It has been 1.5 years since I began my journey in the content marketing team at iPrice Group, a Southeast Asian e-commerce startup with 150 employees.
Normally, startups at the scale of iPrice would not dream of earning tens of media publications, much less 600 in one year, yet that is exactly what iPrice has been doing successfully for the past three years.
We have earned publications and brand mentions from the likes of SCMP, Bloomberg, VnExpress, ZDNet, CNA, and Mashable, all from a small office in Kuala Lumpur.
So how do we do it? Below are the three key things that I’ve learned personally from my time at iPrice about doing media relations in Southeast Asia:
Don’t disrupt, participate
Shortly after joining, the first thing I did was trying to secure media interviews. Like any young and eager PR executives, I was so sure that the company’s story simply ‘deserved’ coverage. I probably don’t have to tell you how hard I failed at this task. Without a budget for paid coverage nor a household name, I pretty much got laughed out of the room.
From that experience, I slowly learned my first difficult lesson: most brands don’t get to decide what’s newsworthy.
Readers nowadays are smart enough to recognize flimsy PR attempts and journalists know fully well when they see contents that no one wants to read.
Therefore, as a brand, stop trying to disrupt the news to talk about yourselves. Stop distracting readers with content they have no interest in. And especially stop disturbing journalists with your narcissistic writings.
Instead of doing those things, learn to recognize & participate in conversations that are already happening.
One example of this is our most successful content, the Map of E-commerce, which accounts for roughly 70 per cent of our media coverage in Vietnam.
Back when iPrice first brainstormed the idea for this, the team saw that there were lots of talking in the news and on social media about online shopping. People were expressing great interest in e-commerce and want to learn more about it.
Instead of disrupting these online conversations to sell ourselves, we decided to actively participate & contribute to them. We created data-driven research about the state of Southeast Asian e-commerce utilizing our own insider knowledge.
The result is a comprehensive and valuable content that allows us to attract readers & earn organic publications.
The keyword here is ‘valuable’. But how to create values in the world of media?
Be honest and insightful
Over time, I recognize that there is a problem troubling the media world in Southeast Asia: lack of genuine and quality insights. People who want to be on the news here often don’t have much to say, while the ones who know what they’re talking about usually avoid the spotlights.
As a startup looking for news coverage, this is a perfect opportunity for you. If you’re able to become that rare source of valuable industry insights for the media, you can easily insert yourselves into any media articles regarding your industry.
It is how iPrice has been able to appear consistently in the news. Whenever media across SEA discuss online shopping, they’ll reference our Map of e-Commerce or whenever they talk about the courier industry, they’ll cite our joint research with Parcel Perform.
Easier said than done, of course. You don’t produce valuable insights by talking nonsense or playing safe. You achieve that by being careful but honest and interesting.
That means avoid being boring and predictable at all costs. Remember journalists receive dozens of typical press releases a day. They can smell boilerplate PR statements & worthless information from miles away.
So, remember to do your research, keep up with the industry’s trends, spice up your press releases with insider knowledge, back up your content with data, and practically become an expert on the subjects regarding your industry.
Also read: Save it for a rainy day: How startups can handle media crisis like a pro
Most importantly, know your unique perspective. Maybe you possess some data that nobody else has, maybe you have certain professional experience that’s worth sharing. Whatever it is, utilize it and make it your thing.
And last but not least, you need to take your relationship with local journalists to the next level. Which leads to my final tip.
The media is your friend, literally
I know it seems hypocritical to talk about being a friend with the media in an article on how to take advantage of them, but like any other friendships, you can always be helpful and caring while still expect to ask for favours from time to time.
The key here is to put their interests ahead of yours and to go above and beyond.
See they’re looking for information? Offer to help introduce them to the appropriate people.
Know they’re interested in a certain topic? Discuss it with them regularly and tip them off whenever you discover related insights.
Read a good article from them lately? Say a word of congratulations and help them pass it around.
In other words, treat them like human beings, and listen to them before even thinking about asking them to publish your PR gibberish. And do that consistently.
There was a time when I thought this was typical in the world of PR but it turns out it’s not. Media relations in Vietnam is still pretty much limited to paying people off and sending press releases occasionally.
So, just by doing things in a human way, you will create a vast field of PR opportunities for yourself and your brand.
This article was first published on e27, Jan 9, 2020.