Securing Business Press in 2020: What’s Changed and What Your New Strategy Needs

2020 has been a challenging year for most, and marketing and communications working in enterprise technology companies have not been the exception to that rule. This means that one of the greatest challenges for communication teams has proven even more challenging in 2020: securing quality business press coverage.

A business press-worthy pitch has a standard set of ingredients needed to garner business-press attention. While some of these ingredients remain the same today, there are some new elements that have come up during our conversations with business press media in recent months. Below are three things you’ll need to focus on to secure coveted business press in 2020.   

The Element of Surprise
With the shocking events of 2020, frankly not much is surprising to anyone anymore. And the same holds true for the business media. Your ability to construct an appropriate surprise will determine the media opportunities you will get.

While it’s always been important to pitch business press a unique angle that has yet to be written about, the stakes are much higher now. Reporters are working overtime to keep up with the unrelenting news cycle of 2020, and their time is more valuable than ever. This is especially true for the business press that cover the technology beat. Linking how technology plays a role in exaggerating or reducing the impact of a tragedy is their role. It’s important to consider what you can offer this reporter that makes it worth their time to jump on a 30-minute call. It’s not enough to mention COVID-19, you must draw a line of sight as to how your company will enable a solution to the problem at hand. 

And remember, you are not alone. Other PR professionals realize COVID-related news is hot. A narrative with the element of surprise might start out with something like… “we intended this technology to track pharmaceuticals in the supply chain to ensure typically under-served areas had enough flu vaccines to prevent major outbreaks and protect their most valuable citizens. We quickly adapted our supply chain technology to track the biggest COVID outbreaks, and now we can help hard-hit communities keep pace with treatment needs.”

Now more than ever, PR and communications professionals need to put themselves in the reporter’s shoes and ask themselves, “would I write about this?” or “would I even read about this?” If it feels like a stretch to connect to the trend, it probably is. Don’t burn your contacts with poorly constructed pitches.

The Urgency to Make People Care  
Urgency has always been an important ingredient in garnering any media interest, but it is crucial when pitching business media. Reporters are deadline driven, and understanding the wire date is an important element when they consider a story.. News should be just that: news. Business media have always required a “why now?” in order to consider writing about a specific topic, but that “why now” needs more oomph than ever.

Most communications professionals use a “call to action” in their pitch that is designed to help the reader understand the sense of urgency and compel them to learn more or take action. One caution:  there is a fine line for PR pros – on one side of the line they are educating the public with critical information that will be relevant immediately. That information is served up by experts in a vendor-neutral narrative. On the other side of that line, the pitch can come off as self-serving, and is not broad enough to appeal to a large demographic of potential readers.

The Data to Back up Your Claims
Finding a unique angle that piques the interest of a business press reporter is only half the battle. While having data that backs up your story’s claim has always been a valuable asset to offer a reporter, it is now an absolute must. A CNBC reporter recently told our team, “the stakes are much higher now, and editors are requiring owned data from the source in order to even consider running a story.” The concept of “fake news” has been popularized to the point that taking an executive’s word, without a proof point, is extremely rare.

For example, if your SME is claiming that AI is capable of identifying and predicting potential COVID-19 outbreaks in certain regions, you will need to couple that with owned data or a simulation that supports this proposed reality. Especially when the lives are at stake, no self-respecting reporter wants to write about a half-baked solution.  

My final advice to those of you addressing the business media – remember SUD (surprise, urgency and data) to ensure your pitch is heard by those you admire in the media. With the endless news cycles, it is much more difficult to secure business press in 2020, but it’s not impossible. With a bit more preparation and thought, you’ll be one step closer to securing the front page of the Wall Street Journal – an item on most CEO’s bucket list.

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