared with the media, it's time to post it on the company Web site, and start using it to develop new sales collateral.

©Copyright 2004 - Jon Boroshok/TechMarcom. All Rights Reserved