How to Get Media Coverage
By Sloane Heffernan, founder of Storymore
What if I told you there was a way to market your business and gain significant visibility without spending a dime? Would you believe that getting press coverage is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to increase your brand awareness?
The free publicity through media coverage can be priceless. Think about it: Businesses have gone from obscurity to household names with the right press coverage. For example, a coveted spot on "Oprah’s Favorite Things" can be life-changing!
So, what is the secret to obtaining media coverage? The good news is there is no secret. Follow these simple steps, and you will be heading down the right path.
Identify the right media contact(s)
Identifying the right media contact is the first step to securing press coverage. There are countless media outlets in this digital world, so it is critical to find the one that speaks to your audience. Ask yourself what media outlet best serves your brand. Is it mainstream media or a trade publication? Find out where your audience lives and go there.
How to approach a media outlet
The best way to approach a media contact is directly. Media outlets received countless emails from people looking for exposure, so you need to do more than send an email to a general mailbox to get attention. Do some work. Research the organization to identify the appropriate contact person for the coverage consideration. Pick up the phone and call that person, or send them a direct message through social media. If you can find out their cell number, send them a text. In other words, take the side door rather than the front door!
How to determine what's newsworthy
Newsworthiness can be subjective. As a news reporter, I was always surprised that what editors would find newsworthy would change from day to day.
Here are some boxes you typically need to check for coverage consideration:
- Relevance – Does your story tie into a topic that is current?
- Impact – Does your story have the potential to affect a large number of people? What is the audience impact?
- Unusual – Does your story have the ability to stop people in their tracks? Is it considered breaking news?
If your story has the ability to inform, educate or amuse, it may have what it takes to make headlines.
How to communicate with the media/press
Relationships with journalists and publishers can help you obtain news coverage. Reach out to a reporter at a news station or a managing editor at a publication and ask what type of story ideas they looking for and how they prefer to receive story ideas.
Reporters are often expected to pitch story ideas at daily editorial meetings. Your story idea can make their job easier, and they like that!
If you are looking for news coverage, ask for it well in advance. Sending a press release one week in advance is ideal for mainstream news outlets, but other publications may require a longer lead time. Once you make initial contact with a call or press release, remember to follow up – multiple times if necessary. A quick call on the morning of your event also doesn’t hurt.
Remember, there’s no guarantee that you'll get coverage, so don't put all your eggs in one basket. Be sure to reach out to multiple media outlets. Finally, the best time of day to contact a media outlet is in the morning – never call during news time or in the afternoon when deadlines are looming.
What to do/say when you get the interview
Always say "yes" to media coverage. As a reporter, it amazed me when businesses or organizations would turn down the opportunity to go on camera. Granted, the ask would often occur at the last minute, due to the nature of local news. Bottom line, the opportunity to receive free press doesn't come often, so when the media calls, answer!
Once you do get an interview, prepare and practice. Focus on the key points you want to make during the interview. Media outlets don't usually provide the questions in advance, so craft your answers around the typical reporter questions – who, what, when, where, why and how. You don't want your answers to be scripted. Instead, write down a few bullet points that you can reference. Be clear, concise and to the point. We live in a soundbite world, so it's not likely that your interview will be shared in its entirety. Most importantly, be yourself!
P.S. Don't be discouraged if you don't receive a response at your first go around. As the old adage goes, it first you don't succeed, try, try again. Don't assume that they aren't interested in your story if you don't hear back. Your contact may have missed your initial communication or multiple communications. Be persistent without being a pain, and you might be surprised at how easy it is to get media coverage.
Sloane Heffernan is an Emmy Award-winning journalist and longtime reporter for WRAL-TV in Raleigh. She stepped out from in front of the camera to launch Storymore, which works with businesses to clarify their messages and bring their unique stories to life with click-worthy digital content.
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