I never would have pictured myself as a business owner until I realized something that was wrong with the field of media relations that I am in. There is a disconnect between actually considering the needs of the media when creating media strategy. I started my business to fix that problem.
In order to make it into press coverage, you have to know what the press is covering. Researching press coverage is a task that very few public relations firm senior staff do because it is not cost effective for them, and it is time consuming. Often times they have the interns do it, if at all. The press lists are often created by interns too, who have no idea what the people they are putting on the list really cover.
Those doing media relations in-house are just as guilty in not doing research sometimes. With in-house communications, many hours are spent on thinking of how you want to say your issue from an internal standpoint, and that is how long documents and big media stunts are created with everyone's viewpoint expressed in a way that is comfortable. It goes something like this, "let's do an event for the media. We're going to get 50 people together outside our organization's office to talk about why we need more fuel efficient vehicles. To make sure we all feel involved, we'll get a quote from everybody." Everyone agrees that sounds like a lot of fun, and plans are underway to make this happen. Wait, did anyone stop to consider if the media would even care to cover this in the first place? Did anyone research it? Sometimes not, but it is too late after no one shows up to the press event to think about it. If your goal is to get media coverage, time needs to be spent to think about what will make your story compelling to the media before any documents are created in the first place. If your goal isn't to get media coverage, great, then don't contact the media.
Without research you can only do strategy based upon perceived reality of what is in the news rather than reality of an actual coverage analysis. These two things can be very different and that may be the reasons why you are not getting coverage. When emerged in a field, it is hard to see that what might be interesting to you, is not something that the whole world understands or pays attention. With research, you can see this easier and then adapt your ideas to fit in with what everyone else wants to know.
Research needs to be the first step at all times. If you do not research what the press is covering until after you have already written the press materials, the media strategy, and created the press list, then you have wasted a lot of time. By the time it makes it into the hands of someone like me, who is actually coordinating with the media, I would have to start from scratch in order to adapt it to the needs of each individual reporter.
It seems like common sense, but the process of media relations involves researching the media. With the media world changing, I think individual strategy is more important than ever. In a time when most firms are breaking away from traditional media outreach, I see it as more important and easier to obtain than ever, if you do it right.
There are so many ways to listen and take into account what the media is covering. It is literally as simple as turning on the television or jumping on the internet. Here are a few suggestions for how you can get to know the press better and create better media strategy as a result:
- Create a Google alert for your issues. This will spawn instant ideas for how you can reach out to reporters and respond to what they are already covering. It will also keep you in the loop on how they are covering it and what you can do to help them expand. In addition to this, it will indicate reporters covering the topic that you might have missed.
- Watch the news when you can. I have CNN on all the time at my home office. Sometimes they run upcoming news stories on the bottom of the screen. If I have a client that relates to one of those stories, then I prepare with some talking points to distribute in response to the current news of the day. The news cycle is instant these days, and if you are in an office, not paying attention to the news all day, you may have missed many opportunities.
- Ask the press. The best way to get the scoop on what the press want you to give them is to ask them directly. There is no sense in spending time developing a media strategy that the press don’t care about or won’t use.
- Follow reporters on Twitter and friend them on facebook. It will help create relationships and give you clues on what might interest them for story ideas.
- If you already have a press list, Google every single person on it, and see what they have last written. Don't even think about contacting a reporter unless you know what they are working on.
If you follow these steps, you are on your way to becoming a media miracle worker. Happy press strategy creation.