Getting ink and getting air is the ultimate goal in the “earned media” game of public relations and publicity. Whether it be print media such as newspapers and magazines, or broadcast media such as radio or TV, getting noticed, talked or written about in traditional media can go a long way in forging greater awareness of your business, brand or ideas.
In an era where it seems we are all fighting to be heard above the noise within social media, it is easy to dismiss the simple and massive reach of more traditional media methods. All successful print and broadcast channels these days are also amplifying that content via digital means online, which means you actually achieve even further clout should you get coverage. And, once that coverage is online, it is there for you to further broadcast it through your own channels. The magic of course being that it is third party endorsement, and you can attach your success to the media’s brand. Not bad when that media might be CBC, NBC, the Globe and Mail or the New York Times! But it could just as easily be local media such as your community newspaper or local radio station, that might have tremendous clout with your existing and potential customers.
Achieving media coverage is a pretty compelling value proposition and certainly one worth devoting some effort towards. So here are five tips to make the task simpler and increase the likelihood of success.
- Know a reporters expertise. Reporters are inundated with press releases and pitches daily. If it’s not related to their area of coverage, they will hit delete. Ideally you are familiar with a reporters beat and have read or heard their stuff. Over the long term this will also gain you a respectful relationship with them, so that when you do send them something well targeted, they are more likely to respond. If you’re always shouting to everyone, nobody will listen. If you selectively speak to some when it’s genuinely important, they will listen.
- Make the reporter look good and help them serve their audience. Your real job in writing the pitch is to make that reporter look good to their boss. The best way to do that is to help the reporter serve his/her audience. The reporter lives and dies by how they serve their audience. The media outlet is also in the rating and social sharing game. They are obsessed with going viral. They want a story that readers or viewers will share online. The bottom line here is: it’s about them, not about you. If you can frame your pitch from that perspective, you will be ahead of 95% of the pitches sitting in reporters email boxes right now.
- Send media a story they are hungry for. What is in the news right now that is hot? (NDP winning in Alberta? Tanker traffic and spills? Foreign ownership and real estate prices?) These are local Vancouver examples, but you should frame it from the geographic area where you are and where you want to achieve coverage. What are some trends of interest? Is there a celebration day that is relevant for timely coverage? (Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, International Women’s Day forexample). Lists are hot. Browse the headlines of Buzzfeed or the Huffington Post and you’ll see lots of lists – The 5 things you need to know… How to get a promotion in 3 easy steps…) Lists are good because they are finite, organized, have a takeaway and are shareable. They’re also idea for a population conditioned to receive information in bite size nuggets, which is increasingly the case in our time-starved society. How to and personal memoir success stories are also popular. We can attribute that phenomena to the Opera effect, being conditioned to crave success, or overcoming obstacles stories. The key here is to look at the publication or station you would like to target and see what would fit with their editorial style and reader or viewer interest. This of course requires you to do some homework, but it is that work which will help you stand out from others.
- You absolutely, positively need a compelling subject line. I’m talking email subject line here, but it could also be a catchy headline on Twitter if you were tagging or personal messaging a reporter on Twitter. Make the subject line clever, but simple. Shorter is better, and if you’re not sure how it will display on mobile (which is where it is most likely to be previewed or deleted), send yourself a test to your mobile device. These days your subject line needs to be mobile friendly. You want that headline to display fully and grab the reporter to click and read more. Frankly it doesn’t matter what is in the email if the recipient never makes it past the headline. Do your research, and model the existing style for the particular media you are targeting with your pitch. Check what kind of headlines they write. Get creative and draft yours in a similar light. Just remember while clever is good, don’t over complicate it.
- Keep the pitch short, simple and tight. If your communication is written poorly or is unclear, a reporter won’t have time for you. Make sure you tell the reporter what is in it for them and their audience first right at the very beginning. Essentially respond to questions such as, why is this relevant, and why now? Try to make a human and emotional connection. Put a short bio and contact information at the end. The reporter will read the headline, if it captures their interest, they will skim the text. Keep all of this relatively short, and again, remember the context of mobile viewing. Send yourself a test copy. Did it grab you? How long did it take to skim the copy? Sometimes an image within the body of the email (no attachments!) can tell the story quickly and hit an emotional hot button. If you’ve got an image that tells the story in fewer words, by all means use it, but be sure to size it right for the email so it loads quickly and displays properly. Again, send yourself a test first to your mobile device.
Of course these points are just about how to get the reporters attention. There is a lot more to consider if you score coverage, especially if interviewed. Practice thinking and talking in sound bites, since your interview will likely be edited.
The bottom line here is this: getting media coverage is free, but it requires a lot of work, and frankly you have to earn it. But that’s what makes it so valuable. It’s certainly worth the time to pursue, especially for small businesses and entrepreneurs.
There are many great resources out there to help you with this (including a great marketing consultant that writes this fabulous marketing blog!) If you’d like to tap into fresh content and ideas about PR, www.prdaily.com is also a good place to start. They also have a great newsletter you can sign up to receive free tips.