This informal CPD article this is now, that was then… was provided by Brian Weatherley at B2B Media Training, an award-winning trade journalist, video presenter, business-to-business magazine editor and media trainer.
Remember the old joke: ‘There’s no future in history’? Surely, when it comes to talking to the press it’s all about where you are now, and where you’re going, not where you’ve been. Up to a point. An organisation that fails to cherish its past risks losing a unique opportunity to engage with the media. Why? Because your heritage can confirm your journey to the present whilst offering a strong hint to your future direction too. After all, what better way to demonstrate your progress than by saying where you’ve come from? Try celebrating a major anniversary or landmark without offering the media a then-and-now story and see how much coverage it generates.
But who’s interested in your history? Answer: Those sections of the media, primarily in the business, trade and specialist press, who’ve been on the journey with you. The journalists who, over the years, have covered your ups and downs and (hopefully) triumphs. Never underestimate how your past can help explain to a journalist why you, rather than all those competitors who fell by the wayside, are still standing. It’s called context.
Don’t let anyone tell you either that journalists are immune to nostalgia…they aren’t. An anniversary story can be a powerful reminder of your staying power. As a former business journalist, I was invariably drawn to those organisations that had a heritage…and actively celebrated it. I wasn’t the only one. Heritage stories draw-in not only journalists but also their readers, especially those who have been in the business for a long time.
Of course, it’s pointless trying to leverage your history if you haven’t actually saved it. So it’s important to keep sufficient records of your past published activities, press releases, company announcements, and especially good high-resolution images, and make that material readily-accessible to the media. Is there a ‘History’ section on your website? If not, why not?
Just look at how many companies, and not just the large corporations, that have a distinct history section on their websites as well as the ubiquitous ‘About Us’. It’s an obvious resource for any journalist who’s researching your business to look at, especially those seeking background material for a story. First in the market with an innovative product or service? You should certainly be highlighting it within the ‘History’ section of your website. (See previous remarks on context.)
Over the years I’ve heard all the arguments against keeping business archives. “Who’s got the space to store old brochures, press releases and company pictures? And besides, who’s going to be the custodian of it all?” In the 21st Century, are you seriously suggesting you can’t store your history digitally? As for who should be preserving it for quick access by the media, I’d say your marketing and PR operation. After all, isn’t your longevity and history another message for them to get over to the media? “But we’ve only been in business for less-than five years. Isn’t it rather early to be thinking about preserving our heritage?” That really depends on how long you’re planning to stick around…doesn’t it?
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