How can you get media coverage for your agency (or clients)?

If I was down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on public relations.

Bill Gates

One of the best ways to reach new businesses and build credibility is by appearing in traditional media. This gives your agency great exposure and helps to quickly build your reputation.  We give a lot of credibility to what mainstream media says and if, for example, the CEO of a company reads in the newspaper news where your agency is mentioned as expert, he will believe it, not question it.  This will be the case even if the journalist does not mention you as an expert.

This article is written from the perspective of what an agency can do to appear in the media, but the same approach would be valid if you wanted one of your clients to appear in traditional media.

Give them a worthy story

The most important aspect to appear in the media is that you give the journalist a story that is interesting so the journalist will want to write about it.

If, for example, you send a press release that talks about your agency working with a new and very important customer, do not send it, because that story does not interest anyone. It just interests you and your customer. Bear in mind that, every day, many stories pile up on the journalists’ desks and a reporter has to decide within a short span of time which of those stories he is going to write.

There are certain steps you can take to increase the odds that this news story will be interesting enough. These steps are:

1. – Be familiar with the media outlet to which you send the news, and the type of audience they target. Make sure the story is appropriate for their audience. If it’s a newspaper, send it to the journalist who will be most interested. If you send it to a TV channel or radio station, send it to the program that will have the most interest in the story, not to the one with the largest audience. Make sure you know that the person who receives the story will find it interesting.

2. – Avoid self-promotion. If the story is about how great your agency is and the great things you are doing for your customers, the media will ask you to present the story as a paid advertisement, since they will never publish that story as news. Remember that how great your agency is does not interest anyone but you, and you already know that. Think of a news story that is of interest to the audience of the media you are targeting, or how to present the story at an angle to make it interesting.

You should ALWAYS think first, second, and third about the audience; that is, that your story is relevant to the people who will read, see or hear the story.  Then you can see how to justify your presence in the story, adding value and fitting well within it.

3. – Suggest different approaches to make things as easy as possible for the journalist. The easier it is and the clearer they see the story, the more likely it will that they finally write about it and you appear in it. Add references and sources so that it is very easy for the journalist to check the veracity of the story. No serious journalist will publish news that has not been confirmed, especially if the news does not come from a reliable source. Add sources to the story that the reporter can quickly verify.

4. – Keep in touch with the media outlet where you sent the item. What did they think of the story? Do they need additional information?

5. –Build a relationship with journalists who cover news related to the industry your agency is in. Maintain a good relationship with them and become that person who the journalists can use if they need to know more about your industry. If you are asked for help or information not directly related to you, or where you are not going to be mentioned, make a special effort to help without ulterior motives. They will surely thank you for that and this will strengthen the relationship with the journalist.

What media outlets should you ask to run the story?

A few months ago, I was at a local conference where the speaker talked about how to get the media to publish news about small businesses. He talked about aspects that I had already read about elsewhere, but explained it in such a way that it was simple to grasp.  He explained that it is difficult to get national media coverage.  Being covered in the evening news on one of the national TV stations is virtually impossible. It is also much harder to appear in an article in the national edition of a newspaper or magazine. But it is much easier to appear featured in the regional editions of newspapers, as long as you follow the right steps.

And the right steps are, once again, giving reporters stories that really interest them or putting the story in a perspective or prism under which they will be interested.

In the case of regional news, you have to write the story in the context of the region to which you send the news. Doing only that will greatly increase the likelihood of being mentioned in it.  The advantage of sending news to regional media, instead of national media, is that they usually have fewer stories to publish, which means that if you generate something interesting and relevant to the audience of the medium and the region (this is the key part of the equation), it will very likely be that the news will be published by the regional press.

Smaller media outlets and bloggers:

You should not neglect the smaller publications (and especially blogs) and all the media specialized in the industry you cover. Think about which media outlets could be interested in your story (big or small), and share your press release or story with them. Remember that, in the end, what matters is not so much how many people a particular story reaches, but how important those people can be for you. It is better for the story to reach only 50 people who have a real interest in the industry and can be potential clients than 1000 people who do not have the slightest interest in what your customer has to offer.  Keep that in mind when you choose the media outlets to which you’re going to send the press release. Look at which ones are opinion leaders and which are followed by people in your industry. Make it a top priority to reach opinion leaders first.  Study them, see what types of news they publish, and strive to give them stories that fit in with the content they regularly publish.

If you are using email to submit a story, make sure you pick a subject line that is interesting, relevant, and attractive enough to the person who receives the news, so they open the email and read the contents.  And do not disappoint them afterwards with the story you give them.

Usually, a good approach is to write a brief email with a summary of the news (a few lines) or introducing the news in a way that will pique the journalist’s interest.  You can choose to attach the press release (or add a link to it). If they see a short email with a good subject line, it is likely that they will read the email, and if they are interested in what they read, they will read the full press release. Remember that you’ll have only a few seconds to capture their interest, so go straight to the point in the email. If you send them the press release directly, just on its own, they will just click the spam folder or trash button without reading it.

A specific example

Let’s say that, for example, your agency is focused in the agricultural sector and you want the media that cover this industry to present your agency as a marketing industry expert in the agricultural sector.

As you can imagine, if you send this story to a reporter and ask him to write about it, he is not going to write the story.

But what if you presented a different approach? For example, you could send the media a press release to present the results of a study comparing the people working in agriculture in the US 100 years ago (and what they produced), how this number has changed and what they produce today. While the number of people has been greatly reduced, it is likely that the production has increased significantly.

You can suggest different approaches to the story, such as whether it was better before than now, because without technology, many people who are currently unemployed could work in agriculture. But on the other hand, the working conditions of the past were very hard to bear, and so on.

You can continue the story, explaining how the advances brought by agricultural machinery have made the prices of vegetables; fruits, etc. drop significantly, and therefore, thanks to agricultural machinery, these products can be in the regular diet of the population with all the benefits this entails. You can include data on how much the consumption per capita of fruit has increased in recent decades, and explain that much of this increase is due to the advances brought by agricultural machinery.

Don’t you think this story is much more interesting when it’s told from this perspective? This type of story may be published and thus reach the General Managers of the companies in the agricultural industry who can get to know your agency through news stories such as this one.

In this case, your agency would appear as the author of the study and as an expert in the industry.  This will give your agency a lot of credibility in front of your potential customers.

After the story is written, and once you have added all the relevant information and included the sources, research the same data, but for different states. How different is the data in Arizona? And in Georgia?  Take data from the different states and make studies you can send to each of the local state media with local data.  Many of these local media will also publish the news.

What can you get out of this?

You can get many people in the agricultural sector to hear about your agency that will automatically consider it as an expert in their sector. It’s the beauty of appearing in the media that public relation companies know very well. The sole fact of appearing in mainstream media transmits that you are an expert. You could also post to your blog the press clippings and forward them to potential customers when you start a relationship with them so they see that you are an expert in their industry, not because you say so, but because the media have presented you as such.  If you do this, remember to present this information to your prospects always in a way that adds value to them. If the article is interesting for the industry, this will not be difficult.

This is a technique that public relations agencies could practice more, that is, to use their relationship with the media to be portrayed as experts in their specific sectors.  If an agency can get the media to talk about them, there is a high probability that they will also be successful to get media to talk about their customers.

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