One of the important, but perhaps less known, aspects of dealing with the media is the news cycle. Journalists with limited resources and even less time are subject to deadlines to fit their employer’s production processes.
Knowing what the journalist or publication wants and when and how to deliver this, makes it much easier to get mainstream media coverage.
Understanding the media -101
What goes without saying is that journalists are always on a deadline and work with limited space and resources. They are also subject to performance and editorial pressures, meaning they must be seen to be engaging in quality journalistic practice while writing for their target audience. It is an ongoing challenge.
Also, in past news eras there have been optimal times to send out a press release for maximum exposure, for example, NOT Friday afternoon at 4.55 pm. However, in the digital age of media, the news cycle is a lot less prominent, with journalists often uploading stories at all hours of the day. Thus, depending on the medium you aim to be seen in, the time you approach the publication can impact the likelihood of them running your story.
Hitting the right hot buttons
The ‘So what’ factor
Understanding news cycles and the pressures faced by journalists is critical underlying knowledge about getting seen in the media. However, the most effective way to grab a journalist’s attention is to have a damn good reason why they should include your story in their publication. So make the ‘So what?’ factor blindingly obvious.
Tip-in your efforts to get media exposure, consider the target audience of publications you pitch to. As a general rule, if the audience will want it, the editor will want it as well!
One of the performance measures of journalists is in the exclusivity of the scoop they get. Journalists want to feel like they have first dibs on a story, and are unlikely to run it if it seems like old news. Building relationships with a particular journo or organisation can guarantee media exposure in future without all the legwork so be nice and persistent and over time your relationships will pay off.
Keep it simple…
Make it easy for the journalists considering your pitch by proofreading your work and ensuring you include any supporting documentation such as photographs and surveys. Don’t use jargon specific to your field of work or industry and keep any submissions or press releases relatively short.
Catchy headlines help, but a summary paragraph will work wonders by allowing the journo to judge the usefulness of the story in a matter of seconds. When a story comes as a complete package and deadline looms the offer becomes impossible to resist.
Importance of Style
A basic, effective way to making something interesting is to inject a particular focus or angle on the topic. Be remarkable. Tell the journalist something they didn’t already know so you are an important resource of information rather than someone simply tooting their own horn. Relate your information to something very recent, and if they approach you, you must react with lightning speed to hold their attention.
A different approach -write your own blog
If you didn’t already realise, a blog is the media. Blogs have been known to inadvertently reach the mainstream media outlets anyway in a new twist of cross-media relationships. News outlets have been known to quote blogs and even approach authors for follow-up stories. You could be the next quoted source!
Whatever you take, one thing is certain: you need to start writing and get active in the media!