(Hint, the answer is “yes.”)
As an artist, small business owner, or nonprofit staff member, maybe you haven’t engaged with the media much. With sooooo many other activities to focus on, media coverage might have landed lower on your list of priorities. You want your community to know about your latest activities and developments taking place. But, the sheer number of organizations, businesses, and artists means there’s more competition than ever to make sure that your message is heard.
Sometimes organizations and companies attempt to fix this by buying access to media lists and spamming the hell out of journalists. We don’t recommend that. Journalists receive more than 250 a day — and no one wants more email. We want information that brings value to our lives. So if you want to work with the media, it helps to understand:
- what is considered newsworthy
- how to work with the media (aka “media relations”).
Let’s start by talking about why you should work with the media anyway. For starters, here’s how working with the media can be very beneficial to your organization and its mission:
- Increased name and mission recognition
- Helps drive financial support
- Helps drive event attendance
- Legitimizes your work
- Celebrates your accomplishments
- Gain a reputation as an expert/leader in your field
- Increased sales
What stories interest the media?
Despite the onslaught of email, journalists and other media members WANT to communicate with you. But, remember this: a journalist’s job is not simply to cover your organization — it’s about covering the news.
You may be thinking: Isn’t “news” just reporting what’s happening right now? If my organization is hosting an event, I’m showing at a gallery, or my business appointed a new director, isn’t that news, damn it?!
What media considers to be “newsworthy” can sometimes be a mystery. While yes, news is about what’s happening now. But, there’s more to it than that. “News” often focuses on what’s unusual, different, or extreme. Most artists will eventually show their work, most organizations hold an event, and most businesses appoint new directors, so while that information is good to know, it may not be considered “newsworthy.” But this changes if you mention something unique or timely. Here are a few examples:
- You receive a prestigious award. (There are many artists out there — not all of them receive prestigious awards!)
- Your organization’s mission or work ties into an issue that is being talked about nationally. (aka “newsjacking.”)
- A celebrity attends your event.
- Partnering with a well-known, well-established business.
The added elements of timeliness, celebrity, prestige, and human interest could result in a story.
What’s this about media relations?
If you look up a formal definition of media relations, you’ll see something like “Media relations refers to the mutually beneficial relationship between journalists and public relations professionals.” But it doesn’t have to be that complicated. Media relations simply means developing a relationship with the media. And you don’t have to be a PR professional to do it. Journalists, bloggers, and other media members are more likely to work with people they have a relationship with, so when thinking about gaining media coverage, a little media relations might be helpful. Think about it this way: journalists who covering your focus (or “beat,” in journalism terms) are active in your space. If you’re active, too, you should get to know each other anyway. A few things to think about:
Engage…but first do some research.
Do a little work upfront before reaching out. Contacting major national media outlets or the most popular blogs may not be the best strategy. Find the platforms where an editor might be more receptive to your message and brand.
Reach out online.
Everyone appreciates it when you’re familiar with their work, so take time to learn about their beat. Read (or watch) a couple of things they’ve produced. Check out their Twitter timeline or send a timely email and say hello.
Have a little face time.
While getting to know journalists virtually is a good first step, never discount the value of meeting in person. As PR software company Cision mentions, putting a face to the username can help strengthen a relationship and develop rapport, useful qualities for writers and editors when considering what stories to cover. In addition, a face-to-face meeting gives you both an opportunity to discuss your mission, values, and work more in-depth.
Just as you hope others respond to you when you reach out to them, try to be there for them when they eventually reach out. If possible, designate someone to act as a spokesperson for your organization or business. If that person’s you, try and make sure you’re easily reachable, especially these days when news breaks quickly.
Media coverage can be invaluable in drawing attention to your mission and work. But there is no foolproof method that can guarantee coverage. It can be challenging to identify what’s truly newsworthy, develop relationship-building strategies, or simply figure out which media outlets to contact. Working with a consultant can provide clarity in any of these areas. Good luck!