It sounds scary, right? Reaching out to a professional journalist, and hoping for the opportunity to tell them why they should care about your company? You may ask yourself: “Who should I reach out to?” “Why would they care?”
“BUT, HOW ON EARTH DO I GET IN TOUCH WITH THEM IN THE FIRST PLACE?”
These are common questions that every business leader thinks about when it comes to media relations. My team has been doing this very thing for almost 24 years, and I’m going to break it down now into five very basic steps. There are many more nuanced approaches and tactics available when it comes to media relations, but if you’re just beginning to implement a media relations strategy, these will help you get started.
1. Ask yourself: “Why would my next-door neighbor care about this?” You want the news to be relatable. If you own a very tech-focused company, or a medical company, you want to make sure you synthesize the news enough so that someone with no background or understanding of the topic can make sense of it and that it has an impact on them.
I will say, one caveat here is if you are planning to pitch very nuanced publications or programs. You know your audience best, and if the story lends itself to a more technical story, don’t feel the immediate need to “dumb it down.”
2. Determine which media outlets would be a good fit: Determine if your news lends itself better to print, radio, online, television, or blogs. Or maybe it fits all of those. Browse the news outlets’ websites, see if they’ve covered stories under similar topics. Use this knowledge to inform a list of about five target outlets you’d like to reach out to.
3. Next, locate the names of the specific reporters you’d like to speak with at these outlets. Did they write a recent story that ties into your company’s news? Do they cover a certain beat? Do you happen to have a friend in common? (Don’t forget to check LinkedIn!)
4. Email them directly. Address each email personally. Use their name! (just make sure to spell it right). Use their outlet’s name (again, spell check). The key here is personalization. You don’t want them to think you’re also reaching out to four other reporters. Act as if they are the only one you are pitching your news to.
5. And finally, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone! So much gets lost in email inboxes, spam filters, and our own busy lives. Call the newsroom and ask to speak to the reporter. If someone asks you what it is about, you can confidently say, “I have a news story that I think they will be interested in based on their recent stories regarding XYZ, and I am hoping to speak with them in person to explain in more detail.”
I have found over my career that the juice is often worth the squeeze. Engage in a little media relations work – I’m talking a couple of hours total – and who knows what could happen.
Media relations is one of those things that we all put off – you’ll focus on that next year, or, once you hire that marketing person, they can do that stuff. While all true, I have found over my career that the juice is often worth the squeeze. Engage in a little media relations work – I’m talking a couple of hours total – and who knows what could happen. You might just pique the interest of a reporter. Even if you don’t and they don’t get in touch with you, hey, you’ve at least likely ended up on their radar. That’s more than you could say two hours ago.
Susan Matthews Apgood is a Her Corner facilitator. She started her media relations firm, News Generation, almost 24 years ago, and sold it to 4media group, inc. in April of 2020. She remains on staff as an EVP doing business development. In addition to Her Corner and News Generation, Susan is an adjunct professor in the Business School at American University. She can be reach at [email protected], on LinkedIn, or 301-664-6448.