Every presidential election subsumes a massive percentage of the news hole. But like everything else about 2020, this one’s going to be an absolute cluster. COVID. Trump. RBG. Taxes. Protests. The Melania Tapes. And there’s more to come, no doubt.
And covering it all is a media so bifurcated that CNN’s opinion desk is considered as far left as Mother Jones, while Fox’s opinion desk is equivalent to Breitbart. Simply put, if your story doesn’t tie back to ‘Trump bad’ or ‘Biden bad,’ you’ll have a hard time getting attention from major media.
If you’re a communications professional not working for the DNC or RNC, you’d be forgiven for wanting to take the rest of the year off. And if, like me, you’re a B2B comms pro, you’d probably like to hide in occupational quarantine until COVID lifts.
But you’ve got a job to do. And there are ways around this mess.
First, every good media program, whether you’re pitching a candidate or a storage array, begins with story mining. Interview your executives and experts. Ask them questions. Lots of questions. They are not trained storytellers. You are. That’s why they hired you, to go find those hidden nuggets within your organization that they think are merely cute anecdotes. But when you hear them, you realize they are the linchpin to a great pitch. I recently learned that a privately held client’s CEO doesn’t have an investor pitch deck. He uses a single slide. I would never have learned about such an unusual and compelling angle if we didn’t ask for an hour of his time to interview him. It’s just not the kind of thing you find if all you do is write press releases and pitch blindly.
Second, find – but don’t force – election angles for your company. Are you in telco? Perhaps you can speak to the digital divide and the need to make certain all American students have equal access to broadband while learning from home. Have you shut down your offices? Maybe you can offer a strong point of view, or even a product, that speaks to the undeniable shift to remote work and what that means for society, the American worker and the economy. Or maybe you’re in security, and can therefore either assure us or scare the bejeezus out of us with what you know about election interference. We’ve scored for Big Valley clients with several of these topics in the past few weeks.
Third, remember that there is still life outside politics, especially for really good stories. Without a super-strong election angle, scoring hits on major network broadcast shows or in The Washington Post is probably going to have to wait for all but the FAANG’s, several of which will be testifying to Congress again later this month. But there are strong outlets in and outside the tech industry. Just last month, we helped a client (the single-slide-pitch-deck CEO) land a story in Business Insider. The were no politics. But his story was so good, it led the Business Insider Select newsletter. Some guy named Trump scored the second headline.
Beyond outlets like Business Insider, there are dozens of focused trade outlets that have, for too long, been considered something a B2B comms pro settles for. “Don’t pitch them,” you’re told. “The CEO won’t care.” Or “We really need the Journal. Our board’s counting on it.”
That either/or attitude is not just silly and outdated, it’s bad business for both you and your company. (And we have data that proves it.) There are many outlets that care deeply about B2B tech, and so do their thousands, it not hundreds of thousands, of readers – at a percentage far higher than a major daily. So give eWeek, TechRepublic, Dark Reading or The New Stack a read and see what your company has that would intrigue them. Those are direct hits for B2B tech companies; whereas a B2B tech piece in a major newspaper, as nice as that is, might intrigue one reader in 50.
Fourth, sell no news before it’s time. It is strategy, not surrender, to realize that the next few weeks are probably not a good time to roll out that big cloud computing initiative or IOT survey that, in normal times, would warrant both business and tech coverage. If it’s strong and evergreen, it will still matter on November 4 and January 22. Focus in the interim on the tactics above.
Oh, and one last thing. Vote!