When you have a story, announcement, or piece of news to share – you want other people to care about it too! And one powerful way to spread the word is to have your story featured in the media. This can look like a feature story, interview, op-ed, or quote in a larger news story. These opportunities are typically considered earned media (public relations) as opposed to paid media (advertising). Both are important pieces of a business’s overarching communications strategy but serve different purposes.
But unlike paid media, earned media can be trickier to attain in that you have a lot less control over what is picked up by the media and how and when it’s featured – if at all. The media landscape is changing drastically and rapidly. It’s not enough to just pump out a press release and wait for the media inquiries to roll in. In fact, that very rarely happens. Your efforts need to be more creative and genuine than writing a few self-serving lines of text and expecting it to be considered newsworthy. Rather, you really need to think about why the media should care about promoting your news. It matters to you for obvious reasons, but those reasons are not so obvious or important to media professionals or their audience.
How can you grab the media’s attention through all the noise out there? It really comes down to having the right angle. The news itself can remain the same, but the angle can make or break the media opportunity. Here are some ideas for how to angle your story to make it relevant, attractive, and newsworthy.
Wrong: Hi, here’s who I am.
Better: My story is unique and can inspire or help your audience.
Simply putting your biography out there and hoping it warrants media attention is not an effective strategy. Owning a business is not enough. Creating something is not enough. Being a minority is not enough. There are A LOT of other people doing these things every day. The strongest pitches always explain how a person or business is doing something truly unique and helping someone else as a result. You can help by solving an important problem or even offering inspiration for how someone else might overcome a challenge similar to your own.
Wrong: This is my product or service – buy it!
Better: I’m helping to solve an important problem that impacts your audience.
A critical part of my job is telling people why a press release strictly promoting their goods and services is not an effective tool for gaining media attention. There needs to be a bigger story to it! Yes, businesses can and should promote their offerings, but need to package it up in something more attractive than a self-serving announcement that reads more like an advertisement. Public relations is a powerful and cost-effective tool for businesses, but only when it’s used correctly. Instead of a self-promoting press release where you write yourself in as the headline, think bigger. How are you solving an important problem that directly relates to the audience that particular media outlet aims to reach?
Wrong: I received an award – yay me!
Better: My efforts accomplished something big that your audience will care about.
There’s an award for everything nowadays. We’re living in the “trophy” generation where everyone wants a title and a prize for simply doing their job. That’s not going to grab the media’s attention. Most of these awards are money makers for the people who created them. If you have to pay to apply for an award and there’s no limit to those who can win, let this be a big red flag that the award may not be that legitimate or valuable to you. For these same reasons, the media’s not likely to care that your business was recognized with a no-name award. It doesn’t really mean anything to their audience. If you really do want to try to gain media attention for an award or honor, focus on how the efforts that earned you this award accomplished something significant and important in the world.
Wrong: My actions or ideas are better than someone else’s.
Better: I have a counter viewpoint to a popular topic that would interest and educate your audience.
This one is less common, but I do see businesses slip into this category from time to time. Sometimes they want to issue a press release or pitch a topic to the media that aims to elevate their work while putting down someone else’s. This can also happen when someone wants to write an op-ed or letter to the editor expressing an opinion. Passion is an excellent attention-grabber, but it must be channeled appropriately. My advice here is to always keep things professional and positive. If you are going against the grain of popular belief or in response to a news story to which you disagree, be sure to offer facts and examples to back up your viewpoint. The media does love controversy, but only when offered in a rational and professional setting.
Most importantly, you’ll notice that every “better” angle included why the media’s audience should care. It’s really all about serving the readership! The content produced by the media needs to cultivate a valuable audience because simply put, that’s how they stay in business. It’s OK that your story includes a focus on your business, goods, and services. As it should. Just be sure to consider the broader context of the news you’re sharing and link it back to why the audience will care. This makes it easy and attractive for the media to bite on your story!
These ideas are surely not one-size-fits-all so I want to hear your ideas, too! Have you had success (or failure) shining a spotlight on your business’s news? Share your experience in the comments.