Do Your Homework to Earn Media’s Attention
As a newspaper journalist for more than 25 years, I can’t help but think just how “prehistoric” the process of cultivating stories was when I broke into the biz as a college student working for the school paper in the early 1990s.
Research meant occasionally walking about a mile across campus to the library to dive into hardbound periodicals called encyclopedias, not merely exercising your fingers in a sedentary state while staring at a screen filled with potentially inaccurate facts on something called Wikipedia.
Trying to track down a local source meant opening a phone book (remember the separation of white and yellow pages?), locating a phone number and pressing buttons on a landline device to make a call with a long, tangled cord attached to the handset, not having instant messaging on Facebook at your fingertips on a wireless device.
And you relied on that source to be in the vicinity of an answering machine to hear and respond to your missed call on said telephone with cord, not having the luxury of texting or email on said wireless device as a security blanket to ensure the person knew of your initial attempt at making contact.
Those were the days, and to think, they aren’t that far in the past. By choice, I left the ever-changing world of journalism two years ago — at an unsettling time when newsrooms across the country were being downsized, if not shuttered.
Because of my extensive background in the media, especially being immersed in the Northeastern Wisconsin market for nearly 20 years, I bring an uncommon perspective to my second career in marketing communications. I’ve walked plenty of miles in the shoes of my former brethren in the media. And more than ever, amid a harsh reality of skeleton-crew newsrooms and corresponding additional duties heaped on what reporters remain, we as communications professionals can be of help.
In this digitally dominated era of getting your business or client out in front of as many people as possible when attention spans can go in any number of directions, here are 10 suggestions for gaining the media’s attention and earning the ultimate objective of media placement:
Know your targets: If you haven’t already established lines of communication with the media (newspapers, TV, radio, trade publications) in your market, make a concerted effort to do your fingers-stretching homework on the internet. Reach out to editors and reporters with an emailed note to introduce yourself and your organization or client and find out how they would best like to receive newsworthy information.
Have ducks in a row: Once you start building that rapport with local, regional and perhaps national media, create a go-to media list that details each news outlet, preferred point of contact and his or her contact information.
Subject to approval: Whether you’re spreading the word about a key personnel announcement or inviting media to attend a news conference regarding an important matter, create interest from the outset by penning a short, but compelling subject line that summarizes the news being emailed via release or advisory.
Don’t stop there: Given the limited manpower coursing through the media industry, persistence often can make all the difference between earning placement for your business/client or having your communication fall with many others through the cracks. A follow-up phone call or email never hurts to make sure the editor or reporter saw your initial outreach amid a clutter of emails that may not be read for days because of increased work demands.
At your service: When (not if) you land a “yes” for coverage, be of further help to the reporter and/or camera person who is handling the story. Knowing that person will likely be on a tight schedule to meet production deadline or because of other assignments, offer to arrange a story interview(s) in person or remotely as well as fill in content gaps by supplying written material with relevant background, data and additional quotes or sound bites.
Be accommodating: Short of breaking news, consider calling a news conference in the mid- to late morning or in the early afternoon when news outlets tend to have available resources before TV news and newspaper deadlines beckon later in the day.
Check again: Follow-up after landing media placement also is advisable to make sure the news outlet isn’t missing anything (including visuals) for its impending coverage
Alternate route: If a newspaper or TV station isn’t able to cover your story, especially a live event, offer to provide a photo or even a video clip to supplement the information in a release. Also propose contributing a first-person article from your organization or submit a nomination for a “difference maker” feature.
Don’t take it personally: If your attempts fail to get even a blurb in print or on air, don’t fret. Again, personnel and time are in short order for the media, so they are more selective than ever with what gets published.
Move ahead: No matter the success or lack thereof in landing media placement for this round, there’s always the next bit of news to try to earn that coveted coverage.
By being proactive, doing a little homework and being willing to collaborate, the media (no matter how thin the ranks may be) can be a great ally for telling your organization’s or client’s story.
Todd McMahon is project and media relations manager at O’Connor Connective in De Pere.
Do you have news to share about your organization and need help trying to get the word out? We can be your messenger by working with local, regional and/or national media to earn placement. Connect with us today.