The Art of Build­ing Me­dia Re­la­tions in South­east Asia on an SME Bud­get

Thai-American Business (T-AB) Magazine - - Communications And Public Relations - Writ­ten by: Feli­cia Mour­salien

Ijoined a young tech startup founded by the ex- En­sogo Thai- Amer­i­can Srivo­rakul brothers two years ago with the sim­ple enough mar­ket­ing task: make it fa­mous. Bear in mind that acommerce is a very un­sexy B2B e- com­merce so­lu­tions en­trant ( think trucks, ware­houses and nerdy soft­ware de­vel­op­ers) and I my­self was also new to the mar­ket - a for­eigner who had just moved to Thai­land from North Amer­ica. The mar­ket­ing chal­lenge I was faced with was daunting but I be­lieve tan­ta­mount to what many SME busi­ness own­ers face: you have a great prod­uct or ser­vice but don’t have the mas­sive net­work or bud­get to get the much- needed pub­lic­ity for it. What to do?

WHY BOTHER LIS­TEN­ING TO ME

Af­ter three months of test­ing var­i­ous me­dia mar­ket­ing strate­gies, I was able to take the lit­tle- known acommerce to hav­ing it rank a mirac­u­lous five of ten hits on page one of Google when search­ing for ‘ e- com­merce in South­east Asia’ -- the front page of the in­ter­net – as well as win­ning the com­pany mas­sive re­gional cov­er­age in Tech in Asia, Tech Crunch and even tier 1 global me­dia such as Reuters and the Wall Street Jour­nal. Six months later, acommerce was able to raise one of the high­est Se­ries A fundrais­ing rounds in South­east Asian his­tory, partly be­cause of the buzz and FOMO ( fear of miss­ing out) that my me­dia strat­egy was able to evoke in the in­vestor and busi­ness com­mu­nity.

I man­aged to put acommerce on the tech me­dia map and I hope to share some eas­ily ac­tion­able tips you can re­sort to when you don’t have an es­tab­lished net­work of me­dia con­tacts and the re­sources, hu­man or oth­er­wise, for huge PR cam­paigns. The first step be­gins with build­ing your me­dia re­la­tions.

STEP 1: FLIRT. BUILD YOUR PRESS DATA­BASE WITH REL­E­VANT JOUR­NAL­ISTS. WHEN YOU FIND THEM, TWEET AND SAY HELLO.

Small busi­ness own­ers of­ten send their press re­leases to generic e- mail ad­dresses, such as con­tact@ me­dia. com, and are dis­ap­pointed and/ or flab­ber­gasted when their press re­lease is not pub­lished.

The so­lu­tion to get­ting at­ten­tion from me­dia is to make hu­man con­tact. Find a cou­ple of writ­ers in your de­sired pub­li­ca­tion, whether it be a trade jour­nal or a global news out­let, who write about your in­dus­try. In my case, be­cause I work in ecom­merce in South­east Asia, I searched for the big­gest player, Lazada, in the New York Times. I fig­ured that any jour­nal­ist writ­ing about Lazada would also be in­ter­ested in our com­pany. Use this process to cre­ate your me­dia wish list data­base and try to pop­u­late it with at least 50 con- tacts. The se­cond step is to fol­low them on Twit­ter. Ev­ery­one says Twit­ter is dy­ing, but it is alive and well for writ­ers and PR pro­fes­sion­als. Tweet to them, in­tro­duc­ing your­self. By find­ing the rel­e­vant writer and reach­ing out just to say hello, you are es­tab­lish­ing the be­gin­nings of a re­la­tion­ship— the most crit­i­cal part of pub­lic­ity.

STEP 2: BUILD A RE­LA­TION­SHIP

Now that you have cre­ated your foun­da­tion with a data­base and have said hello on Twit­ter, it is time to build upon that foun­da­tion. There are many ways to cul­ti­vate re­la­tion­ships, but what worked for me, both re­gion­ally and glob­ally, was Twit­ter. My goal was to get on the writ­ers’ radar, which I ac­com­plished by tweet­ing their ar­ti­cles with my in­sider com­men­tary. No­tice how I am not ask­ing for any­thing from them. This is purely dig­i­tal re­la­tion­ship build­ing. To gain trac­tion with lo­cal Thai press, face to face meet­ings work best. Come pre­pared with a phys­i­cal press kit that in­cludes your com­pany pro­file, press re­leases, a USB key with im­ages and lo­gos and ready to in­tro­duce your com­pany. A de­li­cious food gift is al­ways ap­pre­ci­ated.

STEP 3: BE­FORE THE PRESS RE­LEASE, WARM UP THE ME­DIA

Be­fore you de­cide to share your news with your well- cul­ti­vated data­base of writ­ers, make sure you un­der­stand what is news­wor­thy and what is not. We have mod­i­fied Sale­force founder Adam Gross’s Seven Types of Me­dia to shape the an­gles of our press re­lease. The seven types of news that we have seen works best in Asia are: con­tro­versy, ac­qui­si­tion/ ex­pan­sion news, fi­nan­cial/ fund­ing part­ner­ships, met­rics & in­sights, prod­uct launch and hir­ing, listed in or­der of im­por­tance.

Be­fore you de­cide to share your news with your well- cul­ti­vated data­base of writ­ers, make sure you un­der­stand what is news­wor­thy and what is not.

Next, be­fore a big an­nounce­ment, we al­lude to the news and the rough time­line for its re­lease with­out send­ing the press re­lease or giv­ing away too much in­for­ma­tion. For ex­am­ple, I would write to one and say, “We have a fundrais­ing an­nounce­ment com­ing up in a cou­ple weeks. Is this a story you would be in­ter­ested in cov­er­ing?” Writ­ers are hu­man, too. It doesn’t hurt to pique their cu­rios­ity in a story.

STEP 4: SEND THE PRESS RE­LEASE - CUS­TOMIZA­TION IS KEY!

One of the most im­por­tant things to do in this step is to tai­lor your mes­sage to each writer. PR agen­cies of­ten ends up us­ing blind car­bon copy ( Bcc) for all con­tacts or use mail merge to cre­ate an im­pres­sion of per­son­al­iza­tion with the writer’s name in­serted au­to­mat­i­cally. Un­less you are Ap­ple or Uber with a rec­og­niz­able brand how­ever, your email will be lost in the sea of mes­sages me­dia out­lets re­ceive each day. Tak­ing the time to send an email to each con­tact sep­a­rately and in­clude a short per­son­al­ized mes­sage goes a long way.

Se­condly, you should be tai­lor­ing your me­dia pitch as well. Do your re­search and try to un­der­stand the nu­ances of each pub­li­ca­tion. Who is their tar­get au­di­ence? What do their read­ers want? For ex­am­ple, if it is a tech me­dia out­let then fo­cus on the tech in­no­va­tion side of your com­pany’s work, such as the chal­lenges over­come when de­vel­op­ing the ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence that runs your com­pany; if it is con­sumer me­dia, then fo­cus on the buzz- wor­thy prod­uct an­gle.

STEP 5: FOL­LOW- UP

When the out­lets pub­lish your story, the me­dia re­la­tions ro­mance does not end there. For acommerce, when we fi­nally got pub­lished in our dream pub­li­ca­tion Tech Crunch ( the me­dia Mecca of tech star­tups) we im­me­di­ately shared the news on all our so­cial me­dia chan­nels but also sent it out to our news­let­ter data­base con­sist­ing of 8,000 key busi­ness and ecom­merce stake­hold­ers. Why? Be­cause in the age of dig­i­tal me­dia, traf­fic and page views are the writ­ers’ main in­cen­tives and in­di­ca­tors of suc­cess. If you are able to show that writ­ing about your small busi­ness is in­ter­est­ing to his or her au­di­ence you will greatly in­crease your odds of be­ing pub­lished again.

That first pub­li­ca­tion is the hard­est but once it’s done make sure you prove it was worth the while of the writer! Once you have proven that their au­di­ence has a palate for your news and in­dus­try, scal­ing up will be less chal­leng­ing.

SOME USE­FUL COM­MU­NI­CA­TIONS TOOLS FOR YOUR SME

Tweet­deck is your first step to world dom­i­na­tion and by world dom­i­na­tion I mean knowl­edge. You are able to quickly mon­i­tor what your pre­ferred writ­ers, jour­nal­ists, pub­li­ca­tions, politi- cians, thought lead­ers, bloggers etc. are say­ing in real time. Tweet­deck is amaz­ing be­cause you can cre­ate lists to help you sift through the noise of Twit­ter and re­ally fo­cus on the chan­nels rel­e­vant to your brand. My lists in­clude: ‘ Tech jour­nal­ists’, ‘ Hong Kong tech’ ( when I was launch­ing Jaha in HK), ‘ Ar­dent Cap­i­tal’, ‘ acommerce’ and of course ‘ Re­prieve’, where you can find my in­dul­gences from The At­lantic’s con­trar­ian David Frum to Frenchie English fash­ion blog­ger Camille Char­riere.

Buf­fer­app. com al­lows you to do 3- click so­cial me­dia mar­ket­ing across the ma­jor­ity of your chan­nels. I love it be­cause I can in­stantly share con­tent re­gard­ing my in­dus­try across Twit­ter, Linkedin, Face­book, and even for my per­sonal and com­pany pages. When you have a hec­tic daily sched­ule sav­ing even 10 min­utes makes a big dif­fer­ence, so tools like Buf­fer will al­low you to quickly build a con­sis­tent brand voice across all your on­line chan­nels. I rec­om­mend tak­ing half hour of ev­ery day to read your fa­vorite news sites and sched­ule con­tent re­lease across the chan­nels.

SEO Moz Bar is a browser plug- in that de­ter­mines the SEO value of any on­line pub­li­ca­tion. The higher the do­main au­thor­ity, the more valu­able your pub­lished work is ( par­tic­u­larly if you have a back link to your web­site). Be aware that a web­site can have a high rank­ing even with­out high traf­fic. Ergo, don’t ig­nore the lit­tle guys! When mak­ing a back­link­ing strat­egy to op­ti­mize your site on Google, this is a great tool.

Th­ese strate­gies are in no way ex­haus­tive, they are sim­ply what we have em­ployed on acommerce and scaled into acommerce Com­mu­ni­ca­tions & PR Con­sul­tancy for other busi­ness clients. If there is a key take away from this, it is to build hu­man re­la­tion­ships. This is made eas­ier in South­east Asia, be­cause writ­ers want to write as much as pos­si­ble in or­der to main­tain healthy traf­fic num­bers. Un­der­stand­ing that the me­dia are just peo­ple too will change ev­ery­thing!

Feli­cia Mour­salien is Di­rec­tor of Re­search & Strate­gic Com­mu­ni­ca­tions at acommerce. She can be con­tacted at: feli­cia@ acommerce. asia and on Twit­ter @ Lil­fel.

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