Using data to get media attention isn’t as hard as you think

Your company is not special. Your product is probably not “revolutionary”. Very few people care that your best-selling system has a new feature – and I guarantee no one cares that you hired a new CFO.  

Sorry (not sorry) for the hard truths, but the simple fact is that most companies still don’t understand what makes a good story. What you think makes a great story is probably not the same as what a journalist considers to be a great story – this is mainly because journalists know their readers won’t care about what you have to say. To make things harder, shrinking newsrooms translate to journalists being more stretched than ever, so your press release will often go unread and that interview you pitched will likely never happen.

Now that’s all out of the way, it’s time for the good news: the best stories you possess have actually been at your disposal this whole time. Okay, there might be some digging around to find the right spreadsheets, but the point is you’re probably already sitting on a goldmine and you don’t even know it. 

Because the way to get a journalist’s attention is with – say it with me now – DATA! 

Even if you don’t have anything interesting to say, you can create news with data. When handled the right way and moulded into a usable story, data can deliver the media attention you have always wanted, but have never been able to achieve – even with paid content. 

But first, a quick PR lesson

Before we can talk about why data is essential to your PR strategy, we need to touch on why public relations might not currently be working for you. If you’ve been burned before by agencies that promise the world, but only hand over a ‘strategy’ that relies on press releases, then this is especially relevant for you: 

Despite what you may think, you are not important. A story is never going to be about how awesome your company or product is – that is not news. News is a story that’s broader than an announcement of something new (unless that new thing is incredibly timely). News is something that has impact and affects people’s lives or businesses. It’s timeliness, something close to  what we value, and something that carries a human interest angle or solves a conflict. News is unique and it carries consequences. News is not hyperbole and exaggerated claims of being “the best”, “the newest” or “the most revolutionary”. 

Your goal to get the media’s attention is to provide a reason for them to write about you. This means selling them a story, not a product, and avoiding your usual press releases chock-full of corporate jargon that says a lot about, well, nothing. If your press releases and pitches haven’t been picked up, it likely because you or your agency haven’t figured out how to tell your story in a compelling way. You need to speak the journalists’ language and give them information that can be turned into news – this is why they love data. 

Create the news for journalists using your own data 

If you think the only way to share news is via press releases, then how are you going to get anything written about you in between each pitch? When there’s no news to share, data is a vehicle that can be used to create news and provide new avenues and angles for journalists to explore, based on real, unique statistics that tell a story. There are a couple of ways you can do this: 

  1. Use a research agency to run a survey: This is the most expensive option, but a streamlined way to gather new data on a particular topic or issue across a broad sample. A good PR agency will get involved at the early stage of survey creation, ensuring the right questions are being asked to get the headlines you want at the other end.
  2. Run your own survey: You might not have the money for a research agency, but perhaps you have a big database of clients and customers? There are an abundance of online tools that allow you to send out surveys and questions to your existing and potential customers. Some agencies (*cough cough, hello!*) can help you manage this entire process from end-to-end to ensure you get the best and most accurate data.
  3. Delve into your own existing data: Chances are you’re sitting on a mountain of data that can actually be used to tell a story – you just need someone to identify what that story may be. This is why it’s often good to connect your communications team or agency to other parts of the business (such as the sales team) to better understand what data you have, and then to provide guidance on how it can be used in PR.
  4. Use third party research paired with your own thought leadership: If you don’t have any of the above, it doesn’t matter. There is so much research out there you can draw from to create interesting whitepapers and tip sheets on a topic. Add in some high-level commentary and thought leadership from your company’s key spokespeople, and you’ve got yourself a pretty compelling piece of content to share. 

Reverse engineer your approach 

When constructing your survey and data-led approach, you need to consider your end goals and work backwards from the headlines you want to achieve. This is why it’s so important to work with an agency partner that has a strong editorial team and understanding of how news editors operate. If you can provide a media outlet with exactly the right kind of headline and angle, you’re more likely to get the epic coverage you’re craving. 

For example, let’s say a recruitment company is looking to increase its contract roles in light of the growing gig economy, and needs to attract more employers to enlist their services in filling these roles. Ideally, they’re hoping to gain awareness via a PR push that gets their company name and expertise in front of their target demographic across trade and business publications.

The agency, understanding these goals, suggests a survey of both employees and employers in their target market and industries to find out what the biggest needs, challenges, and misconceptions are about gig economy workers, their salary expectations, key attraction factors and ultimate career goals. The survey questions are constructed to gather the most relevant information that can be used individually and comparatively, to result in potential compelling headlines such as: 

“One in three companies in Singapore are expanding workplace benefits to cover ‘gig’ talent” 

Or 

“Growth in Singapore’s gig economy workers set to grow by 30% in 2020” 

By understanding the types of headlines a client wants to achieve (specific to each target publication, of course) the agency can construct a better, more effective survey that asks the right questions. The end result? A compelling story that can be told in a newspaper, via a live broadcast interview, or written into a professionally designed report to share with both media and client customers. 

We won’t lie: a lot of work is required to turn this from ideation to execution, but the outcomes are well worth the effort. In fact, for one of our clients, a SG$15,000 investment in data-led insights resulted in a 3,000% ROI via the creation of a report and a push via PR and lead generation campaign.  

The content you can create with the right data is a story that never stops being told. Your data belongs to you, and you can use it across social media, to write blogs or to create entire advertising campaigns. You can continue to refer to your unique statistics and data-led insights for years to come, building crucial credibility and educating your customers not only on what you do, but why they should give a crap.

Need help talking to journalists? Drop us a line at hello@mutant.com.sg.

 

The Power of Holiday Marketing (and not just at Christmas!)

Every year as festive seasons approach, consumers all over the world are flooded with a frenzy of marketing campaigns by brands looking to get a slice of the multi-billion dollar holiday shopping pie.

At the heart of the annual holiday marketing procession are the powerful Christmas ads. From Cadbury’s play on the “Secret Santa” ritual backed by an emotive soundtrack, to Heathrow airport’s adorable portrayal of an elderly bear couple coming home to celebrate with their family, brands are creating authentic association with consumers by showing them how a product or service can bring them closer to the people they love.

For giants like Coca-Cola, Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer, this is now an annual tradition and year after year, consumers wait with bated breath to see the campaigns launched by these iconic brands. In fact, there is so much frenzy around Christmas ads, that every year, thousands of Twitter users mistakenly reach out to a U.S. based science lecturer John Lewis instead of the British departmental store by the same name. Twitter released a cheeky film around this last year showing Lewis painstakingly responding to the messages and giving us all some laughs.

But there’s a reason aside from emotional responses for these ads. Research has shown that consumers are inclined to spend more during festive periods (blame it on the holiday cheer!) and this presents a prime opportunity for brands to boost sales by capitalising on the increased purchasing power. Brands spend considerable time, money and resources to develop creative campaigns that cut through the clutter and grab consumer attention. But do these ads work?

The short answer is yes, they do. The festive air is rife with nostalgia, and ads with an emotional overtone strike a chord with consumers. This aids in customers forming deeper associations with brands –improving brand awareness and perception, and increasing consumers’ likelihood to purchase.

In terms of business results, well-executed campaigns that are emotionally engaging, and relevant to the occasion – with a clear association to the company’s product or service – do well. In terms of brand engagement and, more importantly, in terms of sales – Tesco, as an example, saw a 2.2% rise in UK sales following their successful 2018 Christmas ad.

Closer to home, Chinese New Year is one the biggest annual celebrations, and this year’s Singtel ad adopted a family-focused narrative that showed three young ‘CNY absconders’ who fly to Australia to avoid the traditions of Lunar New Year celebrations. Their joy at escaping their family during this festive time quickly turns to nostalgia, when one of them discovers a letter from her mother in her suitcase amidst clothes and jars full of homemade snacks.

While some brands tell powerful fictional stories, Indian jewellery brand Tanishq’sDiwali ad took viewers into the home of a leading film actress to show her family celebrating the festival in a simple manner – cleaning the house, making sweets and untangling lights. In a country where film actors are practically worshipped, the depiction of a mega star being grounded in her roots and celebrating the country’s biggest festival with family and simple traditions struck all the right chords.

As more brands jump onto the holiday marketing bandwagon, this is not just limited to mainstream celebrations anymore. Almost every major calendar event sees marketers creating specifically tailored campaigns, such as this Mother’s Day ad by Boots and Budweiser’s decision to remake old ads for International Women’s Day. A Valentine’s Day ad by Borosil India took a non-traditional approach to the day of love by featuring a young couple celebrating their first ever V-Day following the decriminalisation of homosexuality in India – another beautiful ad that celebrates a holiday as well as a cultural moment.

So, what makes a good holiday campaign? From animation and celebrity endorsement to good ol’ storytelling, brands are embracing different strategies for their year-round holiday marketing.

The key is simple: take basic human insight that is aligned with the brand’s core values and peg it to a relevant event to create an authentic association with the celebration.

Getting this formula right will not only bring immediate results in terms of engagement and sales, but the benefits of an effective campaign will extend long beyond the holiday itself, building a stronger brand identity and influencing purchase decisions in the long run.

#MutantsTakePhuket: Team Retreat to Phuket!

Sometimes you’ve got to say ‘Phuket, let’s go to Phuket’ 😉

A private villa, a schedule of exciting team challenges, and heaps of Thai food – us Mutants were whisked away to Phuket this February for our annual Mutant Offsite. Yep, we’re lucky enough that for three days every year, our entire team heads out of Singapore for a teambuilding experience like no other. And after a rather big and busy 2018, we wanted to kick off this year with a bang. Phuket seemed to be the obvious choice for a company retreat.

After an hour’s ride from the airport, we arrived at our accommodation near the peaceful Nai Harn Beach, seemingly a world away from the usual Patong haunts.

  
This tucked-away bungalow villa can house up to 32 guests, and has two swimming pools! | Photo by: Sreya Sanyal

Work first, then pool time? Thai and stop us… | Photo by: Ian Lee


The view from one of the rooms in the villa. | Photo by: Yeo Sze-G


A living space with an abundance of plants is definitely #goals. | Photo by: Claire Choo

Shark Tank (minus Kevin O’Leary)

After everyone settled in (and dried off from a dip in the pool with a gigantic blow-up rainbow unicorn), we were given our first task of the trip – after all, what’s a team retreat without some mind-boggling team challenges?


Our CEO, Joe, recapping company performance in 2018 before the mini challenge began | Photo: Yeo Sze-G

After being split into teams, the challenge was to choose an item that could be found in the villa and pitch it, with just 15 minutes’ prep time. We had to come up with a name for our product, its target audience, a tagline, and an elevator pitch to a bunch of ‘investors’ (our bosses). From a vertical garden to the humble toilet roll, the exercise was all about being bold and thinking out of the box.


Team Towel-In-Oneturned an ordinary orange beach towel a convertible garment. | Photo: Rebecca Lewis

Team Lifeline: The winners for our first challenge made toilet paper a must-have accessory! | Photo: Rebecca Lewis

The winner from the first challenge was Team ‘Lifeline’, who pitched customisable toilet roll. It was a close call between teams, but their creativity, humour and solid pitching skills ultimately won the challenge.

“It was great getting to know more about my colleagues outside an office setting, and it was also refreshing teaming up with people I don’t usually work with during the challenges,” said Alyson, our Senior Account Executive.

Mutant’s Storytelling Challenge

The second day in Phuket was all about storytelling, and an exercise that focused on creating visual narratives for a specific audience. We were again split into teams, and then tasked with finding an underrated place in Phuket, travelling there, scripting a video and then editing a two-minute piece to present to everyone – all in about 5 hours’ time! Talk about meeting tough deadlines…

  1. Getting a Thai massage fix


Photos: Alyson Tay, Bethany Bloch, Ian Lee, Tina Sales

Our first team explored the world of Thai massage on the island. Profiling a pop-up stall on the beach and a massage studio in a strip mall, they taught us all about the art of benefits of a traditional Thai massage and emphasised that you don’t need to go to a ritzy resort for a high-quality experience.

  1. Exploring a living museum


Photos: Kent Toh, Richa Shah, Yeo Sze-G

With team member Kent as the main lead in their video, Team 2 headed to Baan Chinpracha Museumin Old Phuket Town, and told us the history of Chinese culture in Phuket through the rustic imagery of a 100-year-old house that was built by a wealthy Chinese family in the early 1900s.

  1. Being #Basic


Photos: Ivan Tan, Priscillia Chun, Sreya Sanyal

Team 3 gave us the ultimate guide to having some #summertimegladness on the streets of Old Phuket Town. They showed us where we could go to live our best Instagram life by introducing trendy clothing stores and the coolest cafés in the area.

  1. Patong by day


Photos: Claire Choo, Rhea Arora

Reporting from the sands of the most (in)famous nightlife hotspot in Phuket, Team 4 demonstrated why the area is worth a daytime visit, highlighting where to eat, shop and play.

“This challenge was all about emphasising the soft skills required for collaborative storytelling and meshing different perspectives and angles into a coherent narrative. Some of us are lifestyle-y sorts while others are corporate-y data people, so emotive storytellers and data storytellers were able to come together to create these videos,” said Ian, our Account Manager.

Putting the “treat” in “retreat”


While some of us had fun in the sun… | Photos: Alyson Tay, Ian Lee

…others experienced a bit of discomfort. But the good kind – who doesn’t love a good
Thai massage? | Photos: Alyson Tay, Ian Lee

After all the brainstorming and sun exposure, we made sure to unwind the best way we know how: with good, local food. Nai Harn still retains its quiet charm with only a few hotels and villas in the area, and authentic local restaurants dot the shore.


We made sure not to miss out on the classic pineapple fried rice! | Photo: Yeo Sze-G


Our outdoor dinner setting on the last night | Photo: Bethany Bloch


It was a feast! | Photo: Alyson Tay

We had a great time bonding over delicious food, fun challenges and convenience store snack and beverage runs. Sometimes, to relieve stress from hectic work schedules and deadlines, you just need to get everyone out of the office to relax and have fun!

A 360 team photo at Nai Harn Beach | Photo: Ian Lee

“It was time well spent. We don’t only work hard, but we play hard, too,” said Kent, our Business Development Executive.

Refreshed and reinvigorated, we Mutants are back in the office – though perhaps daydreaming every now and then about green curry in our bellies and sand between our toes.

Want to know about the other cool stuff we do while having fun? Contact us at hello@mutant.com.sg.

Brangelina: The PR Breakdown of a Break-Up

The story of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie is one of a carefully constructed image. Since day dot, their public relations machine has been churning out stories to present a snapshot of their performances and their personal lives with the widest public appeal.

This is the same for every celebrity. Charlie Sheen is a Hollywood bad boy; Beyonce is “Queen Bee”; Jennifer Lawrence is the dorky girl next door, and Kim Kardashian (no matter what you think of her) is America’s sex tape celebrity-turned marketing genius.

However, when Brad and Angelina first ‘came out’ to the world, their respective images went from Hollywood’s leading man and woman to homewrecker, cheats and liars. You know the story – Brad was married to Jennifer Aniston, and met Jolie while filming Mr and Mrs Smith. Both denied any romance between them, yet it was a matter of days between Brad and Jen announcing their divorce and Brangelina being snapped on the beach together. Our favourite Friend was painted as the sweet, innocent victim while Angelina was the sexy-but-evil ‘other woman’.

(Brad, as the man in this equation, mostly got off scot-free while the media pitted (lol)  #TeamAng and #TeamJen against each other. But that gender narrative is a whole other blog.)

The point is, there is so much that can be learned about creating, managing and framing your public presence from celebrities – especially now that Brangelina is no more. Yep, Angelina filed for divorce on September 15, citing “irreconcilable differences”.  

So let’s take a stroll through the history of their relationship, and follow the PR powerhouse of Brangelina for a few insights into taking control of your own story.

Control your narrative

As celebrities, people are always going to talk about you. In fact, that’s the point (and the job description.) The only problem is that it can be difficult to manage your own story when everyone is in on it – but it’s a great lesson to the rest of us about front-footing any news where and when you can.

As soon as Brad and Ang were photographed together for the first time, their PR machine was quick to turn things around. It didn’t take long for the stories to change from “Homewrecker Angelina!” to “Angelina Jolie – The New Mother Theresa”. A global humanitarian outreach strategy was the perfect antidote to the backlash the Tomb Raider star was facing, placing both her and Brad in strong positions as they helped with relief efforts and won humanitarian awards.

brad pitt, angelina jolie, brangelina, divorce, public relations

The photo that started it all (Credit: US Weekly)

Beyond this, they were experts at linking their growing, global family to the ‘do-good’ narrative they had going. They were healers, humanitarians, adoptive parents of children from third world countries, and were using their power to heal the world. Even Brad’s image benefitted from the strength of the Jolie narrative. He went from being Jolie’s ‘victim’ (or the main villain, depending on which way it was spun) to a “great dad” and humble sidekick to her global humanitarian efforts.

Their story flipped from sex and scandal to one of family and fundraising. Talk about a 180-degree campaign.

Stronger together: A PR portmanteau

It probably took less than a year for Ang and Brad to shed the negativity and become a brand united. They weren’t individual celebrities anymore – they were Brangelina.

brad pitt, angeline jolie, brangelina, face mash up, public relations

The United States of Brangelina (Source: gesichtermix)

Many other celebrities have tried to ride the same mashed-up name train, and failed. It wasn’t that Brangelina had a better ring to it than Bennifer or TomKat – it was that their joint story was stronger, more believable, and unique. Apart, they probably would have done alright for themselves (okay, who are we kidding, they’re millionaires and on-screen royalty – they would have been fine) but together…. they became unstoppable.

Indeed, any story about Ang also became about Brad, and vice versa. When Angelina announced her double mastectomy via an op-ed in the New York Times, Brad also released a statement to say how “heroic” his wife was, cementing their partnership and joint brand. See? Alone? Okay. Together? Better.  

From a PR perspective, two is so often better than one: An entrepreneur who launches a successful business is a great story, but a ‘philanthropreneur’ who also gives millions to solve the world’s problems is an even better one. If your business has a founder with an interesting story, that’s great, but two founders with incredible backstories is front page material.

Staying on-brand, for better or for worse

Even when things go south, it’s important that a brand’s messaging stays on track and all parties involved aren’t thrown to the wolves. Even though Ang and Brad have split up, the news and announcement of their divorce would have likely been no accident. Just because the main players have split doesn’t mean the game stops being played.

It would have been a calculated decision to ‘leak’ the divorce papers at the same time his new film trailer for Allied dropped. In fact, it works in Angelina’s favour, too, as their joint production company, Plan B, depends on the film doing well. At the same time, she gets to be the public front-footer of the divorce news, as the one who filed the papers in the first place.

Plus, Angelina has her lawyer in her corner being on brand by saying that she filed for divorce “for the health of the family”.

Perfect messaging from a well-oiled PR machine – something everyone can learn from.

Looking for strategic help to create, manage and pitch your brand? Get in touch with us at hello@mutant.com.sg 

4 media pitching mistakes to avoid

Media pitching is one of the key components making up public relations, but the act of pitching is often easier said than done.

To many people it sounds simple enough: “I’ll just write a press release about my client’s business or event, find some media contacts, and send it to them! They’ll definitely run a story because it’s so interesting.”

Unfortunately, there’s a lot more to it than writing and sending emails.

Pitching typically involves a PR professional working with a business to identify key messages, interesting story angles, writing one (or multiple) targeted releases for specific media, and utilising their strong personal connections with media to ensure your story gets the coverage you feel it deserves.

Journalists receive a phenomenal number of press releases every day. The chances they won’t even open an email from you are high. The ball is in your court to do everything possible to ensure your press release reaches the right journalist and media, with the right message that is likely to get the attention of their target audience and readers. That’s what they care about – so that’s what you have to focus on.

And yet, mistakes are so often made during this process, and sometimes the smallest blunders have the biggest consequences. Being aware of the following potential mistakes can make all the difference between a story getting published… or sent to the trash.

Pitching the right story to the wrong media

Imagine you are a journalist, and you cover technology-related news, for example. You receive on average about 20 press releases a day and suddenly, you’re pitched something that has nothing to do with what you write about.

Why should you feel the need to respond to that person if they clearly don’t know what your publication covers?

huge-mistake

It sounds simple, but the mistake of pitching non-relevant content to media is probably the largest error seen in the industry. Under pressure to deliver results for client, PR professionals wrongly assume that blasting out a press release to the maximum number of journalists will result in the most coverage.

Not doing enough research before a pitch reflects very poorly on you as a PR pro and annoys journalists who don’t have time to waste as their deadlines loom.

When pitches land in the wrong inboxes, don’t expect journalists to help forward it on to the relevant parties. It is our job to ensure our pitches land in the right hands, not theirs.

Not looking into your email bounce-backs

If you’re pitching via an email blast, you’re bound to come across email bounce-backs. This could be because journalists have gone on vacation or medical leave, or because they’ve left the publication. Perhaps their overflowing inbox is finally just full.

Your job is to ensure they see your news, so you need to determine why they bounced and do something about it Journalists will usually include alternative email addresses in their automated replies to inform you of fellow journalists to get in touch with for your press releases.

Seize this chance to know someone new from the particular media, re-pitch your story and update your media database!

If that fails – PICK UP THE PHONE. It’s amazing how few PR professionals can be bothered to make a call to follow up (more on that later.)

Losing touch

Public relations is all about connections, networking and relationships. Without this, you’re just a person behind a computer hitting ‘send’ over and over again.

Staying in touch with media is what sets you apart from mediocre PR people. Make an effort to touch base with them regularly, catch up for coffees and lunches, and get into the habit of picking up the phone to say hi. Ask them what they’re working on, and whether you might be able to help. The more you stay in touch, the more likely they are to remember you when they do need something from one of your clients.

conversing

As well as staying in touch, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and time zones. When pitching a story that transcends the region, international pitching comes into play. This also means we need to be more mindful of some aspects that can affect pitching efforts.

Always make it known which time zone you are working from. This saves you from leaving the impression that you are difficult to contact (if, you know, they decide to ring you at 4am). Journalists have pressing deadlines to deal with and with you being out of contact when they will require additional information may result in them forgoing the story altogether.

If you’ll be away from the office for a period of time, ensure your colleagues have been properly briefed on what to expect should they come across any media requests. The last thing you want is to lose the chance of a great story placement from a lack of communication.

 Not following up with media

Like I said, journalists’ inboxes are flooded with press releases – meaning yours probably isn’t all that important to them. If you haven’t heard back from a journalist, it is imperative that you follow up on your pitch with a phone call.

By doing this, you will learn whether the journalist has even seen your pitch or received it at all. This gives you a second chance to bring attention to your story, and pitch over the phone in real time. Usually, this is a much better way to get a straight ‘yes’ or ‘no’. If they say no, you can immediately ask why, and try to see whether there’s any way your story can work better for their publication by focusing on a different aspect or angle.

It’s possible a tweak is all it needed – but you might not have known that if you didn’t pick up the phone.

To discuss how Mutant can work with your business to push your story into the media spotlight, please get in touch with us at hello@mutant.com.sg