The 4 Tiers of Media Relations: How our Small Marketing Team Reaches the World

JotForm has been around a little while, but we still have a whole lot of story to tell. Even though we have 2 million users, we’re a well-kept secret. We’re known well by those who know us well. And that’s both an opportunity and an indictment for anyone on the marketing team here in San Francisco. Because the world should know who we are.

As a member of the JotForm marketing team, it’s my job to let prospects, current users, and passive publics know what we’re doing, to get others to talk about us, and to make sure we’re a household name.

While my day-to-day job has elements of typical marketing departments (advertising, social media, blogging, newsletters, etc.), a big part of what I do with JotForm is public relations. Because while we can yell from a mountaintop how great JotForm is, it sounds demonstrably better when someone else says it. Generally speaking, there are several tiers of placements we get at JotForm, and they all have their place.

basketball hoop

Tier 4: Layups

We use Help a Reporter Out for what I call “layups.” It’s a service that emails a list of reporter inquiries looking for sources for stories. Whenever they come in, the team gives it a scan and responds to any that seem like good fits. It’s generally a mixed bag. We love to see our name out there in any capacity, but the reporters typically aren’t looking for online form experts (at least not yet). Still, it’s a nice way to get warmed up for the day and we always love to see them come through.

typewriter

Tier 3: Contributed

The third tier for public relations is contributed posts to good sites, with a link to JotForm in the bio. While these sites aren’t typically aimed at JotForm users, they still matter for two primary reasons. Part of being able to do my job successfully is having a solid writing portfolio and being able to convince other publications to let me write. So when I’m able to say I contribute posts to Tech.co or PR Daily, it gives added legitimacy for future pitches. The other big reason it’s good to do these is that it still puts JotForm’s name out there since I have it in my bio in the stories. It’s a way that JotForm can be associated with thought leadership in larger publications. And it just might introduce a few folks to our brand at the same time.

man playing chess

Tier 2: Strategic

The second tier for public relations at JotForm are guest posts in specialized publications. I typically choose blogs and publications based on where I think a match could be made between JotForm’s offering and their readership. Then I pitch asking about being able to write for them or to have them include JotForm in one of their articles. Our outsourced PR agency does a lot of these for us as well. These are probably my favorite wins that we get as a PR team, because I think they’re some of the most impactful. We know who our users are: educators, designers, nonprofits, law firms, etc. So I’ll pitch specialized education technology blogs, design blogs, nonprofit blogs, and legal blogs to see if they wouldn’t mind an article about how JotForm or online forms can help their industry. The pitches don’t always land, but when they do they’re really nice to have because you know it’s directly targeted toward the right demographic.

kid cheering

Tier 1: The Big Time

So how about the top tier? Well, those are pretty special. Tier 1 PR hits for us are when big-name publications write about JotForm in a contextual manner. Basically I consider it Tier 1 when a household publication talks about what JotForm does in a positive light, and gives us fair spotlight in the article. These are huge, game-changing wins. But they don’t happen every day. Typically as a team we’ll go back and forth between all the tiers, but these are by far the most special.

As a team, we’ve gotten them through a few different means. Our PR agency has had a couple connections with reporters at Inc. and The Next Web, and have used those to get really great articles about JotForm. We also pitched an Entrepreneur writer from Twitter and it eventually led to a really nice piece. It’s a time-consuming game getting Tier 1; a lot of times I don’t hear back after I send a pitch. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve Tweeted to TechCrunch writers. But when they come in, it makes it all worth it.

The reality is all four of these tiers are important to the success of JotForm’s PR efforts, and we do a nice job of celebrating our wins as a team. I’m particularly enjoying the ride because I’m going to grad school studying how to effectively create PR campaigns while simultaneously working here, so it’s been incredible having a job that’s so relevant to my field of study.

Do you have any advice on public relations? How does your company do it? Let me know!

Chad is VP of Marketing and Communications at JotForm. He’s also a frequent contributor to various tech and business publications, and an absolute wizard with a Vitamix. He holds a master’s degree in communication and resides with his wife and cats in Oakland, California. You can reach Chad through his contact form.

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