Working with the media has changed since the days of PR people sending pitches by fax. Yet what hasn’t changed is the key to getting media coverage – which is likewise key to newsletter effectiveness: relevance to the audience.
I don’t have media relations expertise, but my Halton-Peel Communications Association colleagues Karen Majerly, Angela Rea and Diana Spremo do. These are some of the insights they shared at a recent HPCA meeting.
From its 24-hour news cycle to the ability to interact with stories and tailor our own news feeds, the Internet has changed the way we consume information. And from fewer journalists to less editorial space to the rise of bloggers as influencers, the results mean today’s news is less filtered by traditional media.
The Pew Research Center‘s Project for Excellence in Journalism’s latest State of the News Media report finds that “shrinking reporting power”:
“…adds up to a news industry that is more undermanned and unprepared to uncover stories, dig deep into emerging ones or to question information put into its hands.”
Karen says this gives rise to opportunities, such as:
- pitching stories to hyper-local online sites such as Ancaster.com and Balancemylife.ca
- connecting with news outlets and journalists on social media – but don’t just reach out when you have a story idea, be sure to retweet them and comment;
- ‘pimping’ your news release with keywords, links to other content, embedding video;
- providing depth, insight and new angles in stories.
Angela advised contacting the media when you have something of relevance – a new product or service, a strong human interest story, significant business news (such as mergers, layoffs, recalls and facility openings) and/or a strong local angle. Contact the media when you have hard news through a press conference, news release or webcast; with soft news, use a media alert, pitch a story idea or provide a case study, photo with caption or by-lined article.
Lined up an interview? Great! Diana stressed the value of preparation:
- Find out if it will be for print, TV or radio, and if you are the whole story or just part of a larger one.
- Create three key messages, anticipating questions and practicing the answers out loud. Link back to your key points as you respond to questions.
- In a five-minute interview, only one or two sentences will probably be used, so be clear on what you want those comments to be. What would you like to see yourself saying on the six o’clock news?
- Be brief, be enthusiastic, and don’t repeat negatives (Asked, “Are air shows unsafe?” don’t answer “Air shows are not unsafe” but “Air shows are very safe.”)
- If you get a surprise request for an interview, it’s perfectly okay to ask, “Can I call you back in 20 minutes?” That will give you time to think through what you want to say.
- Be available and accessible and build positive long-term relationships.
The media representative on hand was Angela Blackburn, managing editor of the Oakville Beaver, which is published three times a week. She said the paper is operating like a daily, pushing stories to the website, tweeting and adding videos. It’s demanding, and resources have shrunk, making the paper more discerning about what gets covered. Here’s that key word again: relevance.
“Think, ‘what affects the community?'” she told HPCA members. “People want to read about the community and the people in it, like school issues, taxes, human interest stories.”
For any media outlet, find out how the editor wants to get information. Email is a good bet, but since most editors are flooded with pitches, make sure your subject line clearly shows the relevance to the audience. Follow up by email rather than telephone.