Public Relations: 10 Ways to Attract Media Attention:
This is a clip and save column about getting news media coverage.
It follows an old friend saying that he keeps copying and handing out a list of recommendations that I wrote years ago. He said passing them out is more efficient than explaining them himself. He was kind of enough to say he thought they were some of the best suggestions he had seen.
Gaining positive media coverage is no small accomplishment; it can be gold, especially for small to medium companies. It confers legitimacy and attracts customers. Non-profits too thrive on it. Notoriety can motivate donors. So how do you bait the journalistic hook? Here is an updated version of that original list.
1. First, ask yourself “Who Cares?”
News is that which means the most to the most people. Your item, issue, or event must matter to others. Would your story idea interest anyone beyond your business and social circles? Does it appeal broadly? Publicity-seekers too often believe their only responsibility is to call a media outlet or mail a news release and hope for the best. Wrong. First ensure your proposal would truly attract an audience. If it doesn’t, see the next step.
2. Make them care!
Sometimes an abstract idea or issue can be made meaningful to others with a touch of creativity. Example – A TV news director once told me he wanted every issue reported through the eyes of an average person. For instance, to report a tax increase, we had to locate a typical taxpayer to show how the increase would affect his life. This is people-izing your story. Try to do that before calling for coverage, which leads naturally to step 3.
3. Put people in the story!
Do more than filter the story through a human point of view. Include people. Example – For a story highlighting an historic building, locate an elderly person who once worked or lived in the structure, and make that individual available. Involve regular people rather than officials or executives. (Local political figures such as mayors are often no attraction since reporters see them routinely.)
4. Make it visual!
Take advantage of colorful settings to help reporters illustrate your story. Examples – For instance, talk about water in front of a reservoir instead of inside an office. In the historic building case, hire a cherry picker to elevate photographers to take pictures from unusual angles. Offer old photos or films that revive the early days.
5. Link to a major event or hot topic!
Tie your idea to a current news event or hot item of public fascination. Example – Connect your company’s ability to help people save money to everyone’s concern about the recession.
6. Schedule shrewdly!
Hold an event mid-morning mid-week – Tuesday through Thursday – about 9:30 to 10 am. Why? News operations tend to have more reporters available those days. Weekend workers off Mondays and Fridays mean smaller staffs those days. The 9:30 to 10am timing is good because most news crews are not yet deployed to competing events. (Weekly newspapers and business journals have mid-week publishing deadlines that you may want to exploit.) Nights and weekends are risky for coverage because skeleton staffs are frequently shifted to hard or breaking news.
7. Call, write, and call again!
Alert newsrooms to your story with a personal call a couple of weeks (not months) in advance and then follow up immediately with a written reminder. Call again about 24-48 hours before the event. News coverage is usually a last-minute decision based on logistics and story options. Calling far in the future rarely changes that equation.
8. Call in the early afternoon!
Make first contact for coverage between 1pm and 3pm when news decision-makers are less harried with scheduling or preparing the news product for the evening or the next morning.
(Note to crisis managers – Do the opposite of steps 1-8 if you want to reduce your odds of coverage. Of course if your situation is serious enough, scheduling tricks will not deter determined journalists.)
9. Take a reporter to lunch!
Get acquainted with reporters. Learn their preferences, and perhaps make a friend – a potential ally should a crisis strike some day. Networking news people is smart. This may give you an ear for your ideas, and – should something serious happen – ensure that you get a fair hearing. It will NOT stop legitimate journalism.
10. Build a reputation for valuable tips!
Call for press attention only when it is warranted. Doing otherwise will hurt your credibility. Companies and organizations that barrage newsrooms with tepid news releases every few days would be dismayed to learn how little attention they receive. It is like crying, “Wolf!”