Getting noticed: Media coverage requires hard work, thoughtful research

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By Michele Sobota

Many people think that publicity is just for big names and big companies. The truth is, you don’t need to own a huge corporation or be a hot celebrity to become part of the news cycle. Smaller companies and professionals can benefit from media campaigns and are prime candidates for coverage.

Given the internet and the rise of social media today, anyone can be his own publicist and publish online content. Whether it’s the best use of a person’s time or skill set is another question. Have I heard of do-it-yourself publicity success stories? Absolutely. Have I heard of very many? No.

There are a number of reasons for this. One is that, given the changes in the news business – massive staff cutbacks and insanely fast news cycles — no journalist has time for information that isn’t 100 percent relevant to what he covers. The role of a 21st century publicist is to deliver content that meets precise needs. Unless you are a Fortune 500 company and need to release quarterly financials, the old “spray and pay” strategy isn’t likely to work.

A new media world

You’ve probably heard about the huge cutbacks in the news business across the U.S. over the past 15-plus years. While the ranks of journalists continue to thin, they must deal with ever more PR types nipping at their heels in hopes of free coverage and instant fame for their clients.

This means it’s even harder to get noticed these days — unless the name of your company happens to be Google, Apple, or Tesla. For most businesses, media coverage requires hard work. Specifically:

  • Research.
  • News judgment.
  • Great communication skills.
  • Wisely executed persistence.

Research

Make sure you or your publicist is prepared to spend serious time looking for the right journalist at the right media outlet before you make your pitch.

The last thing reporters whose newsroom just got a haircut from corporate need is someone calling and spamming them with information completely unrelated to what they cover.

Believe me, there are thousands of niche publications, shows, blogs, and podcasts for every topic and trend out there. Before making a pitch, it’s in everyone’s best interest to take the time necessary to find the best fit. This includes writing a relevant media release customized to meet the needs of each outlet. Be ready to offer digital assets like photos and infographics to sweeten the package.

Find the right hook

Before a request for coverage is made, figure out the best news angle (or hook) for the product or service you are about to pitch. This requires an awareness of what the journalist regularly writes about plus a great story idea tied to a news trend the target media outlet cares about.

Keep in mind that if your publicist used to be in the news business, that’s a good thing. Chances are he still thinks like a journalist and is a good judge of angles most likely to interest working journalists about your product or service.

Communication skills

Once a customized pitch has been developed, it must be delivered in a professional, yet friendly, way. This is an art, not a science. A clear and clean writing style is extremely important. On the verbal side of things, a helpful attitude needs to come across. Dedication and competence are also important. Reporters on deadline need to know that the person they’re dealing with can deliver accurate information on time, and on a dime.

Wisely executed persistence

Unless your message is tied to breaking news, or your company has recently been featured on “60 Minutes” or some other national outlet, there’s a very good chance that your emails, social media posts, and voicemail messages will be ignored, lost, or deleted. Because reporters are constantly cranking out new content, they must be extremely discriminating about which pitches they respond to.

Therein lies the need for follow-up.

The wise part of following up has to do with timing. For example, if you pitched a TV news station, don’t call them minutes before one of their live shows airs. The job of a publicist is to help — not harass — journalists.

Be smart

Sometimes earned media placements come easily, but for most entrepreneurs and businesses, they require hard work. Now more than ever, journalists need good sources to help them meet their deadlines. Smart publicists can help smart companies find the right journalist, at the right media outlet, at the right time.

Michele Sobota is the founder and owner of Connexions PR, a one-woman shop that specializes in publicity for businesses and professionals. Reach her directly at michele@connexionspr.com or www.connexionspr.com.

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