How, When and Why Media Relations Fits Into Your Marketing Mix (Part 2)
By Linda Kaplan, MHA
In Part 1 of my article on Media Relations seen in last month’s Marketecture Digest, I discussed how and why to develop meaningful and appropriate stories to help increase your chance of “getting the ink” – or being seen in the news.
Here in Part 2, I will explain the rules, tools, and protocols needed to follow when pitching your story to the media.
In a nutshell, there are proper formats to follow when presenting a story and certain etiquette necessary when communicating with editors and reporters. Remember, they have the power to edit your story and the control over reporting your story. Therefore, the more you understand how to successfully navigate the media landscape, the more likely you are to get covered.
Proper Media Tools
Properly presenting information about your practice and the story you are pitching is critical in order to being taken seriously. Additionally, knowing whom to pitch – and what their audience cares about – is important. I recommend starting with developing these two tools:
- Create a Media List customized for your community. Know the appropriate editor or reporter responsible for covering the type of story you are pitching. For instance, a business reporter would cover a story about a new building or personnel; a pet or health care reporter would cover a story about a virus or a clinical trial; a community reporter would cover free eye exams at the local pet fair, etc. Contact each newspaper, magazine, radio and broadcast outlet and ask whom the right person is and how they prefer to receive press releases and/or event information (email, fax, mail, etc.). They may have different reporters that cover their online presence (separate from their traditional reporters).
- Develop a Media Kit for your practice. Sometimes called a Press Kit, it is simply a well-organized information packet about your practice to make information gathering easy for a reporter. Here is one we did for a specialty practice in Omaha: Click here.House the Media Kit on your website under the News section for easy access.
Methods of Communication
Pitching your story via the proper medium can impact your success rate. Based on the type of story you want covered, determine the best way to package the information. Here are a few commonly used methods:
- Definition: A public relations announcement issued to the news media and other targeted publications for the purpose of letting the public know about important organizational developments
- Best used for: Time sensitive, important, urgent, educational, informational, strategic, announcements for a broad audience
- Format: Proper format of a release is critical. Click here to see a sample of one we recently created for ACVO/Stokes. To read a great article about formatting, click here.
- Visual aids: Photos and/or videos are powerful news tools. If possible, embed links or attach photos/videos to help your release be seen.
- Definition: A personalized letter written to introduce a story idea to a specific member of the media, offering them an “exclusive” for coverage
- Best used for: Relationship building with a specific reporter or media outlet; In-depth reporting
- Format: Personal, concise, letter on organizational stationery. Make sure your story matches the “beat” that the reporter covers and mention why their readers/viewers/listeners would be interested
- Definition: An “fyi” announcement of an event [that already occurred] that an audience would find interesting such as a ribbon cutting, community event participation, etc.
- Best used for: Events with a great photo or video – that showcase something positive about the practice
- Format: Same format as a press release but not as lengthy – just stick to the basic info
- Visual aids: Photos and/or videos as appropriate
Target Your Distribution
Once the story is developed in the appropriate format, select the proper distribution channel.
- Send to appropriate contacts on your Media List. If you email, embed your release into the email rather than attaching it. In the Subject Line, include Press Release: (Subject) or Exclusive For CBS: (Subject) (for a Pitch Letter), etc.
- The Media List does not usually include online reporters – such as Yahoo.com, Associated Press, ThePatch.com, and Social Media, etc. because it is too massive of an audience – with the exception as mentioned above of your local media outlets having a point person assigned to handle digital stories. If you want to cast a wide net, in today’s world, you can distribute your news “over the wire” via a wire service such as Business Wire or PR News Wire. With these services, you select your region (national, state, local [in major metro areas]), etc., and for a small fee, they send out your release electronically to every online, print, and broadcast news outlet on your behalf [literally hundreds, if not thousands of reporters]. They will also provide analytics so you can see how many people viewed your release. This is not meant to replace you reaching out directly to the Media List you developed, rather to complement it.
Here are a few tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years that help build relationships, improve your chance of local stories being run, and increase your credibility:
- Always use the proper tools for communicating your story and representing your practice – the easier you make their job…
- Focus on the problem your story solves, the pain it alleviates, and/or the benefit it offers the audience the media outlet reaches
- Be confident – believe in your story – motivation is contagious
- Always have your facts straight
- Be available when they call
- Be prepared to adapt to their schedule
- Know when to back off. It’s ok to follow up to your emailed press release, but don’t be a stalker
- Send a thank you note to the reporter who covered your story
- Know your audiences, what they read/watch, what reporters cover that beat
- Always tell the truth
- Reporters are not your friends
- Building a relationship with the media takes time and consistency – be patient and be an expert resource for them
- Don’t ask them to send you a copy or a link of the story – find it through your own research
- Don’t be afraid to hire a professional PR person or team
- It’s never, ever off the record
Good luck to you with your media relations efforts. Please do not hesitate to contact us at (949) 756-8071 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or if you need assistance.