Tips for Winning Ink In Today’s Competitive Media Market

With all the media industry changes (layoffs, magazines closing, etc.), is it harder to get media coverage?  And what specifically can you do to ensure your story is heard?

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By Jennifer Manocchio

Yesterday we were in a meeting with a consumer packaged goods marketing VP, and she asked us this question.  I can honestly say that while there have been major changes in the media industry in the past few years, the publicity and media relations skills required to achieve quality media coverage have not changed in the decade I have been in the industry.

It certainly is harder to get media coverage because there are fewer magazines; there are fewer reporters to pitch due to layoffs; and there is less space for stories.  The competition is definitely fierce, but at the end of the day it boils down to going to the correct media contact with a good story.  Below are three tips for winning “ink” in today’s competitive media market.

1.  Media list: While developing a good media list can be tedious, it is essential to success.  It doesn’t matter how great your story is if you are telling it to the wrong person.

Traditional media database services like can Cision, Burrells/Luce and Vocus can help get you started; however, take it a step further.  Research the reporter and discover what he or she typically writes about to ensure your pitch is relevant.  Sometimes during this process we locate a better beat reporter who was not listed in our online media database. For publications that are particularly important to your organization, set up Google Alerts to monitor a specific beat reporter on an ongoing basis.

2.  Craft a good story: There are two ways to look at developing a good pitch.  First, you can be proactive and develop a story you feel meets the needs of your organization but is also something the media will be interested in.  For example, for a leading cleaning products manufacturer we developed a number of tips to help consumers quickly and easily clean up their garage sale items with the goal of achieving a higher profit.   The media loved the idea and we achieved coverage across the country.

The second opportunity is be reactive and respond to current events or situations that your company spokesperson could provide insight on.  For example, we were monitoring the news for reactive story opportunities for a leading Ohio university and saw that the recession was requiring a lot of recent graduates to move back home with their parents.  We quickly called the president of the university, who has a PhD in psychology, to get his feedback on what guidelines parents should set when their college graduate moves back home (e.g. should they have curfews or should they charge rent?).  We contacted a financial reporter at the Washington Post, whose column was also syndicated, and she loved the story.  The story not only appeared in the Washington Post, but in newspapers and on web sites across the nation.

3.  Follow-up: While email is a great way to communicate with reporters, telephone follow-up is still critical when it comes to achieving media coverage.  With more emails cluttering their inboxes and less time to read email, reporters can easily miss a great story.

However, be sure when you follow up you have something additional to tell the reporter.  Never say “I’m following up to see if you got my email” or you will quickly hear a dial tone.  Also, be prepared to tell your story in as few words as possible.  Even if you get a reporter to answer his or her phone (these days we got a lot of voicemail), their time is still limited.

Need help securing quality national, regional or local media coverage?  Contact me at jennifer at sweeneypr.com or 910.772.1688.

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