Throughout my career in media relations, I have seen many patterns of behaviour from clients and businesses regardless of niche and industry, much of which results in little or no press coverage at all.
The truth is, is that the frustrations these patterns cause can be avoided and this is what we're going to cover in this post today. (No capes needed.)
One of the mistakes which SMEs tend to make is that they write their story first then attempt to shoehorn it in to their chosen publication rather than the other way around. Instead of taking some time to study a selection of publications and write their story accordingly, many SMEs get annoyed with local press (or any press for that matter) when they can't figure out why they have been ignored.
As we have said before, what you might think is newsworthy, doesn't make it newsworthy to the press.
A clever person once said there is a story in everything. The smartest, most successful PRs do find that very story - even in the most mundane places and in the most boring of businesses. The light at the end of the tunnel is that every business CAN be in the press. Every business has a backstory.
So, whether you are Joe Bloggs of Down The Road Ltd or a superstar waiting for your first big break, let's dive in to where you can pitch and who to pitch to to ensure you get the maximum chance of being featured - in any media (yes, even radio and television.)
Media is everywhere these days. Years ago, it was the telly, perhaps radio (remember TalkBack?) And of course the good old Fleet Street rags. As a newbie in the PR arena, my mornings would be spend sprawled out on the office floor with a wide array of newspapers spread out around me with a thick felt tipped pen and possibly a pair of scissors.
These days, we cannot move for media. On or offline, we are almost hounded every second of the day by news streams, feeds and digitals. News is everywhere, which can be a headache for some but a wealth of opportunity for the rest of us.
Our digital publication sisters
Back in the day, we gaffed at the internet and it's growing number of brightly coloured blogs in Comic Sans. Everything looked somewhat daft, amateurish and well, with no long term legs. Today, we imagine what the world would look like without the internet and millions worry about losing their jobs.
In recent years, I have found more traction through pushing clients through digital publications than print. As we all know, once something is online, is stays online. Even high profile stars in the media are now finding themselves under scrutiny from authorities from unforgiving social media posts from years gone by.
The upside is (if you are a business with digital coverage) is that it will keep giving you traffic for ever more. I have clients from years passed who still get custom from articles published on the net for ages ago. Digital can be the gift that keeps on giving.
(If you want to jump into something breaking news or trending for your story, there's a nifty infographic on newsjacking here)
Yet still the big deal is to get yourself in print, in from of a rolling camera or even on radio. Businesses still see a big attraction in that. The upside of this is that you have the opportunity to get in front of a lot of people very quickly. Even a 3 minute PTC (piece to camera) has the potential to be viewed by millions.
Yet it has a limited life span. Online, you have that capacity to be viewed every day for decades to come. The volume of readers and viewers may be less on a daily basis, but the results are ever lasting.
So, let's now have a look at traditional media.
To find out where your story fits, you need to try on a few ideas for size. All you have to do is ask yourself a few carefully chosen questions to help find out where your story will sit best. Let's have a little look at each one in turn...
The printed press
The first thing to ask yourself is can you see your news in the paper? I mean really visualise it. So, put the rose tinted specs down for just a second and look at your story objectively.
Not every story will have a place in the paper. Some have a better impact on the screen or even on radio. So, you need to see if your story fits in the paper you want it to be in. Let me put it this way:
In this article, we're focusing on the local press, right? Ok, so let's go back to the previous post, does your story have relevance to the local community, is the image you want to print about somewhere local? Is it interesting, engaging etc. How does it look as a headline to you? Is it front page material? Is there a great quote which is insightful and engaging?
An example of a good story in this theme would be a local playground is under threat of being closed to make way for a new local authority depot. A local business owner sets up a petition and has an idea of building a better playground for the local children. The feature has a photo of the said playground and the local businessman standing in it.
On the box (that's the television to those of you under 35)
When pitching to the visual media, you need to consider if your story is visually compelling enough. Is there any action?
Can the story be told through a visual rather than text? Does it have more power visually?
Can you get everyone needed to be in position for a camera crew and set up an a moments notice? Are you confident in front of a TV camera - do you know what to say if an awkward question is asked by the interviewer live?
An example of a good story for television is a new feat or break of a record attempt. Someone could trying to break the world record for the number of doughnuts being eaten in under 10 minutes. It is visually compelling and if in a significant local area, perhaps someone is doing it raise money for charity, it makes it interesting for a local news camera crew.
On the wireless (that's the radio to those of you under 40)
Getting yourself on the radio can be the trickiest - believe it or not. However, it can have a massive impact and should never be ruled out, particularly if you're on BBC local radio.
Having said that, the coverage you get will depend on when you are aired and this is where the theme of your story will come in.
Getting ready for radio works with similar questions as if you were pitching to a television newsroom. For radio, the big question would be if it works better for radio rather than anywhere else. Think of what's on the radio now? Debates, discussions, Q&As and conversations around the things and issues that matter in the community. If it can be talked about rather than shown, then your story could be on radio.
So, for example. If you're story is about morning routines, and by this I mean schools runs, commutes to work, traffic and generally anything which listeners are likely to do in the mornings, then you are more likely to get air.
If your story is more about social issues, trending topic, health or general community events, then you can expect more of an impact if you pitch to the mid morning to later afternoon shows.
If you are pitching a story about a drive time issue, music event, concert or evening show such as local theatre, entertainment theme or cinema, then you will find an evening show would be interested in you.
A little word about editorial calendars
Every news media works on a calendar (rather like the one you have for your marketing or even hanging up on the kitchen wall at home. These calendars are forecasts of important dates which are required for all the newsroom to consider on a day to week to month basis. They can be dates made up of seasonal topics., national events, special days, world days etc and public holidays.
The thing to remember is that not every media company works to the same calendar. Your trade publication in construction for example, won't think about putting Easter egg hunts on its editorial calendar. The same goes for the time frames of calendars too. For print media, the pitching times can be anything between 24 hours and 3 weeks depending on the nature of the story and whether it has a more wider, national impact.
Magazines (even local ones) work on seasonal editorial and can be more laid back in their approach. If you are a professional in PR, you probably get a lot of press requests in your inbox each day. I personally get around 50-70 depending on the day of the week - Mondays being the busiest. The magazine deadlines are often at the end of the month for features which are for the next season along. Summer mag journos are working on their autumn features and so on, where newspapers are for the end of play that very day.
Television on the other hand can be faster paced with often a few hours turn around or less and this can be the same for radio too. This is why its vital to be sure that if you want to pitch to a broadcast visual newsroom, you have to television news ready and have the capacity to be ready, on camera at the drop of a hat. Remember, their deadlines are the priority - not yours.
Radio is the same. You have to be ready to go live on air and be prepared to face questions which you may not have known prior to the broadcast. It can be very stressful so be aware of that.