I assume you're reading this because your PR team isn't pulling the media coverage you expect. I get it. I've been in your shoes. And I've also been the butt you're about to kick because the flood of media interest you expect is a tepid drip from a water hose.

After doing this kind of work for close to 20 years, I've seen the marketing and communications functions transform two times over. We no longer live in a world where media coverage is king. *Gasp.* Before the advent of the digital era, media coverage did the hard work for marketers everywhere and it wasn't terribly diversified. That's why old thinking reverts to "go PR that." Today, media coverage is only one part of a complex brand building puzzle, yet it remains deeply important.

Let's take a look at  your PR dilemma by using some of the basic principles of emotional intelligence -- reality testing, self regard, independence, and social responsibility.

1. You don't have a PR problem. You have a brand problem. 

Here's a reality check: PR isn't solely the problem. It's the lethal combination of lacking a compelling story and not strategically maximizing your resources. This makes it a brand-level problem. 

The digital era has all but created a "Game of Thrones" for the editorial crown in marketing organizations worldwide. We are currently experiencing the convergence of the brand marketing and PR functions -- usually at the nexus of content marketing and brand communications, or -- simply -- storytelling.

A product or service itself will not win the media game. Not to say it's impossible, but it's generally a fluke at best and unsustainable at worst. 

You must present your brand through narrative, focusing on why it exists and the problem it solves. And that brand story should live across different marketing channels. If you're telling too many varied, unrelated stories without a common thread, the media and your consumers don't know where to focus and you'll lose their attention altogether.

Are all of the folks responsible for your marketing efforts telling the same story in diversified ways? If the answer is no, as I suspect it might be, keep reading.

2. You must find your brand's truth to form your story.

Effective brand storytelling reflects the people who bring the brand to life every day. Organizational introspection (or self regard) is the hardest part of the process for any marketing team. 

When done efficiently and effectively, it includes different stakeholders inside and outside the organization. It is a radical act of vulnerability earning you an immense amount of respect from those involved and eventually from those who will hear your story.

Press "reset" by conducting discovery exercises. Listen for how the people living the brand tell its story, what they think is important, and how they differentiate it. Then use those truths to form the narrative, which informs the editorial strategy that drives content marketing.

3. Tell your own stories through your own media network.

You cannot solely rely on others (ahem, the media) to tell your story. You have to tell it first. Which means you need to revisit your editorial strategy.

This is important for a few reasons: 

  1. If you don't have a story, what are you pitching the media? Serious question.
  2. If a reporter looks up your brand after receiving a pitch, they ask themselves a few questions: "Are they already telling this story? If not, why should I? That's not my job." Followed immediately by, "What is their unique point of view? Who else is covering them? Are they worth my time?"

Newsrooms are down to bare-bones staffs worldwide. Freelancers are spread thin between gigs, and they are overwhelmed with the needs of their outlets versus the sheer velocity of pitches coming in. You've got to give them something viable to work with.

Take that newly formed story, use it to create your new editorial strategy, and then apply it to your own channels, creating a media network. Whether it's your blog, website, newsletter, email marketing, or Facebook and Instagram, you are your own independent media mogul. Program like it. Bonus: The data you collect can inform future marketing efforts and business strategy.

4. You have a social responsibility to participate and engage.

Engagement, when combined with a solid editorial strategy across your marketing function and media outreach, brings the brand experience full circle.

Extend communications lifecycles and spends by directly participating with your audiences - online and off. Go where they are. Participate in their events. Ask them what they think. Create meaningful conversations. And maintain a mutually beneficial presence. 

Bottom line? You are not entitled to media coverage. You have to do your own hard work to earn it.

Published on: Jan 9, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.