Media relations

National media coverage and B2B tech: The droids you’re looking for?

Written by Sarah Taylor

22 August 2019


Show me an ambitious tech business that doesn’t want national media coverage and I’ll colour myself surprised.

In the UK, coverage in national media is still rightly viewed with a huge amount of prestige – the reach is great and the potential impact likewise.

But securing national media exposure is not the sole basis of a successful B2B tech PR strategy. It can play a key part but, as the idiom goes, today’s news is tomorrow’s fish and chip paper.

This piece is not as an excuse for a lack of national headlines. It’s strategic advice to help you make the most of your investment in PR. I assure you that your PR team wants national coverage just as much as your leadership team does, but there are other fish to fry too.

National coverage logistics

The first thing you need to consider is the work behind the scenes of a national media-focused PR effort. Securing national media coverage requires a really good story and those don’t just appear from thin air.

There’s a huge amount of work involved in developing the foundations for national coverage. Yes, there are some fundamental elements to great storytelling, but in the B2B tech space in particular, you need to have something extra to stand out. And it can’t be product or vendor-led.

Data is key, but not just any old survey is going to do the job. It needs to be new, unique, relevant, detailed and interesting. Journalists will see right through it if it falls short of the mark.

So you need to invest in and plan the research (making sure your sample is nationally representative – 2000 consumers in the UK, for example), analyse the data, craft a story around it and package it up with everything else the media needs, such as great photography, engaging spokespeople, etc. There is nothing quick about this process if you’re going to do it well.

Covered or not?

Even with all these elements in play, it’s still no guarantee of success. All it takes is another major story to break and the media agenda can pivot away from your subject matter in a heartbeat. And that leaves you without coverage despite all the leg work and investment. As a Channel 4 presenter said recently – there is no silver bullet for national coverage.

But let’s just say for now that you get lucky and the coverage came through for you. The office is buzzing, your boss is over the moon, high fives and pats on the back are the order of the day. Then the next day a massive feature on your industry appears in a top trade title and your company is nowhere to be seen.

Your boss starts asking questions. The goodwill of the national hit evaporates quickly and you’re chasing your tail.

Avoiding the pitfalls of a national-coverage strategy

This might seem a little exaggerated, but it’s certainly within the realms of possibility.

If you want to see national coverage above anything else, your PR team will focus on delivering that.

Unless you have a mega budget, that means other parts of your programme will need to be scaled back to free up the resource to meet your objectives.

A good team will advise you of this risk at the outset, but it’s often not until you start to see the gaps appear that the implications of adopting that approach become apparent. The day-to-day coverage – features, by-lines, etc. in trade media – are often the first to suffer.

But it’s maintaining a balance between the day-to-day work and the big projects that are more likely to drive national coverage that keeps you in clover.

Prioritise media targets

No company is going to appear in all of its target media all of the time, so identify the ones that matter most to your external audiences and set about building a forensic understanding of their agenda, writers and schedule.

Include on that list some national media by all means, but ensure you are keeping the right proportion of resource focused on the key trades, vertical and horizontal titles too.

Track competitor media success

If rivals are getting covered in places you’re not, resist the urge to hit the panic button. Take time to read and analyse why they have succeeded and build the learning into your future plans.

Perhaps they had a major launch, a great customer reference point or maybe it was part of a commercial partnership, like they were headline sponsors of a supplement.

Use your findings here as a catalyst for your own fresh suite of proactive ideas.

Create the story from scratch

Don’t recycle old materials and talking points.

Pick your target publication and get a really clear understanding of who you need to pitch to, what they are interested in and where you can add something distinct and new to the narrative.

Don’t scrimp on research

The right data, presented well and with authority, really can make the difference. It’s that simple.

Make messaging a habit

Is your message still relevant? Run an annual or biennial review around messaging in the marketplace and how you stack up. Look at industry reports like Gartner’s Hype Cycle to identify relevant topics and talking points.

It helps you to identify macro trends in coverage, niche or untapped talking points, and where you need to focus your future efforts.

This all matters for securing national coverage, so make it part of your BAU approach and other aspects of your media relations programme will feel the benefit.

Don’t just limit thinking to PR

Especially if you’re regularly reviewing messaging. Feed it back into the leadership team of the business so that marketing, internal initiatives, resourcing, etc. can feel the benefit and align. It may also influence commercial decisions.

And above all, trust that your PR team wants to do the very best job they can and give them the tools to succeed.