The government-ordered shutdowns and stay-at-home orders designed to slow the spread of COVID-19 abruptly brought a halt to the longest-running market expansion in history. Now we’re starting to see firsthand the resulting economic devastation.
The U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) shrank 9.5 percent in the second quarter of this year, which equals an annualized rate of 33 percent – nearly a third of the entire economy! It’s the steepest decline since World War II. The so-called “V-shaped” recovery is looking unlikely. Instead, the recovery looks to be drawn out and kind of messy.
During the height of the shutdown last spring, I wrote that the only way you’re going to get out of this crisis is to sell your way out of it. I still firmly believe that. I advised you to keep your sales activity level high and actually increase your prospecting efforts even though many reps were pulling back and turning inward. I further advised you to be creative, think differently and find new client verticals to target. Finally, I advised you to sharpen your selling messages, so they are as relevant and effective as possible.
Though the economy has loosened up since last spring, we still have quite a ways to go. Sales practitioners need to keep up their intensity level and their out-of-the-ordinary thinking when it comes to business development.
Here’s something that can help you stand out in this unprecedented time and the unpredictable recovery to come: use the media to build your presence in your local marketplace or industry.
A strong relationship with media outlets can help you be noticed by potential clients. It can help convey your personal brand.
Your success is enhanced when you have strong and positive relationships with relevant media outlets. You want as much free (we call it “earned”) media as possible, and you want it to be as positive as possible. Earned media is more credible than advertising. Anyone who reads/listens to an ad, knows that somebody paid for it, so it’s obviously biased. Articles and stories come across as more objective.
Don’t discount the value of earned coverage in traditional media (newspaper, radio, television), just because social media have become so popular. Social media are effective and have opened up many more channels of communication. Yet traditional media are still important.
The media remain powerful. For relatively small effort and cost, you can reach a mass audience. It therefore makes sense to harness the media’s power to bring attention to your business. Here’s how to do it:
- Build relationships with journalists in your market/industry. Make sure they understand who you are and what interesting and newsworthy information you are qualified to provide. You want to become a recognized expert, someone who is known to be on the cutting edge of a subject area. Media people love experts far more than public relations specialists.
- Remember journalists are under pressure to fill space and time. Frequently pitch new material and offer to “localize” national stories that relate to your expertise.
- Make journalists’ lives easier by providing them with hard-to-find, fascinating information that other media outlets have not yet reported. As part of my radio talk-show host duties, I do a daily minute that airs during the morning drive. Each day I provide a snippet of information. It’s a hassle coming up with new material. If someone sends me something that is new, interesting and related to my show format, I appreciate it and will probably use the material.
- Be quick in returning calls/emails from the media. If you delay, they may grow impatient and interview your competitor instead. I once missed an opportunity to discuss one of my books on CNBC, because I didn’t notice a voicemail in time.
- Be forgiving. Unless a journalist makes a mistake that humiliates you or damages your competitive standing, let it go when you are unhappy with their reporting. The only thing you accomplish when you complain to journalists is to guarantee they will never call you again.
- Journalists have egos just like everyone else. If you get an interview, one of your primary jobs is to make the interviewer look good.
- Avoid clichés and don’t use too much industry jargon. You can use real words and still come across as an intelligent person.
- Don’t ramble on with lengthy answers. Try to speak in 20-second “sound bites.”
One disclaimer: If you’re employed by a company, make sure you clear it with them before you speak to the media. Some companies have strict rules dictating who talks to the media and what they say.