8.1. How to Maximize Media Coverage

  1. Have a strategy.

    Tailor your strategy for each public relations opportunity. Think about the audience you want to reach and how to create excitement. An effective part of your strategy should be to enforce your organization's core messages in all news releases.

  2. Have a good story.

    A news story must have a compelling beginning, middle, and end. Journalists recognize a strong story within seconds, so tell your story quickly and succinctly.

  3. Know your audience.

    You wouldn't follow up on a potential business opportunity without knowing something about their business, so don't call the news media blindly. Before you pitch to any media outlet, study their work. Read the publication, watch the show, and listen to the radio broadcast. Get familiar with the characteristics of the media outlet you are targeting. Find out about their main audience and their likes and dislikes. (Internet message boards are good for this.)

  4. Invest in relationships.

    The more you know about the media organization and your target editor, the better and more confidently you can pitch to them. Building relationships now means editors will be more likely to take your call when you've got an important story to tell. Best of all, even if they can't offer you coverage on this particular story, they may refer you to another reporter who can. As with any relationship, building trust is critical. Keep your promises, and be on time. Be upfront about what you can and can't do. You might not be able to do everything, but reporters will appreciate your honesty.

  5. Think before you speak.

    A word of caution: everything you say to a reporter is on the record, regardless of disclaimers. You are representing your organization at all times. The impression that you give has a definite impact on how the media views your organization.

  6. Monitor your media coverage.

    Media coverage shows your success. As a media relations expert, the end goal is always positive media coverage for your organization. When your organization is spotlighted in major media outlets, you bring attention and respect to your business.

  7. Look for a unique angle.

    Look for personal stories that can spur news media interest. For instance, if a local school board is considering Linux to save money, focus your story on the human interest angle. Unusual stories and angles that affect a media's audience are more likely to get media coverage than mundane ones.

  8. Know your story inside and out.

    Research your story carefully. This allows you to revise your pitch if the editor has specific needs. You also must be able to answer any questions that the editor may have.

  9. Be persistent.

    There is a fine line between being persistent and annoying, but if you have a good story and know your audience, it is fine to make contact attempts until you get feedback from a reporter.

  10. Follow up.

    Many potential leads are lost because public relations people fail to follow through. If a reporter tells you to call back another time, make sure you do! Also, if a reporter doesn't answer your email immediately, do not assume they are not interested. They might not have had time to respond to the large volume of emails they receive.

  11. Be creative.

    Infusing your media relations plans with innovative thinking produces stronger, more effective results, so avoid recycling the same old news releases and fact sheets.

  12. Find information.

    Do you sometimes feel like you just can't write the news release? This blockage often indicates you don't have enough information. Do outside research. Interview an industry analyst. Get another perspective. This investigation can lead to the information for a great story.

  13. Study and adopt good writing skills.

    Use a journalistic approach. Look carefully at how reputable publications like The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal structure a story. What is the lead? What kind of quotes do they use? Study different types of stories. Features, appointment announcements, news articles, and opinion pieces can all be useful in your public relations campaign. Often, you will see the most important information is in the lead and that the rest of the story follows. This inverted pyramid style is usually the best way to organize an article.

  14. Eliminate jargon and techno-speak.

    Buzzwords are like bees—they can be highly irritating. Write with clear language, and avoid clich├ęs, which are another sign of weak writing.

  15. Expect results.

    Media coverage means increased visibility, which exposes your organization to more prospective customers. The more people you can reach, the better the impact will be on your organization.

Finally, the success of your media relations efforts means success for you in the dynamic, engaging, challenging, and creative business of public relations.