- 28 Jan 2013
I was chatting to a small business owner at an event recently who told me that his company has real difficulty getting anything they issue to the media used, despite some of it sounding like it is interesting stuff. He asked me for a bit of advice on how to help get coverage. My first piece of advice was, of course, to get himself a good PR company. But if he didn’t do that, the following principles should apply. This was off the top of my head and not an exhaustive list. Iâ€™ll add more at a later date.
Your reputation as a source of information must be excellent: A journalist needs to know that they can trust what you’re telling them. If they don’t, they probably won’t even open your emails or take your calls. You need to build your reputation amongst key journalists. Attend events they might be at and talk to them in an informed way. Engage with them on social media in a constructive and sensible way. Do you know someone who knows them? A positive word from a respected contact can be very useful. Even if it doesn’t directly benefit your company, give key journalists interesting bits of information that will be of use to them. This will help build a relationship. If the information is true and accurate and helps them get a good story, it will build your reputation as a trusted source of information.
Make every contact useful to the journalist: When a journalist hears your name or sees an email from you, you want them to think that it’s going to be worthwhile to engage. Don’t send journalists stories they’re not going to be interested in. Don’t call journalists to plague them about press releases that they probably won’t use.
Timing is everything: Know a journalist’s deadlines and routine. If a news editor plans their content early in the day, there’s no point in bringing them anything other than major breaking news at 4pm in the afternoon. A good story with a good photo and case history brought to the journalist’s attention at 10am might get a good spread, but exactly the same content brought to them at 2pm or later, might not get used at all.
Come prepared: Having a press release often isn’t enough. Do you have a good photo to accompany? Can you offer a case history? Is there a list of interesting facts you can supply to accompany? More and more, newspapers in particular are going for depth – they want to make stories into a weighty spread. If you provide them with the ammunition to do this, it will help your cause no end.
Don’t take it personally: Sometimes events dictate and your story might not get the coverage you expect because something major has broken. You need to understand when this happens rather than complaining to the journalist. If you complain and don’t understand, it will affect your relationship with them and your potential to get coverage in future.
Have stand-out: That little email subject box can be a very powerful thing; make every character you put in it count. Make it punchy, edgy, quirky, engaging, interesting, newsworthy, ‘unignorable’. This will help cut through the hundreds of press releases journalists receive. Make sure your headline and picture captions are too. Make the opening paragraph of your press release have impact as well.
Write it properly: A journalist should really be able to lift your press release and put it ‘straight on the page’. It needs to be perfectly written. It needs to have the full story in the opening paragraph (who, what, where, why, when); it needs to have no typos; it needs to have good quotes – nothing that reads like it should be in an ad etc. If a journalist doesn’t very quickly grasp the story, they will dump your release. If it is too much work to adapt your copy (e.g. fixing typos) this may just swing things against your story and lead them to cover something else instead.
Don’t try to force a square peg into a round hole by repeatedly hitting it: If your story isn’t going to fit in the news pages, don’t repeatedly phone the news desk to try to get them to use it. Understand where your story is best suited to and pitch it there. Is it better in the business pages? Is it more likely to be a feature than a news story? Would it work better for radio than the papers? Is it something you should really be talking to sectoral media about?
And related to this….
Don’t forget how wide a range of media outlets there are: Some people get fixated on TV and the newspapers. Don’t forget radio. Don’t forget online. Don’t forget magazines. And within the newspapers, there are a whole range of supplements, from business, to jobs, to lifestyle. Box clever. Don’t always go for the right hook. The faint and left jab might just be the way to go.