50 ideas for grabbing the media’s attention: Harness traditional tactics! [PART 7]

This is part seven of a seven-part series on earning the media’s attention and winning the coverage you want. Here are parts one, two, three, four, five and six in case you missed them.

Traditional tactics - newspaper building picture

{a href=”http://www.sxc.hu/profile/cherrycoke”}Photo via cherrycoke{/a}

A lot of the tactics I’ve discussed so far in this series, such as producing your own media and becoming an expert, probably aren’t obvious for most business executives and entrepreneurs. But “traditional” tactics, such as news releases, can still work. Here are five traditional tactics (well — four plus a twist on one) that are still valuable PR tools, if you use them correctly.

1. Hold a news conference. News conferences (or press conferences or media briefings or whatever you want to call them) can generate news coverage, even front-page stories. But unless you’re the White House or a presidential candidate, reserve this for when you have a big announcement and you’re certain journalists will cover it. Here are some keys to an effective news conference:

  • Create a media kit that includes a news release with the key news, plus a fact sheet and other background documents. Also include any visuals (still photos or video) in digital form.
  • Hold it at a day and time that will work for your target media. That means scheduling it a few hours prior to print deadlines and avoiding times when TV or radio reporters might be delivering live newscasts.
  • Set up the room to make it picture friendly for still photographers and videographers.
  • Make contingency plans for bad weather if you’re going to hold it outside.
  • Provide enough space so people don’t feel crammed in.
  • If your location is far from where the media outlets are located, provide fast Internet access so reporters can file stories quickly and easily.
  • Plan in advance who will say what.
  • Having two or three speakers is OK, but don’t overwhelm journalists with a parade of bigwigs saying the same thing over and over.
  • Expect to do further one-on-one interviews afterward.
  • It’s OK to have some friends, allies and staffers sitting in the audience to make the room feel fuller. But don’t have them masquerade as journalists by asking questions or pretending to take notes; reporters will figure out what’s going on and your positive story will turn negative quickly.

2. Offer an exclusive. There’s nothing wrong with offering reporters an exclusive, and many journalists still value getting the first (and perhaps only) chance to report on something. Exclusives can be a good way to take a solid news story and get a bigger bang out of it. It’s also a good way to get coverage from news organizations publication that demand longer lead times (as many weeklies and magazines do). Be warned, that if you deal with a number of competing journalists regularly, you may get complaints about this. But it’s OK — journalists never complain about being offered exclusives, just when they’re offered to a competitor. So if you use this technique be prepared to spread it around a bit over time.

3. Write a strong news release. PR does not stand for “press release,” but good, newsy releases still generate plenty of publicity every day. (And many poorly written, no-news releases end up reporters’ trash.) Want to make sure your release turns into a story? Think like a journalist and make sure you include the following elements:

  • A clear, strong headline.
  • A straightforward lead (the first paragraph) that uses strong language and tells the reader what the news is.
  • A “nut graf” (usually the second or third paragraph) that explains why this news is important and why people should care about it. Remember that news outlets will ask themselves why their audiences should care, so make sure you answer that question.

4. Use an infographic as a news release. These will take some time and graphic design talent to pull together, but a good infographic could have a lot of appeal to reporters looking for something different.

5. Answer questions you’re not asked in an interview. Let’s say you land a media interview with one of these tactics. Not only can you use that interview to provide information and context about the news, but you can also plant a seed for another story. An interview is a great time to pitch another story. Be sure that whatever you might pitch is different enough from the topic at hand that you it won’t end up being included in the story the reporter is already working on. Also make sure you’re ready to follow-up. Here’s how that exchange might work:

Reporter: Well, I guess that’s all of my questions. Is there anything else I should know?

You: Not about this story, but we do have something interesting coming up in a couple weeks … if you’re interested. (Applying a bit of a soft sell here.)

Reporter: Oh, really? What is it?

You: We’re getting ready to  … (and you launch into your pitch)

What other “traditional” PR tactics have you used to successfully get news coverage for your company, cause or organization? Please share in the comments below.

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