I spoke to a CEO about press coverage of her company. She said that her competitor got more press. I said her competitor got less press, but that the press it was getting was more ambitious.
The volume of press mentions a company gets is most meaningful when considered within the context of two questions: is there evidence that the coverage is actually promoting the company, and to what extent does said coverage mirror the business’ vision for its future?
The answers to these questions will allow you to make sense of the coverage you get and determine whether it’s actually serving your brand. These considerations also drive our approach to PR at L&T. We advocate that our clients take control of their voice and write their own story, rather than relying on third parties and publications to do it for them.
Measuring the News
I spoke to the CEO of a tech firm recently. Her chief concern was that new players in her space were sucking up all the industry news coverage. Meanwhile, her company — an established innovator with a solid product pipeline — was being ignored, comparatively speaking.
In response, I tried to get a feel for this disparity with some data. I headed to Google News, and queried it with the company names of her firm and her top competitors, narrowing results to last month only. Then I went through the results, page-by-page, counting press mentions (I had to do this individually, because one of the competitors had a dictionary word as its brand name). See the (anonymized) data below.
Guess which of the brands was hers? It was E. Her company was coming second-place in terms of press mentions, losing narrowly to her main competitor. Meanwhile, the scrappy upstart company that she felt was stealing the show came second to last, with only 20 mentions.
However, her perception that this startup was stealing the spotlight was justified — it just wasn’t 100% to do with press. See data on Google Trends below:
The blue line is the CEO’s company, the red line, her startup competitor. I showed her the above graph and said, “Does this match up to your intuitions about the attention you are getting?” and she said yes, it absolutely does. Her intuitions were true, but it wasn’t just about the number of press mentions—it was about the effect those mentions were having.
To explore why there was a disparity between the interest measured by Google Trends and the volume of press coverage, I looked at a sample of the articles that had recently been published about each business. Coverage of the CEO’s company focused on product updates and stock news. Meanwhile, coverage of the competitor spun a narrative on how that company was going to save the world, revolutionize the industry, and change things for the better.
A smaller, newer company was capturing a greater share of people’s imagination by telling a more ambitious story in the press. More press mentions for the CEO wouldn’t help — rather, she had to stop relying on news organizations to get her story right, and instead tell it herself.
If your goal is to engage people and encourage them to do business with your company, placements and mentions in the press must effectively capture your vision.
At L&T, for more or less every executive we meet, the ideas and the vision they share with us in conversation are usually radically more compelling than what’s been written about their company on the internet.
Why did you found your company? What big ideas do you want to share with people? What fascinates you about your space? The answers to these questions stick in people’s minds much more effectively than the conventional marketing materials companies tend to share.
Our approach to digital PR starts with media our clients own. Perfecting a compelling brand voice and expressing interesting ideas takes time and practice. Meanwhile, ideas have to be rehearsed and refined — you don’t know what you’re thinking until you say it. As such, a company’s blog is the perfect proving ground both to develop ideas and to see how they land with readers.
Then, in order to maintain a consistent voice and vision in the coverage we secure for our clients, we write the articles ourselves. In this way, we can ensure that we capture their ideas effectively, rather than relying on third parties. Of course, we have to compromise and stick to a style that we know fits with the publications we’re working with. Fundamentally, however, working this way lets us keep the bite in our companies’ stories.
To return to the CEO — I advised her to take control of her company’s storytelling. She is a visionary, but her press coverage wasn’t. By building her narrative from the ground up, she could make her PR count and get the mindshare she deserves.