04 Feb Get More Ink In 2015: Strategies That Work!
Generating media interest for your issue, campaign or brand can seem pretty daunting at times, especially when you consider how many others inside and outside your industry are competing for the same ink and airtime. What does it really take to get and stay on a reporter’s radar screen? A best selling book? A power title like “Senator?” While titles and accolades certainly won’t hurt, the best way to fast-track consistent media exposure for yourself is to put in place a rock solid media relations plan. Here are some key strategies to get you ink:
Build Relationships with Reporters:
1. Be a Source: Reporters work with people they can trust, who are credible, reliable, likeable and have something interesting to say. Your first step is to build a relationship – not a pitch. One way to do this is to schedule introductory meet and greets with reporters who cover issues relevant to your industry. Before each meeting, be sure to do your research. Read past articles the reporters have written to get an understanding of the types of stories they cover. This not only appeals to their interests, but it lets them know that you actually care about the issues they write about.
During the meeting, be a thought leader instead of a sales person. While it might seem reasonable to tout all the great things your organization does, chances are the reporter is not prepared to write a front-page feature article about you. The sales approach does not work with reporters. Instead, focus on the timely trends and issues that are most important to your industry and how it impacts a greater audience. Your goal is to position yourself and your organization as a thought leader and industry expert. Now, you are interesting, credible and quotable – and dare we say it, relationship worthy!
For one of our DC-based health care organization client, we encouraged them to meet with health care reporters to discuss the impact of increasing instances of health care fraud and abuse to their industry and the cost of health care. After a few months, the client began receiving calls from the reporters they met. Now, they get regular ink, and it all began with a cup of coffee.
2. Be Available: Try your best to be available and easily accessible for interviews in the event reporters contact you. The reality is that most reporters work on extremely tight deadlines. If you are hard to reach, don’t return calls and emails, and are generally unreliable, your relationship with that reporter won’t last long – unless you or your organization are considered celebrities.
3. Be a Resource: Send reporters industry information that is relevant to their coverage. Share a new research study or polling data about a key trend. By doing so, reporters will begin to see you as a resource for information, an expert in your industry and a go-to-person to speak to when anything big happens. You can send them information about your company, for example: a new initiative being launched, a new product coming on the market, etc., but try to limit coming across too self-promotional.
4. Be a Connector: If your company is hosting a conference, a webinar, a seminar or a roundtable, invite reporters to attend as your special guest. Introducing reporters to other key members of your organization and industry can provide them additional perspectives, which can ultimately increase media coverage for you.
5. Be Credible: Always be honest with reporters. If you don’t know the answer to a question, let them know. Never lie, make up an answer, or speculate a fact that you cannot prove. A good reporter fact-checks everything. The last thing you want to do is to lose a reporter’s trust or overplay your hand in an interview. During the recent Ebola outbreak in the US, our multi-national client was asked multiple times in a single interview if their technology was the “cure” to the outbreak. As much as they would have liked to say “of course,” they focused on the credible answer, which was that their technology was potentially life-saving – but not the sole answer to the epidemic. It was the right answer.
Select the Appropriate Spokesperson
6. Picking Your Messenger: One of the main reasons why some organizations don’t get quoted in an article is because their spokesperson simply didn’t deliver. Not everyone is print-and camera-ready and equipped to speak with the media. A spokesperson who rambles, who can’t stick to the key messages, or who can’t hold the interest of the reporter or the camera can make or break an interview. It is also not wise to have multiple spokespeople. The best strategy is to pick one to two people (three at the most) to serve as the face of your organization. This will ensure message consistency. You also want to select people who are articulate, know the ins and outs of your issues and industry, who can handle difficulty questions (especially during a PR crisis), are likeably and will appeal to your readers and viewers.
7. Preparing Your Spokesperson: Make sure that all spokespeople are media trained. You can have all the information in the world, but if the delivery of that information is poor, it will never make it to print or air. Some spokespeople are so technical they are not relatable. They speak in jargon, which is hard to understand. Others tend to ramble on and completely stray away from the topic. Both scenarios are ink-killers. During media training, a spokesperson should learn how to organize their thoughts into key messages and quotable sound bites that can easily be delivered; understand how different media outlets work – print versus broadcast (radio and television) as well as online; and learn how to become a newsmaker by using strategic interview techniques.
We recently conducted a media training session for a client of ours. We defined the core messages with him, and landed his first interview. When the story ran, we were able to take out a yellow highlighter and underline his three key messages verbatim throughout the article.
Create Compelling Newsworthy Content
8. Write a Thought Leadership Piece: Beyond interviews, some media outlets publish bylined articles/guest columns and op-eds written by organization executives. Try to ensure that your article focuses on issues and trends that will educate and inform the outlet’s target audience. If you can provide data, statistics, survey information from a poll or evidence-based content to support your topic, all the better.
9. Tell a Story: If you are issuing a press release about a new product, a new initiative or a new office opening, always try to ensure that the narrative tells a story and makes an impact. For example, it should answer one of these questions: What is unique and different about your product or new service offering? Is it a first-of-its-kind concept in your industry? How does it impact a greater audience? Why should people care?
10. Use Visuals: Create and send B-roll footage to TV stations that they can use; print media uses photos, charts and graphs all the time; offer live demos of your product or service offerings via Skype or GoToMeeting; invite reporters to tour your facilities. If reporters can see exactly what you do, the better the chances are they will write about it.
11. Partner with Others: If your organization engaged in philanthropy – beyond your bottom line – let the media know about it. Whether you are donating money or time to a charity that helps the homeless or partnering with a non-profit organization to raise awareness about the importance of cancer research, human interest stories often resonate with reporters. Recently, we showcased a 16-year-old entrepreneur and the grand re-opening of her DC-based small business. The young client and her intention to donate a portion of her proceeds to a local non-profit organization proved to be an inspiration, especially around the holidays. During a candid conversation with a reporter, we learned that the non-profit angle was the deciding factor to write the article.
Getting ink is one part art, one part science and one part knowledge. But at the end of the day, it’s about building trusted relationships and helping reporters get what they need. Embrace how reporters think, and you’ll be well on your way to getting ink in 2015.
Marichelli Hughes is Vice President of Media Relations and Strategic Communications at 720 Strategies.