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Sometimes, I’m amazed at how business owners, marketers  and salespeople don’t read newspapers, watch or listen to news reports or visit news websites for general news or news about their industries. When stuff happens in the world, businesses with solutions need to respond quickly with a compelling story or a spot-on comment that enlightens their target market and establishes their expertise and credentials.

If you don’t keep up with relevant current events, you can fall behind.

Large companies have staff people to keep up on the news and inform key executives about events and their effects on the business. They also can afford PR agencies to get their stories and comments to the news outlets, and they have marketing communications staffs to mount campaigns to support a sales and customer service.

If you’re a small or mid-size company, you need to make sure somebody is keeping an eye on current events and offering ideas to seize opportunities.

Some examples come to mind.

One of them involves an insurance agent whose business is affected by Obamacare. Over lunch, he explained what people don’t know about various insurance products that can help businesses and individuals better manage their costs. I mentioned a series that our metro daily newspaper, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, was running about Obamacare as the enrollment period was about to begin. People’s stories fell in line with his solutions. But, because he wasn’t reading the newspaper, he had no idea that he had a relevant story to tell. Fortunately for him, that story can stay alive for a while.

Sometimes, it’s a good sales opportunity that’s lost, not a PR opportunity.

Back in the days of the “Occupy” movement, I went with a client’s sales manager to demonstrate a product that could help a police department improve its crowd control. As we drove back to his office, I started to talk about the opportunities in other cities, where police forces faced similar crowd control issues. It was news to him because he didn’t read newspapers or watch TV news.

Salespeople at the same company now are much more in tune with the news. When they see something that involves public safety, they’re on it. Their markets include emergency mass notification for disaster response to weather-related events, homeland security needs or crowd control at various types of incidents, such as school-related violence. Sales letters and phone calls go out, referencing the news that’s on everyone’s mind, and they join discussions on relevant LinkedIn groups. The activity helps to open communications with prospects and customers.

The same thing goes for the owner of an IT company that serves small businesses and home users. He keeps an eye out for developments that affect his clients through various tech news outlets and discussion groups. It can be news about operating systems, Internet and network security issues and cool new stuff for personal and business use.

Staying current or getting ahead of the story helps him maintain his position as a trusted adviser and service source. He lets his his clients know he can help them get the best value and performance from their technology investments.

When you get out ahead of the news with a relevant story, you also have a much better opportunity to get your message out there. You can use a number of communications vehicles to deliver your story, including:

  • News releases
  • Op-ed pieces
  • Newsletter articles
  • Blogs
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn discussions
  • Direct mail
  • Sales calls

Are you staying ahead by following the news?