A basic understanding of the process and where the story goes are keys to getting media coverage. Making it easy, engaging and effective for media professionals to work with you is often an after thought. A thought after thinking all about you and your product instead of how you want the media to think about it.
Getting the media to cover your story and products can be a game-changer, but dealing with the media isn’t quite like anything else marketers do. How can you not only get their attention, but convince the media your story is worth covering? Here are 11 tips to increase your odds of making the right kind of news.
1. Be Prepared
Don’t start reaching out to the media until your campaign is ready to go. Have a website that you are proud of and clearly represents your story. Have sample inventory (if applicable), clean photographs (preferably shot on a white background) and a digital media kit that includes product information, images, bios and company info. Everything else can follow with time, but before you even think about picking up the phone to call a journalist, have all of these ready to go when they ask!
2. Define Your Message
Chances are you’ve developed a good bit of literature and collateral for the project. Be sure that the way you are promoting it to the media is consistent with the rest of the message. Nothing is more confusing to consumers than getting mixed messages—all touch points should look and feel the same.
3. Know Who Your Spokesperson Will Be
Are you camera shy? Do you freeze on interviews or fumble with words? One person should be the go-to for all interviews/quotes. Decide who that person will be and make sure they’re always available. Be sure they are well versed in all of the messaging you are trying to convey.
4. Drop Everything When the Phone Rings
If a reporter calls you, you need to call them back within hours—minutes if possible. The same goes for an email. Do not expect a journalist to sit around and wait for your call back. They are always on urgent deadlines, and if you don’t call back immediately, they will find someone else (probably a competitor) who will. Fulfill all information and interview requests within 48 hours as a general rule of thumb.
5. Don’t Ever Try to Sell the Media
You aren’t trying to get the media to BUY your promotion, you simply want to inform them about why it’s better or different than what’s already out there. Avoid flashy sales-like buzzwords and stick to the facts. If your product/service is that exceptional, they’ll be able to see that based on the information alone.
6. Be Timely and Relevant
The launch of a new product or campaign is always newsworthy when it’s about to happen. But eight months after the launch, it’s old news. Be creative to keep your campaign relevant and constantly come out with new ideas or ways to grab the media’s attention.
7. Know Who You’re Pitching
The best thing you can do is familiarize yourself with the publications or TV programs you are trying to pitch. Journalists are only going to cover topics that are relevant to their content. Be smart about whom you are pitching and what you are pitching! If they’re not covering your competitors, chances are they’re probably not going to cover you either.
8. Quality, Not Quantity
Where are your customers hanging out? What magazines are they reading? What TV shows are they watching? Make a Top 20 list and pitch each one differently, targeted to their readership/viewership. What good are 5,000 media placements if no one you’re trying to reach is reading those magazines?
9. Know How to Pitch a Journalist
If you can’t sum up what you’re trying to say in three or four sentences, you are definitely going to lose interest. Reporters barely make it past your first sentence. If you are lucky and they’re still interested, they will read on. But do not pitch a three-page expose about your client, their history, family, future plans, etc. Keep it short and to the point. If you get a bite, the reporter will definitely ask for more information.
10. Press Releases
Press releases are great for providing the meat of the story. They should include the key figures, spokespeople and who/what/when/where/why. Do not use press releases to blind copy 500 reporters on an email that starts, “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE.”
11. Follow Up
This is probably the most important thing to do, and also the one item that needs to be handled most carefully. Journalists are getting hundreds of emails every day. Chances are yours may have slipped through the cracks. Don’t call 20 minutes after you send the email and ask, “Did you get my email?” It’s okay to send a follow up email if you haven’t heard back within a week of sending the initial email. After that, you can probably assume they’re not interested.