“You have to have contacts to get featured in the press and media.” I’ve heard this often and it’s something that can hold businesses back from doing their own media relations. PR (Public Relations) professionals may well have regular contact with journalists but that does not mean you can’t access those contacts too. Getting media profile is not so much about knowing the journalist as about knowing what they want.
Do you want media profile to get noticed, to stand out from the competition, to generate sales leads, to build your brand, to create interest? Probably. It’s there for the taking – you just need to follow some simple steps and to keep at it.
1. The right mindset
A good place to start is with mindset. This is simply about believing you deserve press and media profile. Why does this matter? Fear is one of the biggest issues that holds businesses back from doing media relations. They like the idea of getting profile but get cold feet when it comes to speaking to journalists. The truth is that journalists need you more than you need them. They want news stories, feature pieces, case studies and ideas for articles that will interest, and be relevant to, their audiences. You just need to understand how they work and give them what they want.
2. Know your direction
Next, you need to address some key questions. The answers will underpin your media relations. Whether you are looking for press and media coverage over the long-term, or for a one-off announcement, you need to be clear about:
- What you want to achieve (objectives).
- Who you want to target (audiences).
- What you want to say (messages).
They sound simple but it will take time to unpick everything. You will probably have several objectives and a number of audiences. That’s fine, you just need to have clarity about each and how they fit together because that is what will enable you to do powerful media relations. Also, your objectives need to be more defined than just ‘to get coverage’. Otherwise, you risk being vague in your targeting and that wastes time and effort.
3. Draft a media plan
There’s no one size fits all for your media plan, it has to be tailored to your specific needs. There are several elements to it, following on from defining your objectives, audiences and messages. Your plan needs to set out a timetable of activity to include the following.
- Up and coming news announcements – the news you know you will have and want to share and shout about.
- Wrapping news announcements around activities you are already engaged in such as attending exhibitions.
- Creative ideas for making news announcements. If you don’t have news then you ‘create’ it by tapping into what will interest journalists. Here are 15 ideas for ‘creating’ a news story to get you started:
- Carry out some research with your clients and include questions that challenge pre-conceived ideas.
- Host an event.
- Collaborate with local businesses.
- Support a charity.
- Get involved with the local community.
- Launch new resources or an information guide.
- Do something unusual – take what you do, and how you do it, and add a twist
- Launch an awards scheme.
- Be the first to do something – that could simply be a new type of offer.
- Be controversial and voice your opinions on the back of an event you are attending, speaking at or hosting.
- Bust an industry myth.
- Use anniversaries and milestones – reaching your fifth year in business, your 100th customer.
- Treat your customers – find a way, linked to your business, to thank your customers that makes you stand out from the crowd.
- Link to seasonal opportunities that are relevant for promoting your business – New Year, Summer holidays, religious festivals.
- Ride on the back of ‘national’ days. There are many resources available to help you identify relevant national days: http://www.daysoftheyear.com/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_commemorative_days and http://nationaldaycalendar.com/ are all worth a look.
- Opportunities for commenting on the back of other people’s news. Journalists want comment and information and you are in a good position to offer both
- Pitching directly to journalists with ideas for articles that you can write. Showcasing your knowledge and expertise in this way builds both credibility and profile.
- Offering yourself and clients as case studies.
- Making yourself an expert. We’ve all seen and heard pundits commenting on a media story. How do they do it? In fact, it’s relatively straight forward. You’ve got to make yourself known to the relevant journalists. There are a number of ways to do that, including listing your details on databases that journalists use to source experts. Examples include:
- Sourcebottle which is a free service. It links up sources and journalists seeking stories relevant to the press and media in Australia, New Zealand, UK and Republic of Ireland, Canada and the United States.
- The Women’s Room which is a UK website set up to encourage women to act as spokespeople in the press and media. Registering on the site is free.
- Help a Reporter Out which, in the US, is a well-known resource for connecting experts and journalists. It has a free option as well as paid for services.
4. Do your research
You want profile and to build your brand and a tailored approach is the best way to achieve that. It relies on contacting the right journalists at the right time with the right pitch which all comes down to solid research. You may already know the press and media outlets you want to target. If so, find out everything you can about them. Who is the best person to approach? What is the style, tone, favoured content, any style guidelines for written pieces, deadlines are they working to?
Don’t forget to research specific journalists too. You need to know what interests them, the type of reporting they do, whether they are freelance or not. It’s also useful to see what social networks they use and whether they have a blog. You can then engage with them before you pitch a story or idea.
What about the relevant press and media you may not even know about? Hunting them down could take a bit of work. PR professionals use media databases but these can be pricey for smaller businesses. If you know a friendly PR professional then it may be worth asking them if they can help you put together a press and media list. It’s worth getting a tailored list rather than one that is off the shelf. If you want to do your own research then there are free resources that can help you:
- Google search and Google alerts – this is a good starting point for identifying the journalists interested in your topic and the publications and websites they work for.
- MediaUK – this is helpful for researching British media. You can search on topic, for specific people, places or for named press and media outlets. Many give website links so you can research further. Some give editorial contact details or the standard email format to use for contacting their journalists as well as Twitter handles.
- PaperBoy – this is a useful resource that enables you to identify newspapers for different countries. It lists over 12,000 online newspapers from 186 countries, including newspapers for each of the US states.
- For newspapers and magazines nothing beats going through back issues to tune in to their content, style and format.
Don’t get caught up with building a large press and media. It’s best to search out and focus on a handful and to really get to know them. You want to get noticed but it’s getting noticed in the right places that counts.
The biggest gripe from journalists is that they are bombarded with irrelevant information and approaches that are not of interest. A tailored approach, based on sound research, sets you apart straight away.
Now it’s just a case of working out the detail of your plan, setting it against a timeline and putting it into action – good luck!
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