If you are anything like I am, you work hard to move the needle. And I’m always looking for ways to layer on different communications tools that can effectively work within existing campaigns. Many companies use paid advertising or marketing, but too many organizations and businesses have fantastic stories about their work that they keep vaulted away inside their four walls. As a result, they miss opportunities to expand their reach through earned media.
Why does media relations matter in the first place? Love them or hate them, the media are influential in shaping public opinion. Whether you are trying to persuade elected officials or you want to tell your story to a broad audience, media can help influence them on your behalf. For the most part, the media are a trusted source of information. When used as an ally, the media help legitimize your message. Earned media matters.
Whether you are rolling out an announcement, getting a communications program off the ground, or just looking to give a boost to a flailing initiative, there are four things you can do to jumpstart your media relations:
- Ask if the general public would really care. Often we have great stories that we think are fantastic – and they probably are – but would others outside the organization really care about the story? Would a reporter’s audience care? Knowing when not to share a story is just as important as knowing when to share one.
- Determine the best type of media. When determining the type of media you’d like to pitch, think first about whom you are trying to reach. I’ve found that we get older and politically engaged segments when articles run in the daily newspaper, and we can hit a large portion of the population through the right local television station. When we need to reach a younger group, we’ll seek out local influential social media stars. Depending on the content and target, we will often reach out to independent print or digital news outlets. However, don’t discount the ability of your local paper and broadcast affiliates to reach younger audiences. Many of them have beefed up their social and digital presences and if you craft a message that resonates, readers will often share with their friends, further expanding your reach.
- Craft a compelling message. You need your message to be believable, but you also want people to remember what you have conveyed. So, you want your message to be sticky. How do you do that? By making it memorable. You can make it memorable by humanizing your story, keeping it simple (keep in mind that context trumps content), and connecting with emotions. People will forget 90% of what you say. But they will likely never forget how you made them feel.
- Build a list of potential reporters. Firms like Targeted Persuasion use expensive subscription-based websites to identify potential reporters. They help us understand the whole picture of the reporter. We learn about the college background, areas of interest, social media handles, etc. But you can begin today by using Google. This list can be built based on the beat the reporter covers and the geographic region.
And here’s a bonus tip!
- Give more than you ask. Consider taking your newly constructed list of reporters and connecting on social media. Help these reporters promote their stories. Add relevant content to posts that the reporters make. Consider helping these reporters when they need help getting a story together. In fact, I’d encourage you to help more than you ask. Become a trusted resource to the reporters in your space.
Media relations can be an important and effective tool to promote your organization or business, and you can begin right now by using these five tips. Let’s get started!