News coverage can be a big boost to your company’s success. No matter what you want the public to know about—be it a product, a service, or an agenda—press coverage not only gets your message out, but lends credibility to your business. Sometimes getting coverage is a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Rather than rely on luck, some companies hire a public relations firm to represent them. But that investment is not always necessary. Here are six steps you can take to get your company in the news on a regular basis:
1. Define your goal. Why do you want news coverage? What is it you want people to know, buy, or believe about your company? The more definitive you can be, the more you’ll be able to target the proper audience. The more you know about who you're trying to reach, the better. Then you can determine the right media outlets to contact. Are you targeting well-educated customers with disposable income? The New York Times and business journals are two good matches. Are you looking for a younger audience who lives in New York City? WPIX is a possibility for you. Do you want to impress your fellow engineers? Look for trade publications.
2. Understand what news means. The basic definition is “something out of the ordinary.” That’s why the media will report 30 percent of Americans are unhappy, but won't report that 70 percent of Americans are happy. Now, let's put that in context. Let’s say you’re seeking news coverage for your organization’s twentieth anniversary. While that’s something out of the ordinary for you, it’s not for the public, so there needs to be something more to your pitch. One New Jersey accounting firm did indeed have a major anniversary, but what ended up attracting coverage was an interesting angle to the story. Each year, the firm’s owner refused to shave from January 1 until the day after taxes were filed, as a way of underscoring to his clients that their needs came first. All the male accountants on staff followed suit, and the firm compiled a photographic history, illustrating its accountants the day before and the day after April 15. This unusual angle suddenly had reporters asking for exclusives.
3. Research relevant professionals and news outlets. Dig into local, regional, and national news organizations to become familiar with the types of content they provide and the audiences they reach. Is your story better suited for television or video-based news, or is it a complicated issue that lends itself to newspaper coverage? Take advantage of professional events that give you access to the media. Get to know reporters’ names, and contact them directly to let them know of your availability as a source in your area of expertise.
4. Keep your finger on the pulse. Before you reach out to the media, know what’s happening in the news that day. If the President is in town, it’s not the day to pitch your new product. If a major weather event is about to hit your area, no one wants to hear about your charity fundraiser. On the other hand, if it’s back-to-school season, media outlets will be more receptive to your terrific new lunchbox or carpooling app. Similarly, if you or someone in your organization can serve as a source for a hot story—maybe you have an historian on staff who can offer interesting weather trivia to fill airtime while meteorologists are tracking the storm system—you can become the go-to source for similar stories in the future.
5. Make it easy for the media. If you craft your pitch in a way that the story will work across multiple platforms—newspapers and magazines have websites in need of audio and video; television stations have websites in need of print stories—you make it easy for the media and maximize your exposure. How do you make a great pitch even better? Make it memorable. I once had to promote the work of a dog trainer. Knowing there’s nothing out of the ordinary about training dogs, I wrote the press release from a dog’s point of view and sent it to a quirky columnist at The New York Times. They ran a half-page article on the guy.
6. Pitch for a short attention span. Present a clear and concise pitch that makes the reporter want to know more. On average, a newspaper story is about 400 words, a television news story is less than 2 minutes long, and a radio news story is just 35 to 40 seconds long. Your pitch has to be brief—if you can pitch your story in 85 words or fewer, you have a greater chance of capturing the reporter’s attention. When Fair Media Council held its first women’s empowerment summit, I needed to find a news hook to promote the event. I called a Newsday business columnist and, in one sentence, pitched what became the focus of his column a few days later. All I said was we were raffling off male CEOs at our women’s event, to act as mentors to their winners. When he asked who the male CEOs were, I knew I had a story since they were often featured in his column.
Jaci Clement is executive director of the Fair Media Council. She can be reached at email@example.com.