That being said, understanding how to cultivate relationships with appropriate editors, reporters and even editorial assistants is critical for ensuring your pitch/news release is considered first, and for ensuring media know where to turn for an expert when breaking news occurs.
Here are 7 ways to get in media’s good graces and improve your chances of scoring excellent media coverage.
1. Take an interest in their work. If you have your goals set on achieving coverage in a particular publication and/or with a particular reporter, you need to be familiar with both the outlet’s and reporter’s style and interests. Read, read, read what they have written and reference it when appropriate in your conversations.
2. Call to see how things are going. Take care not to do this at times when media are on deadline or too frequently – that can be annoying. However, occasionally call key media to ask what types of articles/stories they have in the pipeline and determine if there is a way you can help contribute.
3. Introduce them to your other friends. Is this outlet/reporter working on a story out of your realm of expertise? If you have an industry contact who can act as a resource, connect the reporter with a new contact. Media will remember you next time they are working on deadline and need content or a comment for a story.
4. Educate. Tell media what they don’t already know about the industry, and be the one to tell them first.
5. Be a team player Like any good relationship, it should be mutually beneficial. Talk with media rather then pitching at them all the time; they will come to respect you as a valuable source. Learn how you can make a reporter’s job easier, and chances are he/she will turn to you again.
6. Respect the schedule. When you do engage media in a conversation, take the time to ask about and record their contact preferences. When are they on deadline? When is it appropriate to call a cell number? When are they most open to receiving communication? Bottom line, you won’t be a bother in the future if you get to know media’s schedule right away.
7. Don’t Give Up. Didn’t get coverage from your first, second or even third pitch? Do not give up. Often, media file story ideas for later use; it is up to you to remind them you can act as a resource on certain topics. When appropriate, share bios and descriptions of expertise for multiple resources within your company.
A successful media relations strategy includes three major components: an excellent and up-to-date media database, compelling content and aggressive media follow up. But as you execute a strategy with these three elements, also implement these six small habits that will make a big difference in helping achieve more, better quality and ongoing media coverage.
1. Personalization. Send your news release, pitch or media invite to each media contact one at a time. Do not mass mail media communications; media should feel as if you are offering a unique and valuable opportunity and not that they are part of a “spray and pray” strategy.
2. Illustration. If you are able to provide photos or graphic illustrations that support your story, always make them easily accessible for media. Consider uploading to YouSendIt (you can open an account for free) and sharing the link to the images as a URL in the email. DO NOT send big photo attachments to media unless they request a photo.
3. Detailed Documentation. Keep notes of every media interaction – including sending an email, receiving an email response, media calls (whether speaking to a live person, voicemail or not able to reach anyone), media responses, interviews scheduled, feedback about preferences or perception of your company and products, and all resulting coverage. The more familiar you are with the habits and needs of a particular media contact or media outlet, the more chances to secure media coverage.
4. Goal Orientation Before conducting media follow-up calls, identify your desired goal or outcome. Is the goal a simple event announcement listing, a story about a new product, service or corporate initiative, a phone interview with a company spokesperson, a live interview on a TV or radio, on-location coverage of an event, etc. Once you have determined a goal, use it to craft a call to action, and incorporate that call to action in every conversion, email and voicemail during media follow up.
5. Resourceful Presentation. You are not simply asking media to do you a favor by covering your organization’s news, events, products, services and promotions. Approach each media interaction considering yourself as a valuable resource with access to news and content that helps media perform their jobs better. As media relationships grow, your company will become a valued resource media approach when they are in need of an expert. You will start to earn coverage without asking for it.
6. Ongoing Conversation. Whether media do or do not decide to cover your story, ensure you take advantage of the opportunity to learn about future opportunities when speaking with media. When the conversation is flowing and media are not on deadline, ask them to provide insight on regular sections, segments or features and who else at their organization might be interested in hearing from your company.
According to a study recently released by Bulldog Reporter and Business Wire, about half (48.4%) of corporate communicators have an online newsroom, and an additional 13% intend to develop one in the future. The study also revealed the single greatest challenge with online newsrooms is a lack of resources to keep it updated.
The good news: you can develop a very effective online newsroom without devoting too many resources. Below are the top six components that make an excellent newsroom – one that engages media and requires minimal resources to maintain once up and running.
1. Separate News from Media Coverage: Including recent media coverage in a newsroom is a common mistake. Consider the newsroom’s target audience – journalists looking for information to develop their own stories. Limit your newsroom to resources for media, and package your amazing media hits in a separate section on your website.
2. Highly Visible Media Contact Information: Include who to contact and how to contact them (via phone, email, snail mail, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook) at the top of your newsroom. If your company has different contacts for different divisions, or a separate investor relations specialist, be sure to include all points of contact. The quicker media can find the person they need to speak with and the less barriers they have to reaching that person, the more likely you are to land coverage.
3. Media Kit: Your newsroom should have a section featuring all updated media kit materials – documents that provide access to background information about your company, products, services, corporate leadership and any pertinent financial data (if a public company). It is also very useful to provide unique descriptions of each product/service your company offers that media can easily digest. Each piece of the media kit should be downloadable or accessible directly on the website – to meet all media preferences.
4. Video: With media looking for multi-media content for their websites, video can be a powerful tool. Examples of useful video content include: behind the scenes product development, product assembly/instructions and case studies. Even better: providing embeddable links and downloadable b-roll footage can also add great value to a journalist. Just be sure to avoid sales and human resource videos that are better tools for targeting audiences other than media.
5. Image Library: Organize photos of all relevant product, application, corporate locations, corporate leaders as well corporate logos in one location. Offer media both high and low resolution versions of each image, and be sure to update with new photography as new products are introduced and corporate leadership renews. Be sure to provide photos both as downloadable files or with the option to view online.
6. Press Release Archive: News is a critical element of your newsroom. Archive all recent press releases by providing links for media to access or download previous news releases in their entirety, including release date and proper contact information.
Pitching a new or existing product, company spokesperson or useful tips are all successful ways to secure media coverage for your brand year-round.
But there is one strategy you can use to secure immediate media attention-it just requires vigilance and a bit of strategic thinking. You can successfully secure widely read and relevant media coverage by piggybacking your company’s story with a breaking news event. Below is a step-by-step approach for taking advantage of timely current events to secure immediate visibility.
1. Lay the groundwork. Start by setting up news monitoring alerts for key terms that impact your business, industry or customers. Monitor these incoming news alerts daily. When a big event occurs, you will know about it immediately.
2. Target the right media. Now that you know what they are writing about, find out who is writing it. When it comes to national and impactful news, reporters often write follow up stories expanding their initial coverage of an event or news item. Add these reporters to your media list, and be sure to develop a very targeted and personalized introduction as to why you are pitching your story to them specifically.
Secondarily, find out what beat these reporters typically cover and use that information to identify media at other publications that will likely be interested in your story. For example, if environment reporters are covering the breaking news story at a few key outlets, make sure environment reporters from all relevant outlets are on your media list.
3. Provide a new spin. Do not follow up on a breaking news item pitching the same exact story; you will be a day late and a dollar short. The key here is to find a new angle to the story that will entice reporters to develop a follow up story. Examples include: pitch a potential solution to the new problem, play devil’s advocate by warning of hidden dangers, provide insight on how the news item impacts a certain group of people or vital segment of industry, showcase the positive outcomes of a negative situation or vice versa, etc.
4. Provide an expert. Once you decide on your approach, position a company spokesperson as an expert who can speak to media on this topic as part of your pitch. Ensure they are knowledgeable and entertaining. Media will be on the lookout for interesting sound bites and inspirational – or controversial – statements and insight surrounding the situation.
5. Make the connection to your brand. Ensure your pitch provides a direct connection for media as to why your brand or product is an essential part of this story. Perhaps your product provides a necessary solution, or maybe your company has done business in the impacted industry for years. Or your company experienced something similar before, and you understand how consumers will react. Just be sure to clearly state the connection to validate why your company is a good resource for a follow up story.
6. Conduct follow up. Media will have already covered the breaking news item by the time your pitch reaches them. It is key to conduct media follow up calls. Your goal is to help media understand why this new angle, expert or product is a critical component of the evolving story. Ultimately, if you can secure coverage for your brand related directly to timely, breaking news, it will be more relevant and interesting to consumers already engaged in the story.
Need help launching a reactive publicity and media relations campaign? Contact me at kayleigh (at) sweeneypr (dot) com or 440.333.0001 ext. 105.
You have not had any media training but suddenly a key media outlet is on the phone or at your office requesting an interview. Use the guidelines below to get you through an unexpected opportunity in a pinch.
1. Be professional at all times. Interviews are not conversations. Remember that reporters represent the public and will sometimes ask hard or even deliberately leading questions to elicit an emotional or sensational response from you. Be professional at all times; do not slip into a conversational mode.
2. Set the agenda on what you want to get across in an interview. Select a few key points and be certain to cover them regardless of what specific questions the reporter may ask.
3. Steer the interview in any direction you choose. If you are good at it, you can use a reporter’s questions to springboard to the area you want covered. This is legitimate technique for conveying your key messages.
4. Reporters are not necessarily experts. More often they are generalists. Don’t assume they will know anything, yet alone everything about your area of expertise. Provide them with good, concise background material prior to or after an interview.
5. Reporters come in all personality types. Don’t put them all in any one category – “friends” or “out to get a sensational story.” And don’t assume that the same reporter will always have the same approach.
6. There is no such thing as “off the record.” If you don’t want something to appear in print or on the air, do NOT say it.
7. Control your emotions. Before and during interviews: breathe deeply…take time to gather your thoughts…be serious when appropriate and animated when appropriate.
8. Do not answer a question that you don’t know how to answer. Tell the reporter you will get back to him/her as soon as possible. Call back as soon as possible with the requested information.
9. Tell the truth. If you don’t, your credibility is ruined. If you cannot absolutely divulge information, say so, and state why. Do NOT say “no comment”; it will appear that you are not being honest or withholding information.
10. When interviewing for a live TV segment, dress appropriately at all times. Your overall appearance reflects upon you and upon your business.
If you conduct publicity and media relations, you probably have a decent media list, including editors for Good Housekeeping, Today Show producers and local and national industry beat reporters. But beyond the obvious must-haves for any CPG media database, expanding your list to reach untraditional contacts can have a major impact on your brand. This is of course if you pitch media contacts the right story, but that’s a different post all together.
Below are our top four secret tips for building a bigger, better media list to help secure more media coverage.
1. Find Freelancers. Freelance reporters often devote a major portion of their work to one particular industry category. As a result, they have developed strong relationships with particular magazines. It will take a bit of extra time up front, but devote the effort to build a targeted list of freelancers covering your industry and make sure they receive any relevant news and announcements from your company. Then, when they are assigned a story, they will know exactly where to turn for information.
2. Scour the web for syndicated writers/columnists. Again, a little bit of research can go a long way. Start by adding syndicated writers covering your industry beat through services like Scripps Howard and the Associated Press. Then, look for independent syndicated writers by reviewing sections in leading newspapers (i.e. check out the Home section to find a syndicated design writer). Finally, target relevant beat reporters at newspapers that are part of large publishing groups like McClatchy. If you place a story in one of the company’s papers, it can likely appear in sister publications.
Land one quality hit with a syndicated writer, and watch the coverage roll in from around the country.
3. Identify industry experts. Major national consumer media often rely on “industry experts” to acts as guests or interview subjects providing the latest tips and trends on a certain topic. Add these experts to your list and make sure your product is on their radar. If there is a natural correlation with future editorial interview opportunities, you may get a mention without ever having to speak to a producer or editor.
Additionally, well-known magazine editors often appear as lifestyle experts on non-competitive media outlets (i.e. TV talk shows). If you are targeting a certain show, make sure their editorial expert is on your list too.
4. Pinpoint production companies. This strategy works particularly well for consumer products, design and home improvement projects. Cable networks like Style, HGTV and DIY air shows produced by third-party production companies. If your product has a direct tie in to one of your favorite feature shows, track down a contact at the production company that produces the show. Call them directly and ask if they will consider products for placement on the show.
So you have done it! Proverbial success: you did your homework, picked the right journalist, sent a great pitch and now they have called you to set up an interview.
Now what? There are six key questions you should ask media every time to ensure you maximize every media interview and increase your potential to landing a story.
1. What is the focus of your story? In some instances a reporter may be looking for an expert resource on a broader trend story, while in others they may want to cover your company for a feature article. Find out right away the purpose for the interview so you or your company spokesperson is prepared to fill the proper role.
2. When is your deadline? Find out right away when the reporter needs to speak with you or your spokesperson and when they need to turn in their final story. Then, schedule an interview that gives you or your spokesperson time to plan.
3. Do you have any preliminary questions or interview guidelines you would like us to review before the interview? Many journalists have a very specific idea of the type of information they need during an interview. If they can provide questions or topic guidelines to review in advance of an interview, you can be prepared to provide the best information most likely to make it into the story. This can be particularly effective when journalists are looking for tech focused or in-depth information that may require you or your spokesperson to conduct some research. Also, this helps to ensure you can naturally weave your talking points into the interview.
4. Would you like photos or images to accompany the story? Whether it is a headshot, product or application photo or even a chart or graph that helps illustrates key data, journalists like to incorporate visuals that capture the reader’s attention and enhance the story.
5. What days and times are you available for an interview? Journalists often work on multiple stories with various deadlines at once. If you are scheduling an interview for someone other than yourself, determine a journalist’s availability before hanging up the phone.
6. What is the best method (phone, email, Twitter, etc.) for getting back in touch? If you are not conducting the interview, chances are you need to determine when your spokesperson is available. Once you do, you will need to get back in touch with the journalist quickly to confirm the details of the interview, and you cannot afford for your message to be missed.
Also, no matter who is conducting the interview, once the interview is completed, follow up with the journalist to determine if they require any additional information or a follow up interview.
Need help launching a publicity and media relations campaign? Contact me at Kayleigh (at) sweeneypr (dot) com.
It’s the dead of summer, the heat index is above 100 and the media is laser-focused on pretty much any lame story that will get their audiences’ attention. One of my favorites – and I never tire of hearing this – is the “staycation” story. This is a modern version of the “I’m vacationing on Porchville this summer!”
But I have come to learn that Staycation is just one of many of the new breed of vacations being popularized this summer. Here are a few of the others:
NBAcation: This is when you are locked out of the office – without pay – for an undetermined amount of time.
Daycation: This involves scheduling every friday as a vacation day from June till September to create a virtual 4-day work week. For the record, people in the office hate the guy who does this.
Fraycation: This is when you take two weeks off work, but spend the vast majority of your time worrying about your clients and the security of your job. Prescription cocktails are required.
Playcation: No work? No worries… just fun in the sun. No one actually ever does this, it is just talked about around the water cooler.
Whattheheycation: This is the unexpected vacation resulting from a power outage that kills all the open documents on your desktop.
Graycation/Greycation: This is actually retirement.
I am writing this post from a remote location today, as the power grid that feeds our building went dead last night. And so it goes.
Let’s be honest, when most people think of successful consumer publicity, monthly glossies like Real Simple and Good Housekeeping are at the top of the wish list. However, securing coverage with the right online media sites can make just as big of impact for your brand and/or product and help support organic search engine optimization.
At a time when the number and size of traditional print consumer magazines is shrinking and competition for prime editorial coverage is fierce, the online magazine industry is growing and online publishers are learning to deliver content in a format familiar to magazine readers. In fact, a recent article in the New York Times highlights The Thriving (Online) Shelter Magazine Industry.
1. Focused target audience. As the New York Times article identifies, many online publications are focused on one particular niche or topic. For example, an online shelter magazine is entirely dedicated to design while a national glossy like Good Housekeeping may only have five pages worth of home décor and care tips. There is more opportunity for your company or product to be featured in an online publication dedicated entirely to one subject. Also, the publication’s audience is already interested in the topic, otherwise they wouldn’t be on the site.
2. Coverage appears sooner. Typical lead-time for a national consumer print publication is about 6 months. That means even if you start pitching today, the earliest you will see coverage is November. Online magazines and news sites operate on a much shorter editorial cycle, providing an opportunity to secure quick media coverage.
3. Coverage lives on. Once an article is published online, it exists on the Internet indefinitely, while print pubs are often tossed or recycled after reading. Online media coverage has the longer shelf life, and, if it is positive, serves as a testimonial for your brand for consumers conducting online research for years to come.
4. Drive consumers directly to a website. Often online media include a link directly to a product or service website. This can make measuring online media simple. With Google Analytics properly set up, it is easy to track how much direct traffic a particular article resulted in, and whether any of that traffic converted to sales.
5. Enhances organic search engine optimization: If a well-known media site, especially one with a good Google page rank, includes a direct link to your site, it will help to increase your organic search engine optimization. Media sites are seen as more credible sources by search engines than your average site.
6. Reach mobile consumers. As we shared in our recent post on QR Codes, 1 in 2 Americans will have a smartphone by this Christmas. Online media is easily accessible to smartphone users through apps and mobile sites.
7. Gain feedback. Some online publications – those not developed in e-reader formats – provide readers with the capability to post in response to articles. Marketers can gain feedback about their company/products and even respond to consumer comments/concerns/questions.
8. Powerful reach. A common misconception is that online publications do not reach nearly as many readers as traditional media. Whether it is the online counterpart of print media or an online-only publication, these sites reach large numbers of unique monthly visitors. Find the site’s online media kit or use free tools like compete.com or quantcast.com to identify an outlet’s monthly visitors.
9. Real-time sharing. If a reader thinks your product or story is useful or compelling, they can share a link to your story immediately. With print coverage, pass-along readership has value, but often takes longer to occur. With online coverage, your message has the potential to spread faster and bypass geographic barriers.
Need help launching a traditional and online publicity and media relations campaign? Contact me at kayleigh (at) sweeneypr (dot) com.
Media are always on the hunt for new products they know readers will love; and some will even refuse to cover anything other than brand new products from a strict “product review” perspective. But just because your company is not launching a new product this year is no excuse to not reach out to media and get your fair share of media coverage.
Following are six strategies to get coverage for your product, no matter how old or new it is.
1. Dial into a new or resurfacing trend. Do a bit of research and identify a hot trend consumer and media are already talking about. Find a way to tie your existing product into the story.
2. Take a seasonal approach. Do you notice a spike in sales or website traffic during a specific time of year? Pitch your product as a solution for a specific need during a holiday, special event or seasonal change. Not sure exactly where your product fits? Check out this detailed listing of daily, weekly and monthly holidays from national car care to grilled cheese month: http://www.brownielocks.com/
3. Use customer feedback to identify new uses for your product. Document customer testimonials and consider issuing a brief survey polling customers on their favorite way to use your product. Then, package the most unusual and ingenious uses into a pitch to educate media and readers about more ways they can put your product to work.
4. Share advice. Provide a list of tips and inside advice on a topic related to your brand or product, and ensure at least one tip offers your product as a solution. Have an all purpose cleaner? Provide tips for preventing and cleaning up the toughest household messes. The stranger and stickier, the better.
5. Align with a cause. If you have the budget to make a sizeable donation or produce specialty product packaging in support of a charitable cause, this is something you can promote to media. Otherwise, use your product as a means to bring attention to a cause you are passionate about. For example, a company that produces a yoga product can educate media on the health benefits of yoga and how easy it is for anyone to try.
6. Pose a challenge. Does your product always outperform a leading competitor, or does it just do something you have to see to believe? Get media excited by posing a challenge and offering them the chance to participate using your product – make sure you provide a product sample if they accept.
Need help securing media coverage for your company or products? Contact me at kayleigh at sweeneypr dot com or 440.333.0001 ext. 105.
We have developed 300 new product sample kits for media. The kits feature everything the media needs to test the new product. How should we go about distributing the product kits?
By Jennifer Manocchio
Since you have invested in developing these product review kits, you want to ensure they will have the greatest impact among both media and consumers. In order to do that, first determine what markets you want to target.
If the product is only available in select markets, start by targeting media in these markets. The media is more likely to write about product available at their local stores. If media decide the product is worth covering, it can help drive retail sales. Additionally, retail buyers like to see that you are supporting product sales in their markets.
Also, consider any long-lead consumer and trade magazines. If you know your product will be available nationally in the near future or if it is available online, national media will consider testing or writing about your product. It could take up to 6 months for a national magazine to cover the product; therefore, start that process as soon as possible.
Once you determine the markets, the second step is determining what media within those markets to target. Certainly you’ll want to start with media that will be interested in the product and media that will reach as much of your target audience as possible.
While it may seem obvious to start with the newspapers, magazines, blogs, web sites, television and radio stations that reach the most people, don’t forget about niche media. For example, consider you are promoting a DIY product. While regional home magazines might have a lower circulation than a daily paper, don’t overlook those publications because the majority of the people reading a regional home magazine are likely your target audience.
After you have developed your target media list, start by contacting the media (by phone, email or both) and determining their interest in receiving a product sample kit. We highly discourage sending unsolicited product samples because it can be a big waste of time and money. Product samples could be shipped back to you or media could simply toss your package in the garbage. While it will take more time to contact the media, the results will be better.
Following product distribution, contact the media again to ensure they received the materials and to answer any questions they may have. This will also give you an opportunity to gauge the interest of the reporter and whether he or she plans on writing a story.
Distributing product samples to the media is a process and requires time and attention. However, if you are taking the time and money to develop product review kits, it is definitely worth the investment to ensure you are targeting the correct media and the media has confirmed they want to test your product.
Launching a new product and want media coverage? Contact me at jennifer at sweeneypr.com or 910.772.1688.
How do you establish a spokesperson as an expert among media and bloggers?
By Jennifer Manocchio
This is a strategy we often use for clients to help increase brand awareness for a company or product, establish credibility and differentiate themselves from their competitors. It is a process and does take time.
The key to positioning a company spokesperson as an expert is to first identify what areas he or she is truly an expert in and identify what makes him or her an expert. For example, if he or she is an expert in the cleaning products industry, identify what specifically he or she can discuss about cleaning products. Can he or she discuss chemical make-up, cleaning tips for specific surfaces, marketing, packaging or distribution?
Additionally, be sure to provide solid credentials to support your spokesperson as an expert. This can include how many years he or she worked in the industry, education, accreditations, training, workshops/presentations he or she conducted and past media who have used him or her as a resource.
Second, create a biography using the information you have gathered that identifies why your spokesperson is an expert and what makes him or her an expert. Third, let key gatekeepers like influential media and bloggers know he or she is an expert by sending them the biography.
But it doesn’t stop there. It is imperative to continue providing the media and bloggers with relevant information for their audience related to your spokesperson’s expertise. This can be accomplished a number of ways, including contacting media and bloggers with your expert’s opinion on recent news or events, sending media and bloggers tips or industry trends your expert identifies or comments on, and responding to media and blogger resources like ProfNet, HARO and PitchRate when your expert can be a resource. You can also schedule interviews with media and bloggers when your expert is attending industry shows/events, but be sure to give the media and bloggers a reason why your expert is worth their time. This is where dedication and continuous communication with the media and bloggers will pay off.
The most exciting aspect about establishing your spokesperson as an expert is the more exposure he or she receives, the more credibility he or she gains and the easier it becomes!
Have questions or want to learn more about establishing your spokesperson as an expert? Contact me at jennifer at sweeneypr.com or 910.772.1688.
Does your public relations agency need to have good relationships with media contacts to be successful?
By Jennifer Manocchio
If I had a quarter for the number of people who have asked us this question in agency reviews, I could buy a lot of Cokes!
There really is no need for an agency to have a Rolodex of media contacts whom they have excellent relationships with. It isn’t so much about the relationships as it is the process. If you craft a good story, the media will listen. A solid professional reputation for producing quality story ideas is a much more powerful asset to an agency than a few relationships.
Today it is more critical than ever to be an expert when it comes to the media relations process because the media industry is changing so drastically. There have been a significant number of layoffs and buyouts that often result in new reporters covering new beats. We have even seen media outlets stop covering specific beats all together. Also, less staff means reporters have less time to listen to story pitches. This means that even the most comprehensive Rolodex could be obsolete in a matter of weeks.
On the other hand, it can be worthwhile to build relationships with media who cover your beat because it can help your pitch get heard/seen. The best way to build a relationship is to continually go to the media with good story ideas (even when they aren’t about your company) and respond promptly when asked for information, product samples, interviews, etc. However, simply having a relationship doesn’t mean the media will be interested in every story you pitch.
Have a marketing, public relations, social media or advertising question? Post your question below or email exeqnation at gmail dot com. We are committed to answering your marketing questions real time. And if we don’t know the answer, we’ll contact one of our valued partners who will