Love them or loathe them, journalists are hugely influential in a literate and news-hungry society like ours. And while dealing with the media will always be unpredictable, it can give your profile a huge boost amongst your target population, both locally, nationally or among your business peers.
Contacting local media
Often overlooked in the hunt for celebrity, the local media is probably already communicating with your potential local client-base.
Local newspapers and radio stations are always trawling for stories and will probably provide a checklist to help people and businesses engage with their journalists more easily; but you can help too:
- Research local outlets – newspapers, magazines, radio stations and maybe even a cable TV channel.
- Network with journalists in your area. Ring up and arrange a meeting – they love a free coffee.
- Learn how to write newsworthy press releases that aren’t just sales-heavy adverts. There is advice online but get in a copywriter in if you need help.
- Feed stories to local journalists and get to know them – repetition builds reputation and once you’re in their contacts book you’ll be a trusted subject expert.
- Create and maximise PR opportunities. If you’ve reached 10,000 customers, are launching a competition/promotion or a new product, a new member of staff has joined or you’re starting a training initiative, let the media know. Offer good imagery and stories featuring local people.
- Be proactive! Get involved with your local community and take part in local charity fundraising or social campaigns.
- Always measure your efforts to see which activities get you the best coverage.
Contacting national media
They will be a tougher nut to crack, purely because there’s more competition for their attention, but they still need news. Don’t be afraid to contact their news desk and pitch your story:
- Do your research. Find out which journalists or publications are relevant to your target market.
- Obtain feature lists and provide a short synopsis of your content well in advance of a deadline, offering imagery if you have it.
- Journalists depend on good contacts, so use the same tools they do to find expert commentary and offer your services:
- Response Source. The blurb says it connects PR professionals and businesses to journalists, enabling them to give stories relevant coverage, It allows you to send in a press release highlighting your expertise, issues or interests.
- Expertise Finder. Allows journalists to find experts in a field they’re researching for an article.
- She Source. A gender-specific resource that aims to counter the under-representation of women in the news media. Female commentators range in expertise, from education to criminal justice.
Give journalists what they want
Journalists have a poor reputation at the moment, what with hacking scandals and invading privacy, but they perform a vital role in any free society and they are only human beings under a lot of pressure to deliver.
Here are a few things to remember when dealing with them:
- Be concise and resist the urge to provide five years-worth of customer surveys, for instance; they don’t have the time to read through it and will ‘spike’ your release if it’s too long and unfocused.
- You must treat journalists with respect and be prepared to re-arrange your diary to facilitate interviews or to take that call when you’re on holiday. Journalists are under huge deadline pressures and if you promise them a story, you really need to deliver.
- We all love a statistic and great releases are rich with them. Collate or sanction your own research that’s unique to your field.
- Keep in regular contact via social channels, networking.
When you sup with the Devil…
Never forget that dealing with the media can be a double-edged sword because journalists aren’t in your pay. Your carefully planned event may be ignored if a bigger story breaks. Journalists have been known to turn your positive news into a damning expose if they think it’s a better story.
On the other hand, they can open up a huge audience to you for a fraction of the cost of a national ad campaign. So it’s worth the effort to build a positive relationship with them.