Meanwhile, boards around the country are frustrated and bewildered by why the media seems to hate them.Here are six reasons why journalists might hate you.
1. You lack visionIf you want the media’s support, then you must articulate who you are, what you do and your place in the market. You also need a clear, concise view on where you and your industry sit within peripheral markets, and what opportunities and pressures exist. It needs to be jargon-free and succinct – aim for 100, 50 and even as few as ten and five words, without using hyperbolic terms like “leading” or meaningless descriptions like “solution”.
2. You’re not interesting or differentWinning media interest is not about firing out press releases. Journalists receive hundreds of releases a day, so your story has to be genuinely important to the publication’s readership. Your recent office move is a landmark occasion for your business – well done – but why should a reader really care? But media relations is more than news. Having a fresh, even controversial, opinion on the industry is essential and it requires you to put your head above the parapet. This requires your spokesperson to be engaging, passionate and of course sufficiently empowered to discuss the topic.
3. You don’t stop sellingJournalists rarely care about how your product works or what the specifics of your service are. They almost certainly don’t care about your pricing. Stick to the (jargon-free) facts of why your customers are interested in it, how it impacts their business and the quantified positive effects it brings. Answer the questions you’re asked by talking about relevant market issues and dynamics. Tell engaging stories, but back up your views with examples and statistics.
4. You know nothing about the journalistThe easiest route to short shrift from a journalist is to show you don’t understand the publication, its readership or its regular features. Even worse, you don’t know the journalist’s “beat” and you haven’t read any recent articles. You also must be aware of how the publication works. Deadlines, press days and regular editorial meetings will all massively impact a journalist’s receptiveness to your input. This doesn’t mean that coverage is reliant on strong media relationships (though these help). The point is, you need to proactively discover what material the journalist wants, how they want it and when.
5. You think they owe you coverageSending press releases or buying journalists lunch is not a contract – do not automatically expect coverage. Journalists pitch their articles to their editors on merit, who in turn have publishers, readers and advertisers to satisfy. And a lunch won’t trump any of these pressures. If, however, your story is sufficiently interesting for a journalist to write an article, never ask to see copy before it is published; do not try and specify a timeframe for them to write it and don’t necessarily expect the article to whole-heartedly agree with your statements. Journalists are not your employees.
6. You only work on your timeJournalists have very strict copy deadlines so never promise copy or comment by a certain time knowing you will struggle to deliver. If you’re likely to miss a deadline, give the journalist as much notice as possible so they can find another contributor. You may lose that opportunity, but acting courteously will mean you’re not precluded from the next one. Also, after pitching a story, be on hand to help with further queries or requests. The six points above really boil down to one simple tenet – understand your audience. Just as you have doubtless taken great pains to fully understand your target market, make the same effort with journalists. They are potentially your greatest advocates, or detractors.
Richard Fogg is MD of CCgroup
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