This is a question I get asked a lot. Most often when a business owner first contacts me about doing some public relations.
But there are some hidden issues wrapped up in this question you need to understand.
Firstly, getting your business or organisation talked about in the media is not a magic solution to whatever challenges it faces.
Media coverage can have many benefits, as I outlined in this previous blog, but at its core it’s about using relevant media outlets to communicate a set of key messages about your business or organisation to your target external audience/s or stakeholders (they’re technically slightly different) in order to make something happen.
That in itself isn’t a panacea for all business or organisational ills. Together with other relevant actions, it can be part of the solution because effective two-way communication with relevant stakeholders is vital in most situations.
PR isn’t just Media Relations
Secondly, effective best practice public relations is about an awful lot more than doing media relations, as public relations professionals refer to it.
Although the best known part of what we do and media relations is often referred to as ‘PR’ by non-public relations professionals, sending content to relevant media about what you’re doing is only one of many tools used by public relations professionals.
Whether it’s the right tool to achieve your target business outcomes in the short or long-term will depend on what you’re looking to achieve and whether speaking to your target audiences via media will help you do that.
That’s an assessment which can only be made once you and a public relations professional have worked together to develop your PR Brief – the written set of Aims and Objectives to be achieved – and that person has developed a costed PR Proposal to achieve them.
For more about the process I use, read this previous blog.
Assuming your public relations professional recommends media relations should be part of your PR Plan, does that just mean writing and sending news releases out on a regular basis?
By now you’ve probably guessed that the answer isn’t as simple as that. And it isn’t.
Part of your PR Proposal and PR Plan will be creating a Media List of relevant media to reach your target audiences. Some of them will be probably be traditional print-based news media (now with online platforms too), while others will be trade or professional publications or broadcast channels.
Your Media List may also include local and national organisations which would be happy to share your content on their website or via other channels of theirs, such as social media or email newsletters. So if you’re a member of a chamber of commerce or business organisation, it may be happy to do this if you’re a member. It may even be a membership benefit you’ve not used before.
Don’t think only ‘free’ channels
Public relations professionals refer to coverage in media channels as a type of ‘Earned Media’ – one part of the PESO Model.
But the model also includes Paid (any channel you have to pay for e.g. advertising, promoted social posts, sponsored content), Shared (social posts, partnerships, influencer deals) and Owned (channels you control, such as your website and email). Each of these other channels need to be considered for what part they can play in your PR Plan.
For example, if you don’t have anything which media would consider a news story, then you should look at how you can use Owned, Shared and Paid channels to communicate that message or set of messages.
Is my news News?
While the exciting new development in your business or organisation may be ‘news’ within your business, it may not be to people outside.
Broadly, it depends on how many people outside your organisation it affects as to whether it passes the ‘So what?’ test. And if the people affected are those reached by that media outlet. Journalists on it will only be interested in your news if they are.
So how do you know if your news is of interest?
For a start, it has to be something new or surprising. In 2010, Tony Harcup and Deirdre O’Neill updated an existing list of factors which make a story news. As quoted in the very useful PR Place Guide to Writing a News Release, they are:
- The power elite – is the story about powerful individuals, organisations or institutions?
- Celebrity – does it concern people who are already famous?
- Entertainment – does the story contain human interest?
- Surprise – does it have an element of surprise or contrast?
- Bad news – redundancies, accidents, deaths are classic ‘bad news’ stories.
- Good news – by contrast, especially in these days full of bad news at every turn, news outlets like to report happy stories such as people overcoming challenges or a business receiving financial backing from a funder.
- Magnitude – how many people are affected? And where? The more and wider, the greater and geographically broader media coverage you will get.
- Relevance – does the story resonate with the publication or channel’s audience? This is the biggest factor of all. If your story is of no interest to Mrs McGuffy in Glasgow, don’t expect the media she uses to be interested.
- Follow-up – journalists tend to follow-up on stories that are already in the news. So coverage in one outlet may generate a follow-up story in another. Or interest from the same one later – to see what happened next.
- Newspaper agenda – does the story fit the newspaper’s own agenda? So if your story is about an SNP club growing its membership, don’t expect the Daily Telegraph to be interested.
What if my story isn’t News?
Not everything qualifies as a news story, as you can see from the above definitions. If Media Relations is a relevant channel to reach your audience/s but your project is already ongoing and doesn’t involve Lady Gaga roller skating to your premises, features slots are an option.
Daily publications often have ‘news features’ which take a detailed look at the issues involved in something in the news. They and publications published less frequently usually also have regular features slots on certain topics, or written by the same writer each issue.
By identifying those which would be interested in hearing about and writing about what you do, you can make a list of features slots you should pitch for.
Media also write features on some topics on a less regular basis, but once or more annually. Trade and professional publications, as well as some B2C ones, usually have a ‘Forward Features’ list on their website which lists what features they’re planning to publish in the coming 12 months. So if you download or request them you can, again, identify the features you could contribute to.
Be warned though – most B2B publications will usually ask you to buy an advert before considering including you in a planned feature, especially if what you plan to say is essentially just promoting your business rather than sharing expertise or research.
Finally, if your project doesn’t chime in with your target media’s planned features, you can also pay for it to be used as ‘Sponsored Content’.
This is essentially an advert but typeset or otherwise presented in the same style as their independent editorial – which makes it more likely to be read than an advert but clearly flagged as a paid-for promotion.
Still interested in getting your business into the media? Get in touch to arrange a Zoom call to discuss your goals and how I could help you achieve them using public relations.