You are a storyteller. Your business card may say investor relations. It may say public relations or corporate communications. But every day you’re preparing stories, telling stories or reflecting on told stories so the next one can be even better. And increasingly your audience is looking very similar to that of your colleagues.
Analysts, investors, media, customers—they’re all paying attention. To have a strong voice in the marketplace, you need to work hand-in-hand not only with the other storytellers in your organization but those outside it as well.
So what do journalists want? We asked them about their pain points and preferences for our new guide, "What Journalists Want." And no matter what your business card says, the principles of good storytelling and relationship building are the same.
Engaging journalists on social media
If you're using social media solely as another distribution channel for your corporate announcements, you’re missing an opportunity. Yes, reporters are scouring these platforms for story ideas but you shouldn’t be thinking about how you can get eyeballs on your press release. First, ask how you can help. Twitter, in particular, offers amazing transparency into what a reporter covers and their interests.
Mark Jones, Global Communities Editor at Reuters News, shared an anecdote in our guide about an unfortunate red wine spill while his wife was out of town. He took to Twitter for advice and received a reply from a PR pro with a solution.
"A few days later, the same person rang me up and came on to me with an exclusive of some social media research," Jones says. "And I just thought it was a fantastic way of public relations people behaving. Help journalists in trouble out. Find out what he’s interested in, and then serve up a little exclusive."
Follow journalists, find common ground and be a resource even when it may not directly involve your company. This is how you build a relationship, credibility and emotional equity. This is how you become a go-to source who can more easily get their attention when you need it. It’s not about trading favors -- it's about helping each other on a one-to-one level and forming a partnership. The technology continues to change but the human element remains a constant.
The impact of brand journalism on the value of earned media
The evolution of IR and PR websites from a resource for contacts and news into a multimedia destination is positive both for brands and journalists. First, most companies are publishing content every day -- even if it's a handful of tweets -- to engage their audiences with greater frequency and transparency.
The ones who are doing it well and building communities are offering value, whether it's education or entertainment. Some are going even further, embracing the "every company is a media company" adage and packaging content across multiple channels just like a news organization.
On the surface this may look like they are taking news production and distribution into their own hands—and they are—but it’s complementary to earned media. In fact, the availability of well-produced articles and video on your corporate site makes a reporter’s job easier and provides a richer experience for someone interested in learning (and writing) about your organization. Just don’t forget the basics.
High-resolution images and contact details for an actual person -- rather than a general email alias -- are still missing on many websites, says Amanda Pierce, CEO of Burson-Marsteller UK: "Why not make publicly available information easy to access? Access and transparency is a good thing."
It is better to give, then receive
A recurring theme that comes up in our conversations with journalists is, "Be human." When we think about how we build strong relationships in our personal and professional lives, key themes include sharing common interests, collaboration and selflessness. Firing a promotional pitch out to a target list of media contacts strays from these fundamentals.
Asking "Are you interested in doing a story on us?" before asking"How can I help with the stories you're interested in writing?" isn't being a valuable partner. To paraphrase Gary Vaynerchuk, what can you give (and give and give again) before asking someone to do something for you?
The relationship between journalist and PR pro or IRO is reciprocal and building rapport is important, but content and access remain critical to each party being successful. The more you can do to support their research and create high quality content they can use to pitch an idea to editors and complete the story, the more likely it is that you will receive coverage. It should not be overlooked that supplying multimedia assets (e.g., images, video clips) and access to your spokespeople not only makes a reporter’s job easier, it gives you greater control over those components of the story.
Whether you’re drafting a press release or uploading images to your newsroom, ask yourself how this piece of content is going to help a journalist package a story. The pitches that come across as stale and over-promotional are usually the ones that focus on your interests and don’t fit into the context of what’s important to reporters and their audience. With the level of transparency social media affords, it’s easier than ever to find that match.
Improving IR storytelling
Communicating your financial performance is more than a requirement, it is an opportunity to engage and inspire. The numbers tell a story of your company’s financial performance, but there are compelling stories behind the results -- your leadership’s vision, your customer’s successes, the challenges your employees overcome and the milestones they reach.
Your IR website is no longer just a destination for disclosure, it’s an ongoing opportunity for engagement. It’s a content platform just like your corporate newsroom that feeds the information needs and curiosity of journalists as much as investors. Promote your upcoming earnings webcast with a series of video client testimonials.
Humanize your management team with executive interviews ahead of your Investor Day. How are you going to bring forward the human stories across your organization?
Investor relations and public relations are not converging --they already have: shared audiences, integrated messages, and increasingly, common communication strategies. If you're an IRO with questions on content strategy or a PR pro interested in weaving your company’s financial narrative into your engagements, why not converge over lunch with your counterpart to share a story or two?
And while you’re at it, invite a journalist.
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Mike Piispanen is vice president, Global Corporate Solutions-PR, NASDAQ OMX. Download NASDAQ's "What Journalists Want."