by helen on July 22, 2011

How to be a good media source

Today I’m looking at how you can increase your chances of getting publicity for your company. Appearing in the media – online or offline, trade, national or local, print or broadcast – is a very good way to reach a lot of people quickly and relatively cheaply (if you compare it to advertising and direct mail).

When I first started my PR career – working for a consultancy inLeeds– picking up the phone and selling-in stories to journalists was one of the things I least liked doing. Mainly because a couple of times I was unlucky enough to speak to journalists who were – how shall I put it – a bit abrupt in their dealings with me.

However, after a good many years of dealing with the media – and hearing about how PRs don’t always have the right approach – I realised that I shouldn’t be taking things personally. It wasn’t ME they didn’t like, it was just the story didn’t float their boat. My fault for trying to give them something they weren’t interested in.

And that’s the key to successful media relations. Make sure you know what the journalist is interested in before you start asking them to write about your “news”.

A journalist working on a national trade magazine will be interested in something rather different to one on the local weekly newspaper. Similarly, broadcast journalists need people to interview or activities that will make interesting viewing. News reporters need quick turnaround, whereas feature writers may be happier to work on a story for longer.

Once you have some ideas about the content the people that matter to your business might be interested in, have a think about the journalists and their audience. How can you make your story relevant to them?

Once you have the answer you need to think about how best to approach the media.

I am a member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, the professional body for the UK public relations industry, providing PR training and events, PR news and research. In the Yorkshireand Humberside region, the CIPR hosts a number of events – including regular “meet the media” behind the scenes tours.

Earlier this year, a visit to BBC Radio Sheffield was hosted by Mike Woodcock, assistant station editor. I did not attend – but am very grateful for the review of the visit provided in the CIPR Yorks & Humb e-zine to members.

Here’s an extract (so you can say you have it from the horse’s mouth!):

Mike gave a behind the scenes tour and studio demonstration to show how programmes are produced and aired and introduced PR’s to members of the editorial team. He also unveiled some helpful tips when pitching stories:

  • Don’t send photographs to radio stations!
  • Send news stories to the editor and feature stories to the producer
  • When press releases are issued, make sure relevant local spokespeople are available for comment on the same day
  • Only include statistical information that relates toSouth Yorkshire, rather than the region
  • Give up to one week’s notice for news and events
  • Send in a list of key contacts / spokespeople, including mini biographies, for your organisation / clients so they can be called upon for commentary when relevant news or feature stories are aired.  

Obvious really isn’t it.

If that’s whetted your appetite for more tips on how to be a good source for journalists, here’s some great advice from Volunteer Genie, a website which helps charities improve their relationships with the media.

What’s your number one tip for successful media relations?

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