Earned Media, Executive's Corner, Media Relations
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This article is dedicated to the editors, reporters and producers who receive tons of crap emails every single day and meant for anyone who is trying to connect with these people on a regular basis. Pitching stories was easier back in the day. There were so many reporters at equally well-funded media outlets like Business 2.0 and The Industry Standard, among others. These young reporters were looking to write about the next best thing, so getting a meeting and placing a story was a lot easier than it is today.

Most reporters don’t care who you are and they don’t owe you a thing. Coverage is all up to the PR people, startup founders, CEOs and everyone else competing for a headline to deliver.

It’s all about the message, which matters most. There are four key pillars in communications and messaging to get coverage in a world where reporters receive about 100 pitches every single hour of the day. You have to be different, defensible, disruptive and direct.

What Makes You Different?

Understanding what makes you different and better than the competition is one of the most important elements in messaging development and something that the editorial world will drill founders and CEOs on all of the time. People often think they know what their key differentiators are, only to learn that their competitors are saying the exact same thing.

This is where research comes into play. Check out the competition and scour their marketing materials, press releases and newsletters to better understand how they are positioning their products and what they believe makes them different.

Is Your Message Defensible?

We conducted an exercise recently for a new client, only to learn that their top three differentiators were being claimed by the competition as well. Our two teams went back to the drawing board. They looked more closely at the products and the team behind the organization, and uncovered a unique blend of proprietary technology paired with human intellect.

Then, we asked whether this combination was actually defensible. Could they own this message for an extended period of time without the competition sweeping in and claiming the exact same thing? The answer was yes. The client’s technology is loaded with patents. That gives their team of analysts the power to look at data in a very different way and convert this data into unique insights that are used by marketers and media buyers.

Patents represent one of the best ways to defend a position, but there are other ways too. You can be the first to market with a new technology that could take a long time to replicate, own a majority share of customers within a specific category or have the ability to beat out competitors on price because of design and production efficiencies. The key here is to pinpoint the differentiators and then ensure that you can defend that position when called to the carpet.

Are You Disrupting the Marketplace?

Disruption is also a key element in creating and defending your position in the marketplace. While not every tech company or startup will fully disrupt a market, there are many examples of companies and products that have successfully changed key categories and shifted consumer behavior.

Some of the most notable examples include sharing economy companies like Uber and Airbnb. Apple changed the way we communicate with the introduction of the iPhone, which led to the creation of the app marketplace estimated to be worth $77 billion by 2017.

Not every company in its entirety is disruptive, but look very closely under the hood as you delve into messaging development. Maybe your disruption lives within a patent, maybe you are changing the way consumers are behaving or you’ve completely altered something in a person’s daily life in some unique way. Try as hard as you can to identify this, because it really helps to define the leaders and stragglers in an industry and will force you to think outside of the box.

Are You Being Direct?

You have taken the time to identify what makes you different, you are now able to defend that differentiation and also define why it is disruptive. Now you need to be sure that your messaging is direct. Get to the point without flowery marketing speak, buzzwords and claims that cannot be defended with actual data. Stay away from annoying marketing terms such as seamless integration, robust technology platform, and harnessing strategic insights to drive optimal ROI. We see and hear them all of the time.

Conclusion

Write it down, read it out loud and then ask yourself, “Is this how I would explain my company, product or service in a way that a layperson would clearly understand?” Share it with your friends, clients and partners to ensure when you hit that send button, publish that blog post or print that marketing material that the words are different, defensible, disruptive and direct.

Be confident the story you are telling is the right one and hits on all four key pillars. There can easily be millions of other emails waiting to be read and marketing messages dying to be heard. So make sure that your positioning and messaging rises to the top, because you only get so many chances in this vast sea of noise.

Michael Volpatt is a partner with Larkin/Volpatt Communications.

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