Question from the Audience - Attracting Media Coverage
From a recent speaking engagement, I received the following question from a participant:
"How do you get media to respond to press releases?"
Great question, indeed.
Right up front, let's all understand that it's not about the press release. So many folks think that the key to news coverage is having a properly formatted press release ... and blasting it out to a staggeringly large contact list. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
First, you have to have news. Or you have to know how to package, or position, what you have to make it newsworthy. Once you've reached this point, it doesn't matter if your press release follows AP Stylebook or is scribbled on a cocktail napkin.
Is it unique?
Is it high impact?
Does it relate to world events?
Does it have relevance to an upcoming season or news cycle?
Does it relate to something that a particular station or reporter has been covering/featuring?
If you can answer "Yes" to one or more of the above, you truly have a compelling news item. Congratulations! Your job is going to be pretty easy. You may even be able to get multiple rounds of coverage. Actually, if you have real news (i.e., hard news), you won't need a press release, since the media will be calling you once the word gets out to one or two outlets ... faster than you can send out press releases.
The second crucial element to success in earned media coverage is relationship. This begins with cultivating relationships with reporters, editors, publishers and bloggers. It won't suffice to keep a transactional view of reporters. In fact, here at Maple, we treat reporters like clients. We get to know them, send them goodies and take them out for lunch or coffee. [Previous gems of wisdom on this topic here and here]
You have to know where to offer your news opportunity. So, to whom should you take your news pitch? Maybe you are working on a tougher pitch, where it's not front-page level hard news. Maybe it is a worthy and promising feature story with a nice human impact value. Which reporter might take a look at your pitch? Do you have a personal relationship with that person. If so, that can make all the difference. Let's face it, reporters are busy... way busy. If they are evaluating a story, and they have to face a significant learning curve to understand the background and relevance, it's extra work for them. If you have the relationship, you will have earned that extra time, that second look in the midst of a busy day. It might take a bit more coaxing--and perhaps a cup of coffee--but you'll get your coverage.
Marketing geniuses, that is how the earned media business works ... through brainpower, planning and relationships. Not much different than most business matters, now is it?