When I give workshops on publicity, the most common questions deal with the media. How do you contact them? How do you get their attention? How do you interest them in your story?
The good news is that a lot of dealing with the media is just common sense. Think about how you like to be treated and treat the media that way.
More specifically, here are three techniques that can help you make friends with the media. I’ll cover more techniques in my next post.
Do your homework.
Before contacting any reporter, editor or producer, make sure you know the following about your product, your market, the publication and the editor.
The product or service:
- What is its purpose? What problem does it solve? What benefit does it provide?
- What are its features and benefits? (Every feature should have a corresponding benefit.)
- How is the product positioned? How is it different from the competition?
- Who is the target customer? What are their characteristics? How old are they? What is their income level? Their educational level? Where do they live?
- What is the market’s size? Is it growing? At what rate?
- What is the competition for the product or service? (Remember, the status quo can be a formidable competitor.)
- What are the issues and trends in the market? Is a “disruptive force” (such as an innovative technology) at work?
The publication or program:
- What type of story does the publication or program cover?
- What audience is it trying to reach?
- How often does the publication come out or the program air?
- What is its tone? Rolling Stone has a very different “feel” than the Wall Street Journal.
The editors or reporters:
- Who covers your market?
- What are their titles?
- What are their duties? (Some may be general reporters, while others may specifically cover a technology or an industry.)
- How long have they been with this publication? If they recently joined the publication, what did they do before?
- What topics do they cover?
- How long have they covered your market? How respected are they?
- What kind of history do they have with your company? Have they covered your products in the past? Have they met with your spokespeople?
- What have they written lately that might be relevant to your story?
- How do they like to be contacted? Phone? E-mail? Twitter?
Once you have this information, you are ready to go to the next steps.
“Fine-tune” your message.
Don’t waste the media’s time. Practice saying your message in 20 seconds or 20 words. That’s about all the time you’ll get.
If you’re e-mailing, put your topic in the subject line. If your company is not well-known, use a generic phrase to describe it instead of the company name.
If you’re phoning, practice your pitch out loud beforehand. Stand and smile into the phone when talking to the media. It helps.
And, of course, if you’re tweeting, you are already constrained to 140 characters, so brevity is a given.
Contact the media the way they want to be contacted.
PR resources such as Cision, MyMediaInfo and Vocus give professional PR consultants information on the media’s contact preferences, but these resources are expensive. If you don’t know how the editors want to be contacted, e-mail them first and follow up by phone. Once you connect, ask their preferences. They’ll appreciate the fact that you ask.
I hope this helps. I will cover more tips in my next post. In the meantime, I’d love to hear how you have successfully made friends with the media.