You pick up the newspaper and are thrilled to read an extensive profile on your companys plans for a new product line that will change the face of your industry. Or you see a piece on the 11 oclock news showing your employees rallying together to help a local nonprofit organization.
In both cases, your company is positioned well and set apart from the competition, either as an authority or leader in the field, or as a company that cares about the community. Both stories have in common the fact that they most likely appeared thanks to a well-planned pitch and presentation to the media.
This type of coverage appears every day for businesses across America or at least the ones that make a concerted effort to achieve a mutually rewarding relationship with the media. Good relationships with the media are not formed without a good understanding of what reporters look for and what their responsibilities are.
Remember, the media isnt the primary target for your messages ... its the readers and viewers of each outlet. The media should be viewed as a gatekeeper of information which can greatly affect a companys image and reputation.
You want the media to publish or air the information you think is important for the public to learn about your company, but you must realize that the media is looking for specific kinds of information. To forge successful relationships, you face the challenge of crafting the messages you want people to get while providing news that reporters and editors desire.
Its important to understand the media when you begin planning your pitches. Make sure what youre pitching is newsworthy. To be considered news, your story must have at least one of the following:
- Impact The topic must affect peoples lives in a significant way.
- Numbers It must affect a large number of people.
- Timeliness The event or news item is recent.
- Prominence Your news involves well-known people.
- Proximity It happened close to home.
- Conflict or other bizarre or unusual elements.
Planning for each medium is critical. If youre targeting the Butler Eagle, your story should affect readers in the Butler area. If youre targeting Seventeen magazine, your pitch had better not be about how senior citizens can spend their weekend leisure time.
Once you have determined that your story qualifies as news, tailor your information to fit the needs of reporters and editors. Whether you are pitching a story to the television, radio or print media, reporters generally look for the same things:
- Timely, cutting-edge trend stories.
- New information, new opinions, examples of trends or of going against the trend.
- Useful how-to information.
Its critical to understand the specifics of each media outlet. Watch or listen to a few programs in the case of broadcast media, or read a number of issues of newspapers or magazines to get a better feel for content, style and reporter preferences and opinions.
Next, make the pitch. This can be done by picking up the phone and making your case to a reporter as to why your story is important to his or her audience. Have the details in writing to respond to requests for a fax or e-mail of the information. If the pitch is more complex, develop a news release with the details, or a simplified version known as a media advisory, which lists the who, what, when, where, why and how.
Regardless of your approach, make sure you are prepared. Editors, reporters and producers are busy people with strict deadlines. Dont have a reporter on the phone and say, I have some ideas to run by you that I know youll be interested in, without having great ideas and being prepared to talk in detail.
Like any relationship, successful media relationships dont just happen overnight. They are the result of hard work and a commitment to honesty and integrity and can be a win-win situation for everyone involved.
Jeff Krakoff is president of Krakoff Communications, a Pittsburgh-based marketing communications firm. Questions can be sent via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Reach him by phone at (412) 434-7718.