How to Court the Media

Last week, some 850 Internet-related press releases (per the Industry Standard Buzz Meter) deluged the news media of the United States.

This “news” included crucial information from one company that was “pleased to announce” it has finally finished its product, as well as another company’s announcement regarding the pressing issues surrounding a sweepstakes to give away a NASCAR race car. One company felt compelled to announce to the news media that it actually got some news coverage in the news media! I’m sure you’ve seen the headlines.

The common misconception is that publicity is free, and you need to send out press releases to get it. On the contrary news coverage is earned, and you do so by understanding what news truly is and what journalists truly want.

The following tips could help you connect with the media and earn your fair share.

Write for/Talk to the Audience That would be the journalist. You have to convince journalists that you have real news of interest to their readers and hook them into wanting more information. That’s tough because you are dealing with a group that’s trained to be jaded, ask tough questions and look for positions and input counter to yours to provide a “balanced story.” They have seen and heard it all know that, and you’ll be better off.

Don’t Be Chicken Little Here’s a thought: Only send out news when you have news. Inundating the press with announcements about everything you do will only make the important stuff less significant. Journalists will treat your efforts as persistent flackery that’s designed to be ignored. But when you limit your press releases to real news about your company, you will reap huge benefits. Over time, journalists will respect your judgment of what’s really important to your company and will cover it appropriately.

Less Is More — Winston Churchill, in a five page later to a friend, apologized saying “if I would have had more time, this would have been shorter.” Words to live by. Short and to-the-point wins points and gets you understood. And don’t try to cover more than one “news” item at a time in a release it diminishes the value of each item.

According to Whom Take Jack Webb’s advice and provide the media with “Just the facts…” When you put un-attributed claims in a news release like “we are the leading” or “the most unique,” etc., the first comment from the news media is “according to whom?” If you must embellish in a news release, do it with a quote that supports your message or use a trusted third party (e.g., customer, industry analyst, rating service, or qualified research) to substantiate your claim. And when you do quote someone, for God’s sake, don’t have them say “we are excited” or “are pleased to announce.”

Build Relationships When talking to a journalist, use it as an opportunity to build a relationship, not press for coverage. Here’s the deal they need information fast, and you might have it. Answer their questions or provide them with sources that can. Know your industry and have thoughts and insights on current and future trends. Most importantly, share your ideas without selling your company. They will appreciate it and come back for more when they need assistance; and by the way, you may even get mentioned.

The Sun Isn’t Always Shining So don’t try to tell a journalist everything is great, full-speed-ahead with no troubles in sight. They won’t believe you, and it will hurt your credibility. Plus, if you have a weakness or problem that you attempt to hide from them, they will find it and use it against you with a vengeance. My advice: Paint a balanced picture of your future. Talk about the challenges you have faced or will face, but also talk about your strategy to attack these challenges head-on and overcome them. Better you define your weak spots than to have competitors and analysts define them for you.

Well, got to go need to read the breaking news regarding two companies who have decided to post each other’s logos on their web sites.

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