There’s a story to tell behind every business, and in many cases there’s more than one. When it comes to marketing that story to the media it’s about being ready, being available, being proactive and above all planning to be to on their radar. 

With the New Year ahead, Media Connections founder Linda Reed-Enever explains how to plan for the media in 2020. 

Think like a journalist  

Pull out your notebook and consider all angles because half the game is about thinking like a journalist. Each day a reporter works on their round seeking breaking news or human interest angles likely to appeal to their audience. 

They’re looking for the essential ingredients of a great story, asking:

  • Is it new?
  • Is it timely?
  • Does it appeal to my audience?

In some cases they’re looking for more than this; needing great pictures, striking vision and sound bites that drum up interest. They may also be seeking an authoritative source or expert commentary on a particular issue. 

What they are not looking for is to provide free advertising and a plug for your commercial event or product. That only ever occurs as a by-product of successful PR.

When thinking like a journalist, it’s essential to imagine their environment. Each day thousands of media releases are fed into newsrooms, with editors or journalists taking only a second to decide what’s in and what’s out. In this fleeting moment, they’re after an immediate hook that grabs their attention in order to even read past a media release headline.

On the occasions they rule that story in and schedule an interview or attend an event, their time is limited and their deadline pending. Few newsrooms spare their resources for more than an hour for many stories, and a reporter’s job is to get in, get the information, get out and get that story filed. Assisting them do this is a key to great PR.

Be ready to respond

A media presence is part good planning and part good timing. Often that comes down to knowing when or how to respond, and being ready to do it. Responding to the media occurs in a number of ways so we’ll start with when the media comes to you…

When the media comes a-knocking

Whether it’s the result of a media release or they’ve picked you from a contact directory, when the media comes knocking, you need to move fast and make yourself available to the opportunity. 

Before any interview get up to speed on the topic they’re looking to discuss, know your subject and run through some points and phrases beforehand. Also have a briefing document or release available which outlines facts about your company or the topic.

It’s worth remembering even an unwelcome visit from the media provides the opportunity for you to have your say. In the rare cases of PR damage control you need to be aware of all the facts at hand and keep your responses calm, candid and clear.

When opportunity comes a-calling

The second method of responding involves keeping your ear to the ground for issues affecting your industry which provide a good opportunity to comment. Every business should have a solid knowledge of news relating to them, whether it’s government policy changes, upcoming legislation, new initiatives or study findings. And the key to using these events is to piggyback your response to an emerging issue.

A great example would be the pool franchise which quickly responds to the introduction of mandatory pool fencing. They do so with a release welcoming the new laws and provide advice on how the homeowner can meet these requirements. New – yes. Timely – yes. Interesting – yes. 

Having an article bank

There are media opportunities every week of the year, it’s all about finding them and arming yourself with an article bank.  

Maybe you draft one for each month or a focus on specific events, but these articles can draw on items like  awareness days that relate to your industry, timely tips and advice depending on the season or simple how to guides that would suit a relevant blog. The key is to go through the calendar and find days, events or initiatives that relate to you.

Let’s return to that swimming pool franchise for a minute: 

Come winter they release tips about caring for your pool over the cooler months, in spring they focus on pool safety, and in early summer it’s an article about giving your pool a health check come party season. 

In between they talk about anything from the latest pool designs, to average pool costs via blogs or websites. 

Events they can seize upon include Water Safety Week and National Drowning Prevention Day. Then of course there’s that human interest story about their pool salesman who’s so committed to life on the water, he spends his weekends as a life guard.

Being Prepared

Media strategy is like most things in business, it’s about being prepared and allocating time.  By sitting down for two work days in the quiet months of the year, you could write yourself an entire 12-month bank of press releases. Or, by allocating an hour a week to focus in upcoming opportunities, you could come up with some truly innovative angles.

It’s also a great idea to write a brief about who you are or what your business does. A shortened version of this is included in every release while a lengthier backgrounder (as in one page) can be provided at interview.

And remember, your media presence includes everything from the About Us on your website to your branding on emails and contact details in business correspondence. This is about solidifying your professional image as an authority, so make sure your branding’s up to speed and your website is current.

So hop to it folks, there’s no time like the present, and no opportunity quite so good as now. I look forward to catching you in the media with all the stories you have to tell.  

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