Generating consistent media coverage can be a tricky and frustrating endeavour. Sometimes the most imaginatively conceived piece, carefully researched and painstakingly developed, is mercilessly crushed against a wall of indifference, mustering at best a polite ‘no thanks’ from your target journalists and more likely just silence.
On other occasions an opportunistic call or a short press note can yield unexpectedly high-quality coverage, requiring embarrassingly little effort or creativity.
Usually it’s something in between – you win some, you lose some. But there are ways to win more. We’ve drawn on our years of experience in journalism and then PR to compile a list of tips – even rules – to help ensure you, your spokespeople, company or clients are regulars in your target media and have reach beyond it.
1. Be proactive and consistent
Just because you’re an expert in your field, you can’t expect journalists to come to you unless they know about you. Produce regular content and output for media distribution. Plan ahead. Create a schedule or news diary for issuing stories, comment and analysis regularly and consistently. On top of scheduled output, produce comment and analysis opportunistically linked to the daily news agenda.
2. Be quick to respond
When a journalist does finally come to you for a comment, respond as quickly as possible.
3. Don’t ask to see the piece before it’s published
Any of us who’ve been journalists know what it’s like when you allow an interviewee to see your copy – too often you find them taking out any quotes that are remotely amusing or engaging, making it twice as long and introducing a level of detailed accuracy that you’d normally only find in a legal contract. By asking to see the piece prior to publication you send a warning signal to experienced journalists that you’re high-maintenance and to be avoided. Emailing some quotes soon after a call can be a useful way to mitigate the risks of misquoting, and if the subject is technical you can offer to check the piece for the journalist – but with the assurance that you’ll only correct factual errors.
4. Don’t complain unnecessarily
Of course, if you can’t check it first you can be sure it won’t be perfect. You need a thick skin to be a regular media contributor. Journalists will get things wrong, but try to read the finished article like a speed-reading lay person. Does the gist of what you meant come across? Does your business sound pretty good? Then put up with it. If there’s a bad factual error then it’s worth trying to get it corrected (and reasonably easy to get it sorted with most publications). Otherwise live with it. Complain too much and no busy journalist is going to want to know you.
5. Don’t be over-selective
Target publications sensibly and pragmatically. Yes, most people would love to be in the FT, the Times and the Telegraph every week. But if you refuse to speak to anyone else you’re going to find yourself producing a lot of content that gets nowhere and being frustrated. You’ll also be missing out on coverage in tier-two publications that cumulatively can yield results (including, perhaps, valuable links back to your site that will boost your SEO).
6. Create Once, Publish Everywhere
It can take a lot of effort to produce stories and good content for the press. Repurpose and broadcast content across as many platforms as possible. You may not always get the media coverage you want, but by publishing and distributing your output through your website, LinkedIn, Twitter and other channels you squeeze the maximum value from your PR efforts, enhance your impact and the chances of reaching your target audiences.
7. Generate interesting and original analysis or data
Research and number-crunching can often be time well spent, because the results of your efforts are likely to be valued by overstretched journalists who are facing multiple daily deadlines and don’t have the time or expertise to do similar research. Sometimes you can yield really unexpected and interesting results, which can generate powerful coverage and demonstrate genuine thought leadership.
8. Don’t plug crudely
Recognise that you can’t always talk about your product or process and how brilliant you are. You might manage some subtle plugs, but – and this is especially true in financial services – usually the value of the coverage comes from you being given a platform to demonstrate your expertise and raise brand awareness. You have to be able to accept that. Journalists will tell you that if you just want to do a hard sell you should talk to the advertising department.
9. Have a distinctive voice
Please, please try to sound like a human being (especially in press releases, where many people come across like speak-your-weight machines). We work hard to capture the voices of our clients in content, and it pays dividends in the coverage we achieve.
10. Have a clear point of view or opinion
Often journalists are looking for a takeaway – at its simplest, that something is good or bad and why. The only thing you’ll get from sitting on the fence is a sore backside.
If our clients punch above their weight in the press it’s because they understand and respect these rules. We recognise some people just aren’t comfortable with these and need to calibrate their expectations accordingly. That’s fine. But for those who enjoy the limelight (and you can sometimes be surprised at the personalities who do) this can be great fun – not just for them but for us too.
Working hard and creatively together – mixing your industry expertise with our journalism experience and PR knowledge – we can achieve great things!
To discuss how we can help with your media coverage please email: firstname.lastname@example.org or ring 0115 907 8412.