Getting your story into the media almost always requires reaching out and contacting reporters. Once in a while, a reporter will see a press release that comes “over the wire” from a news service and write about it. That is not the norm, especially for small businesses. Instead, reporters write about companies when someone comes to them with a story idea, a comment or an offer to be a source. The media outreach could be in the form of an email or a phone call. This workbook provides some recommended processes for creating and delivering an effective media outreach campaign.
The media industry has changed a great deal in recent years, but its core drivers never change. Media outlets, from news websites like HuffPost.com to radio and TV station and all manner of blogs, are in a heated competition for audience attention or “eyeballs,” as they might call them. The more eyeballs they have, the more ads they can sell. To get audience eyeballs, also known as rating, web traffic or print circulation, media outlets need new, interesting stories all the time. This is where you find your opportunities.
Reporters need stories. You have a story to tell. The media outreach process involves making contact with reporters so you can pitch them your story. Two challenges emerge in this dynamic. Reporters tend to be quite busy, so they’re hard to reach. And, to get media coverage, you have to convince the reporter that your story is worth telling. The trick is to connect with reporters who will be predisposed to finding your story worth telling and them sharing it with them in a way that’s succinct and compelling.
If a reporter is interested in what you have to say, he or she will want to interview you. This process could comprise a phone call or web meeting. In some cases, the “interview” is simply a series of emails back and forth. However it’s done, though, the goal of media outreach is to get an interview of some kind, leading, you hope, to coverage of your news in the press. In some cases, the reporter may want you to be a “background source,” which means your name won’t get into the news. It’s still worth pursuing this role, because it will lead to more contact with the reporter and a relationship with him or her that will pay off in the future.
It’s easy to get confused by the various news distribution services out on the market. We frequently get asked if distributing a press release will result in coverage. The basic answer is “no, almost never,” but some additional explanation is in order. There are four essential ways that news gets out, each with varying levels of success in actually reaching reporters:
- Press release syndication, e.g., through a service like EINPressWire—This type of service gets your press release picked up and published on several hundred news sites, such as sites for the Boston Globe or local Fox TV affiliate stations. It’s relatively inexpensive (under $300 usually) and helps with Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This approach is not effective for press coverage, however.
- Press release syndication and mass reporter emailing, e.g. through a service like PR News Wire—In this approach, your press release gets syndicated to news sites but also emailed directly to reporters who are in relevant categories. If you’re a tech company, you can have your press release mass-emailed to tech reporters, for instance. This is useful, but still fairly generic and mass-produced. Reporters do look at their emails and will sometimes pick up your news based on the distribution. It’s an investment, though. A PRNewswire release can easily cost a thousand dollars or more.
- Public relations firm media outreach—Here, a PR firm works the phones and email to get their clients covered by the press. This is probably the most effective form of media outreach, but also the most expensive. Independent publicists can usually perform this work for lower rates than a big PR firm, but it’s still relatively costly.
- Do-it-yourself media outreach—In this approach, you act as your own publicist. You have a disadvantage, at least in the beginning, because unlike the PR firm, you probably don’t have a relationship with the reporter. But you could, if you work it. And, if you do it right, you can land yourself in the news.
Much of the time, these different approaches work together. You should probably distribute your press release and reach out to reporters directly.
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