So You Want to Be in the News? Here’s a Reality Check

Whatever your opinions about the state of the media in America, corporations, associations and individuals still covet the press. They know, especially in the digital age, favorable or even neutral mentions in the news media will not just boost visibility but drive revenue streams.

The idea of merely “getting press” often creates an insatiable thirst for the instant gratification of seeing your name or organization mentioned in the news. While we understand better than most the thrill of securing a media opportunity, we also encourage a well-thought-out media relations strategy that is deliberative in message, realistic in expectation and focused on long-term gain.
Going about your media relations activity willy-nilly may work out fine — or it may not. Eventually, you will reach a point of stagnation or feel the insufferable ding of negative press. The preparation is necessary up front if you are serious about building a robust media presence.

As we head into another intense election season, it’s time to get realistic. Here are three good benchmarks to help you dial in your program.

Do You Have Established Ports of Call?

Knowing the final destination for your media relations efforts is easy. You already know which cable news show, drive-time radio slot or national newspaper will give you the feeling that you “made it” in the media. It is good to have one or more goals like this. But you must establish several ports of call along the way.

These ports are important stepping stones to larger media opportunities, allowing you to build your game up so that you are ready when CNN or The New York Times calls. Without them, you will not be as successful as you could be. This is where planning is crucial. Give your strategy a reboot by identifying local media outlets and trade publications to engage with your key messages. Practice pitching them your stories and build up a track record of good quotes, new and interesting news items, fresh perspectives on issues driving the day and thoughtful commentary within your area of expertise.

Each port will pose its own set of challenges, but this will prepare you for the day you reach top-tier status. Skipping ports of call will not only leave you unprepared, but it can cause a false sense of success if you manage to find a one-off top-tier opportunity — it will feel great at first, but the fall from relevance is a brutal one if you fail to establish consistency.

Are You Ready for the Big Leagues?

There’s no doubt the Age of Trump has shifted the media landscape in profound ways, but we also need to acknowledge news isn’t what it used to be, and the shifts we see today have long been in the making, accentuated by the rise of Trump.

This means you need to get real about your potential to play in the so-called “big leagues” of news media. Risk aversion and overly nuanced messaging in a world of five-second sound bites won’t earn you many invitations. Reexamine your motivations for seeking top-tier engagements. More often than not, if we’re being honest, you’re after some bragging rights and ways to demonstrate your worth. Being able to say, “We did an interview on CNN” is no doubt impressive, but get real about the longevity of that hit. Sure, it will live in perpetuity online. But if it’s not part of a larger body of work, how can you really measure the success of your message with your key audiences?

It’s fine to strive for CNN and Fox, but if your motivations are more about vanity than message durability, reconsider. You would need to be a regular guest on such outlets to accrue any semblance of stickiness for your messages. Acknowledging that’s not likely for your organization is not an admission of defeat. Rather, it is a realistic perspective, and there are alternatives. Instead of seeking the most eyeballs, seek outlets where the eyeballs are most receptive.

Can You Get Back to Basics?

Revisit the timeless maxims of public relations by answering these questions: Is my pitch newsworthy? Is it timely?

Simple enough, right? Don’t seek to justify why your pitch is newsworthy or timely. Instead, be honest in your appraisal. You will not have the luxury of explaining why your message ought to be covered, so it must be both intrinsic and obvious. We suggest finding hooks in the existing news cycle by offering new perspectives and ideas on topics already being covered. This will help you cut through cluttered inboxes and make it easier for journalists to say yes to an interview.

As you head into a jam-packed summer, take some quality time to reflect not only on the trajectory of your media relations efforts but the motivations behind them. Recalibrate your thinking and revise the roadmap to achieve your goals, including more realistic expectations about gains from top-tier engagements and a new commitment to tried and true media relations practices.

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