Observations on the News Media

However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.
Sir Winston Churchill
British statesman

Unlike paid advertising, where placement is guaranteed, news media coverage offers a business or organization potentially greater rewards but at greater risk.  

Ideally, advertising and PR work together to form a powerful force. Ultimately, it is the editor who controls what goes into print, broadcast and website coverage and how much space or time will be devoted to a story - not the PR consultant, account exec, or client!

Also, reporters and editors often seek out other sources to include in a story and we have no say in this whatsoever!  From the headline to the points emphasized within the story, it is the news media that has 100% of the control.

However, an experienced media relations professional can minimize the risks and uncertainty and maximize coverage and placement of a news announcement. Read on...

However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results. Sir Winston Churchill,
British statesman

  • Be realistic about timing and don't depend on a story appearing on a specific date (unless promoting a public event).

  • Look for national, regional and local trends and try to link your story to a trend - catching up with a trend, part of a trend, ahead of a trend. Reporters love this approach! These days, anything related to economic development gets a reporter's attention.

  • Offer news and background that editors want and reporters will cover (i.e., become familiar with their news philosophy and product). If something is not newsworthy in their eyes, it doesn't matter how important it is to us.  Their key questions: Is this something our audience cares about or needs to know?  Have we recently covered something similar?  (And these days, do we have the space for it?)

  • Be highly selective about which story idea goes to which news outlet, be it general news media, special interest publications, or trade and professional media.  Every reporter loves to get an "exclusive" and we must be aware of this option. Conversely, the story might be covered by all. The trade-off?  Widespread coverage via a general release vs. detailed, in-depth coverage from an exclusive.

  • If pursuing TV, have some "visuals" - things and activities that can be photographed.

  • Prepare some highly quotable phrases - "quotable quotes" - vivid and interesting expressions and comments for questions you know you'll be asked. And rehearse them. When asked by a reporter about the possibility of reconstructing a hand, a prominent orthopaedic surgeon once said  "trying to reconstruct a hand is like taking a bag of potato chips and making a potato - it can't be done."  Vivid. Concrete. Clever. You get the idea!

  • Plan editorial offerings that "go with the seasons" - this is especially important for retail businesses that experience seasonal buying cycles and for colleges and other ventures that are seasonal in appeal.

  • Cultivate a reporter and editor - offer information and help, not threats and demands - and work with their schedules, editorial calendars, etc.  And no sulking or complaining.

  • Offer reporters and editors additional sources - experts in the field, satisfied clients, local & national organizations, even carefully selected leaders in the same field.  Otherwise, we may not like who they find on their own.

  • Listen to Bob and do what he tells you to do.