My friend's company was recently profiled in a major media publication, and the entire team was ecstatic. The story was shared all over social media and reached an incalculable number of potential customers. But after a surge in traffic to their website and a slight uptick in sales, their business remained largely unchanged. Though many people had warned of this exact outcome, my friend was shocked and rather somber.
This is a common misconception. Especially as scrappy entrepreneurs, we often think that the "right piece of press" will deliver the "Oprah Effect," where businesses are flooded with new sales like companies who appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show. But in most instances, the reality is that press won't cause sales to skyrocket.
In fact, it's easy to dramatically overvalue media coverage. We work very hard on our businesses and are extremely proud of what our teams accomplish, so garnering the media's attention can be satisfying. But it's important to avoid this vanity trap. While press coverage can yield unique benefits (see below), we have to be strategic so as to not waste a significant amount of time and money on PR firms and press releases.
There are two significant reasons why press doesn't typically translate to sales:
1. Press is fleeting. The next day or even the next minute, there's a new story. We live in an era where the news tends to favor immediacy over accuracy, and we're inundated with new stories--ALL THE TIME. In addition to traditional media outlets, there are blogs and social networks that compound the volume of information presented to us each day. So whether we like it or not, a fantastic story written about our company is usually just a raindrop in a hurricane.
2. The fundamentals of the business are out of whack. Companies are in a constant quest to attain and sustain a scalable product/market fit. This allows the company to maximize its customer base and optimize profit margin. Without product/market fit, press coverage can be like revving the engine on a car with no wheels. Potential customers get lost in the sales funnel, as the core value proposition is lacking.
With these two factors in mind, it's important to be strategic and avoid the vanity trap. We should know exactly what we're hoping to achieve through the media. There's no question that press coverage helps evidence our credibility to the outside world. And such credibility is a major boost when we are looking to raise capital, make new hires, or trying to boost business development initiatives. It can also go a long way to enhance team morale. However, press is not a silver bullet for increasing sales.
Instead, we should be steadfast on providing value to customers, adding the right talent to our team, and improving our key performance indicators. For a surefire way to increase sales is to have elated customers that are boisterous about the company.