In today’s busy, cluttered media environment it’s important to be savvy and sophisticated with your media relations activities. The digital space has created a new “24/7” … it’s now more like 1,440/day. (Think of it as an opportunity every minute!) Here’s how we navigate effectively.
Write like a reporter, think like an editor.
Understanding the basics of how reporters write and mimicking their approach will earn you greater pick-up. Write in AP-style, and keep your word count usable and tight. Always write the “who, what, when, where, how and why” into your story, pitch, or release.
It’s also important to understand why editors make certain choices about what to place, revise or cut altogether. When asked about PR-released news, some editors voice the need for more third-party quotes. Others voice frustration over basic grammar errors in news releases or self-serving pitches. Our opportunity is to make their lives easier, save them time, and provide what they need. Treat reporters and editors like they are your customer, and you’ll achieve greater results.
Timing isn’t everything … but it’s pretty important.
If you don’t have breaking news or you’re not releasing material financial information, you’ll need a well thought-out calendar that sharply defines when you’d like all your stories to hit. Start with the target date for when you’d like to see all stories placed, then back-up the calendar to consider your target media’s print cycle, broadcast schedule, and online editorial calendar. For instance, if you’d like your news to hit everywhere on April 1, simply sending a news release on April 1 will eliminate most of your print or broadcast coverage as the news will be “old” and already placed online. Consider offering your print or broadcast contacts some advance information so they can write or tape their stories to coincide with your April 1 release. Make sure you incorporate bloggers and online influencers into your calendar with some specific direction on when they can release your news. With thoughtful planning, everyone wins.
Have a Constant Dialogue.
In the digital space, have an editorial calendar that keeps people coming back for more! Daily posts are a must, and keep your conversation lively by monitoring and engaging in conversation throughout the day. If you ask a question in a Facebook post, for instance, don’t wait until the next day to re-engage. It’s a conversation, so keep it timely … and keep it going, or you’ll lose your following.
Understand today’s newsroom.
It’s different than it was a decade ago, and many of today’s “print” reporters now have multiple responsibilities and assignment topics. Yesterday’s beat reporter is now expected to write a daily blog, a weekly online piece, and write their daily print piece … and they’re stretched across beats. In addition, fact-checkers and researchers are often non-existent. This means we need to offer more backgrounders and research to make reporters’ lives easier. We need to serve up interviews and facts.
Also ask yourself, do you know who covers your beat and is this person responsible for several topics? Do you know how the newsroom and editorial staff function? Who assigns the stories or writes the headlines? Who’s competing for space? Which news outlets won’t use wire stories? Which newspapers won’t run a story once it’s online? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you are behind the game. But the good news is, these answers are easily accessible … just ask! If you don’t know your beat, call the editor. Schedule time to visit the editor or producer and ask how they function. They’ll tell you.
Similarly, what bloggers are influential in your industry? Who is talking about you online? Understanding the influencers and their needs in the digital space are equally important to understanding the newsroom. Treat them the same.
Curiosity is a winning trait.
Ask a lot of questions. Engage. Have a conversation as you would at a cocktail party. Think about your personal experiences … the one in the crowd who asks the most questions is generally the most fun to be around! Reporters, bloggers, online influencers, and editors will be happy to tell you what they’re working on … what they’ve learned … and what they think. Just ask! The most curious is the most informed, and the most informed makes the best decisions about engagement. It really is that simple.
Finally … Keep it Simple.
Are your messages clear, clean, understandable? Are they tweetable? Do your messages tell a consistent story of your brand personality and business? Begin by developing message maps about your business and brand topics. Message mapping is a great process that will help you prioritize your messages, and do the up front research necessary to make your messages real and sustainable. Keep your message maps updated, current and relevant. Also determine the right spokespeople who can bring these stories to life and add color and interest to the messages. Make sure these people are trained and ready to help. Practice the messages so you hear and experience the stories, then edit and edit again until you are telling concise, interesting, stories! These maps are for internal use, but you can also put together externally-useful “fact sheets” based on your maps.