Press and PR Viral Marketing

In the last chapter I explained why non-viral marketing was the fuel that will drive your viral engine towards success (and profit). Now, we’re going to look at the first, and oldest, form of non-viral marketing to get us there.

Put on your Newsies cap, we’re joining the fray with some good ole fashioned press and PR.

Using Press and PR to Fuel Virality


These days, we all read and consume content online. (Unless you’re a hermit with no Internet connection. Which begs the question, how are reading this?)

Given that, it’s worth mentioning that the unfortunate part about the ability for anyone to create content online is that everyone has the ability to create content online.

This guarantees that all of us – without fail – have consumed content from folks who either aren’t anywhere close to the experts they’ve positioned themselves as, or have some sort of agenda in getting you to believe their short sighted perspectives.

Since this chapter is clearly about the press, one could jump to the conclusion that I’m bad-mouthing the press here. On the contrary, I see press and PR as an incredibly viable short-term and early-stage growth lever.

Just like every single other marketing channel (yes, ALL of them), you can transform press and PR into a solid needle-mover IF you take a strategic, well-timed and carefully-planned approach.

Using the Press as an On-Ramp


Once you’ve engineered and optimized your viral loops (which we’ve already talked about, and we’ll continue to cover in later sections), your goal with all non-viral marketing channels becomes adding fuel into your viral engine.

Here are a few key points to remember about using PR to accomplish this goal:

  1. Just because you hire a great PR firm or you hire an in-house PR specialist does NOT mean you’ll get great coverage. Regardless of who’s trying to spread the news on your behalf, you won’t get written about unless you’re doing something newsworthy. Be honest with yourself. As an objective observer, if you read about your company today would you find what you’re doing unique and interesting? I made this mistake personally with one of my companies back in 2012. We wasted at least $30k on trying to get coverage until we realized that while we had a good business, we just weren’t doing anything innovative or newsworthy.
  2. If you do happen to get covered in the press, do not assume readers will give care. You’ve effectively sold yourself to that reporter as a potential story, but that does NOT mean their readers will be interested in reading about it. Or they’ll care enough to check out your site even if they do. Target publications your real customers are likely to frequent, and offer a clear, frictionless path to getting more info. Also offer an exclusive incentive to take action for the audience of that publication.
  3. Press and PR can be a short-term direct win. Any traffic you get from it will spike quickly, and then drop dramatically soon after. Not only should you be confident in your viral loop optimization before going to press, but you should also have retention initiatives in place to keep the users from the resulting traffic. Do NOT try to get in the media before either of these are done. You’ll just waste your moment in the sun.
  4. Press and PR is also a unique marketing channel in the long-term social proof it can grant you. How many times have you seen media logos on a website showcasing the media coverage that site has garnered? (Heck, just check out my homepage for an example.) Leads know and trust those logos. As a result, they often will transfer that trust to your brand IF you showcase them at the right times.

Adhering to these four guidelines should allow you to make the most of press and PR to feed your viral engine.

Making Your Story Spread Faster


When dealing with press and PR, keep in mind that you’re providing these media sites with content that they’re hoping will drive page views, and therefore ad clicks. Because of this, you aren’t the only one who wants your piece to be successful. They want the same thing because it’s in their direct financial interest.

More often than not, media sites are driven by online viral word of mouth marketing. You can use this to your advantage.

Rather than releasing just a plain old boring press release about your product, funding, and market size – which does little more than make your mom proud –  try creating something eye-catching and engaging. Try guiding the piece in a direction that sparks the high-arousal emotions that will drive a media site’s audience to share and talk about your product with others.

Stop the Presses with Your Product


Have you ever heard the phrase “stop the presses?”

It often happens in old movies where something so major has happened, no other news mattered in that moment. In such an instance, the shot-caller at a publication makes the decision to actually physically stop their presses from printing, re-craft their next day’s publication, and distribute something reporting on that momentous event.

There aren’t nearly as many “presses” to stop these days, but your goal is to spark that same sense of urgency. Media outlets want to feature stories that spark high-arousal emotions in their readers. So it’s your job to give it to them. How? By providing a eye-catching, engaging, newsworthy narrative surrounding your product.

In other words, use your press and PR non-viral marketing to seize the day.

(If you get that Newsies reference, we are definitely friends.)

What’s Next


Whether you’re hoping to evoke awe, controversy, anger, elation, hilarity or some other high-arousal emotion, do your best to craft a narrative that will make readers feel something strong. Make them feel as though they want to talk about it with others. That’s the key to good press and PR.

Remember, it’s not about you. It’s about the reader and how they feel. If you can do that, PR can be your best friend. If you can’t, it might just become your worst enemy.

But don’t worry, we’re just starting to scratch the surface of non-viral marketing channels. Up next, we will see how you can add a little of the unconventional to your PR to spice things up.


What to Get People's Attention? Act a Little Crazy!

Creating an awesome narrative about your company and pitching it to the press is a good place to start. But if you really want to capture the world’s attention more extreme measures are in order. Are you ready to get cray-zay in our next chapter?


Travis Steffen
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