How a legal regulation change can be used to trigger media coverage for your company

By Jim James,

Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of the SPEAK|pr Podcast

EASTWEST PR has successfully gotten one of its clients covered in an American trade magazine, but don’t be fooled. Getting published especially with a long-form article is no easy feat, but it does give the client an opportunity to use that article across many applications, not least of which is in their sales inquiry letters. This proves that with the right tool set and the right mindset, anybody can do this.

How EASTWEST PR got the job done

The first step to making this happen was performing a simple keyword research to look at the media the client is interested in. Ten publications were shortlisted and judged based on a set of criteria, which included the kind of editorial the publication has, what kind of articles they’re writing, the quality of the editorial or how many contributed articles they already have, whether they have an editorial board, whether they have an independent editor or not, or whether it’s just a blog. This is done to make sure that everything is in alignment with what the client wants shared about them. The particular publication they chose belongs to the B&P group, which is a well-established trade media group in America.

After some research, SimilarWeb was used to show the page rankings and the visitors to each URL. In this case, SimilarWeb showed a visitorship on that website of 80,000 visitors per month which, for a trade publication in plastics manufacturing and assembly, is a good number. Multiple websites were checked out, and the goal was to look for credibility in the media outlet. The options were then narrowed down to four media publications in the target market that met all of the requirements.

Photo from SimilarWeb

The next step was to write a pitch, and this was about legislation in America around the Affordable Care Act and the requirements for manufacturers in the medical industry to disclose a shortage of supply should it arise. This was due to some issues where some manufacturers were caught short when COVID struck, thus, the supply chain got pinched and some manufacturers were not able to supply hospitals. As a result, there were shortages and there were issues for people with insurance claims, but most of all, patients were not getting what they needed. This became the pitch because it was something topical, and it needed a hook which, in this case, was the legal legislation.

When creating pitches, remember that this doesn’t exist in a vacuum. This isn’t about the client; this is about the market. The context needed to be created for a journalist to find a foreign, non-US manufacturer to be of interest, because currently in America, there’s a lot of talk about domestic manufacturers and “Made in America” yet EASTWEST PR still tried to get a European-based manufacturer with offices in Asia and factories in Southeast Asia and China into American media and offer their services as part of a global supply chain solution. That was done by finding the hook, and that is this piece of legislation that says that pharmaceutical and medical companies must disclose if they are going to be short in supply and unable to meet the supply chain requirements. If they are, then they can be fined for doing so. It is important to note that getting an article or interview into any publication, whether local, national, international, business or consumer, always requires a hook of some kind, so find a good one that will draw people’s attention.

The pitch for this client had a little bit of a bit of humour in it, and the idea was to have something slightly different from the standard, “Would you like to interview my client?,” pitch. The pitch was five paragraphs long to give the journalist enough of a story and background for them to take up the idea of an interview or featured story. The first paragraph was an introduction into how EASTWEST PR was reaching out on behalf of the client with a topic that might be of interest to the media. It contained the purpose and the hook in order to get the media to take notice. The next paragraph talked about the need of American medical device companies to overcome the issue supply chains face as a function of President Trump’s actions against China. 

The third paragraph talked about the United States being the largest medical device market in the world with $156 billion worth of turnover, that it’s expected to grow by 2023 to $208 billion, and then that COVID-19 has created shortages domestically and also for manufacturers which export globally. The fourth paragraph talked about how the WHO Director General Tedros Ghebreyesus said, “The world is facing severe disruption in the market for personal protective equipment.” This was the justification as far as the market is concerned for why there is an issue to be discussed in the media, and then it talked about the US FDA CARES Act and Section 3121 which amends the Federal Drug and Cosmetic Act. In summary, the media was presented with a story, an industry issue, third party validation, and so the next action would be for them to talk to the client.

Journalists’ response to the pitch

Photo from Newswire

One of the journalists that wrote back replied saying that they had a look at the client’s website and was more interested in the client’s 3D moulding technology than the original topic, so she sent some questions that were then relayed to the client. After a technical director answered the questions which were formatted to come across in an authoritative manner as if the journalist was writing it herself and after adding graphics which included a photograph of the spokesperson plus short, animated videos, a few days later, a 1,500-word article appeared, but it doesn’t end there. As this online publisher had gated subscription access to their content, it would have only been seen by subscribers to that platform. To get around that, a PDF of the article was saved and uploaded on the client’s website and social media channels such as LinkedIn as media coverage, and it linked back to the original website. 

From one small idea, the product was a piece of validated content that’s being seen on a website with over 80,000 visitors per month. That same content was then repurposed, fully branded, and used as part of the sales or publicity material on the client’s website and social media channels. The value of this if the client had paid for this kind of advertising exposure would have been a couple thousand dollars, and it would have the word ‘advert’ on it. But as it is public relations, it has the editorial connection with the editor because it is positioned as a Q&A with the company and the editor of the publication, the obvious implication being that they’ve removed any of the obvious sales pitches and done credibility checks.

Another publication said that they liked the content, but that they had a slightly different article, because each article will need to be personalised for each editor who will be writing to different audiences. The other publication is in the medical device industry, which is a bit more niche and focused on the devices themselves, whereas the other one is in the industry of manufacturing itself. For this journalist, the story included more detail on how the device works and the role it plays within the COVID testing program, because that’s what their audience is interested in. 

In the SPEAK|pr program which talks about Storify, Personalisation, Engagement, Amplification, and Knowing, this is a case study from end-to-end of storification or building out this narrative around these new Federal CARES Act and its amendments. Personalisation involved reaching out to the individual editors, sending the same pitch to each of them but restructuring the content based on their feedback to make it personally engaging with content that’s relevant for their particular audiences as well as authoritative, comprehensive, and complemented with graphics. This was amplified by taking what was written and sharing that across social media channels and the client’s dedicated website. Knowing was about checking the metrics, such that through SimilarWeb, they would get 80,000 views on their website, and that the client is already getting pick up through LinkedIn reposting. 

New tools are continously being developed for people in PR to deploy personalisation at scale. There are platforms like Evergage and Nosto which enable people to have web content that is customised according to the context and the profile of the visitor, so there are ways that the software helps out in self-segmentation to create not just personalisation but contextualisation of content on the website and in the pitches written for the media. Currently, people do contextualisation for the media through their own knowledge and expertise as PR people, but over time, that will become augmented by the technology and websites like Prowly that already have information about what the media are looking for and what else they’re writing about. This is also the case with the Haro reports from Cision or from Telum. Without a doubt, AI is picking up very quickly to match what journalists are looking for and what they’ve already written about, but what the AI won’t do is the work of finding the hook and stitching together the different elements of the market context, the client offer, and the outreach. So, there will still be a role for everyone, and there is the challenge but also the thrill of getting coverage into a mainstream publication, making something happen from nothing, and ultimately helping clients or a company generate more magnets for sales inquiries.

This article is based on a transcript from my Podcast SPEAK|pr, you can listen here.

Cover Photo from Excelsior Online Writing Lab

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