Meeting a journalist face to face, while becoming a little harder to arrange as the media sector re-configures itself, is still a crucial component in any strategic media relations program.
The fact is, a journalist that has met you and had a favourable and useful interaction is a lot more likely to actively follow you, your company, and its fortunes. They are also more likely to respond when you or your PR team pitches a story.
However, like all meetings, getting off on the right foot is critical. A good meeting is a foundation for a mutually beneficial relationship that can last for years (even when you get the occasional tough story). A bad meeting can end your media spokesperson career before it even started.
So how do you make sure that first meeting gets off to a good start?
First – know who you’re meeting. Every journalist exists to produce content for a specific audience (or a number of them in the case of freelancers). If you don’t know their audience, what they’ve been writing previously and some basic facts about them as a person (all very easily found on Google usually) then your meeting may end abruptly. It’s not that journalists are rude, it’s that they aren’t future customers (so they don’t need the sales pitch), they’re on deadline, they meet or interview dozens of spokespeople a week and won’t know too much about you and only you can tell them how you’re relevant to their audience.
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Increased time constraints on journalists means they are more likely to suggest phone interviews rather than agree to face to face meetings.
While the fundamentals of the interview do not change, it does remove the ability to gauge the journalist’s reaction to what you say and see when (or if) they are taking notes.
Before the interview, turn off all emails, phones and instant messaging to avoid distraction. To help you focus try standing rather than sitting.
Start the interview by asking how much time the journalist has so you know you have enough time to cover off everything you want to. Offer to set the scene or give background information to give the journalist a baseline to interview from.
Remember to speak slowly so that the journalist has enough time to write notes as you talk. Enunciate. You don’t want a journalist who has printed something factually incorrect to have the excuse that they misheard what you said because your delivery was garbled.
A pause in the conversation may seem unnatural but it could be the journalist just taking time to complete their notes, or they may be considering a follow up question. Don’t be afraid to ask if you’ve answered a question fully in case they’re just giving you more time to expand on your answer.
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Knowing what is newsworthy and what journalists need in order to develop stories are essential qualities to have before you start thinking about contacting journalists to pitch or contribute to stories.
Once you are ready to start pitching, it is important to note that not all journalists are alike when it comes to how they like to be approached. Some like to be called but many prefer to be emailed, as it takes up less of their time, so make sure you know how every one of the journalists you plan to approach likes to be contacted so you don’t get them offside. A cookie cutter approach to this is not the appropriate course of action.
Be mindful that journalists receive a lot of pitches, so the time they can devote to responding to each is minimal. Keep your pitch brief, and most importantly, make sure it is relevant to them.
A good way of determining the relevancy of your pitch is to thoroughly research your target prior to contacting the journalist. Get a good feel of the publication and check out some of the journalist’s previous work, so you know the type of story that you’re pitching will be of interest to them.
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A media release should provide journalists with information that is newsworthy, accurate and relevant to their readers.
Once those three boxes are ticked, you should make sure that the headline is simple and informative. No need to be too clever here. Just summarise the content into a headline that underlines the importance of the release.
The first paragraph is the most important, it will determine whether the journalist will bother to read the rest of the release, so include the five W’s (who, what, when, where, and why).
Use strong, quotable quotes in your release, and use the company name in the quote where appropriate, as quotes are used verbatim. Always strive to secure third party quotes from customers and analysts as well, as they add credibility to your announcement.
It is important to make sure that any spokesperson you offer to comment in the release is available for interviews on the day of distribution. It really ticks journalists off when they have to keep pestering to get an interview done, only to be told that they won’t be available until a later date.
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So you want to run an event to get media coverage. You’ve got a high-powered international executive lined up to do the talking and you’ve booked an exclusive venue in the city. The last step is to get journalists to come along, and then write an article. Should be easy, right?
So why do journalists find themselves declining more event invitations than they accept?
For a start, journalists have always been short on time. As publications get leaner and online news means journalists need to turn stories around fast, there is even less time in the day for journalists to attend events. If they can get a great story from a phone interview with a relevant, engaging spokesperson, then they’ve done their job and met their deadlines. If they can get everything they need from a well-written media release then it’s often more efficient.
Then there’s the issue of exclusivity. Journalists pride themselves on getting a good story, first. Or at least a different angle. So there needs to be a pretty good reason to take time out of a busy day to attend an event where there will be journalists from rival publications.
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In our technology-driven landscape of rapidly-expanding communications channels, it can be hard for organisations to maintain a clear messaging narrative and brand identity.
With each channel available, messaging needs to be tweaked, altered, or presented in ways that make sense to various audiences. This process has the potential to muddle brand messaging, confusing the message as well as brand identity.
How to keep your brand identity consistent
In his book, Winning the Story Wars, which was the subject of one of our company book clubs, Jonah Sachs frames messaging as a form of storytelling. Traditionally, storytellers have been the makers and propagators of myth. According to Sachs, the modern world has disrupted the traditional power of myths.
Today’s mythmakers are the writers, film makers, marketers, advertisers, and media professionals that leverage the ‘myth-gap’ that has emerged in modern society, suggests Sachs.
Drawing upon the concept of the ‘hero’s journey’, identified by American mythologist, Joseph Campbell, Sachs outlines a way to model brand identity consistently regardless of the channel the brand’s story is being told through.
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If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there, does it make a sound? You could ask the same question about brands and products that don’t get enough exposure to potential customers.
Your business could offer groundbreaking or industry-changing products or services but, if no one knows about them, your potential customers won’t get a chance to find out.
Media coverage is important for finding new customers and for creating brand recognition. The right coverage can generate interest from potential investors, attract new talent to your workforce, and help you build a reputation as a thought leader in your industry.
Follow these three steps to get the media coverage you want for your business:
1. Choose your target wisely
Pitching ideas, sending media releases, and calling newsrooms is time consuming. Whether you handle the press relations yourself or hire a PR agency, you don’t want to waste time calling the wrong journalists to pitch your latest story. Pitching to the right targets at the right time means you’re far more likely to get the positive coverage you’re looking for.
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People continually change their habits, including the way they access information.
More and more, people want to see even complex information at a glance, preferring visual dashboards or videos instead of long written pieces.
Are words a thing of the past?
The earliest forms of social networking were long, in-depth communications like blogs. Social tools like Facebook status updates and micro-blogs like Twitter helped to drive the trend of shorter posts, as did the ever-increasing use of text messaging.
Where words once ruled supreme, today videos and images are more likely to win our attention. On social media platforms, photos and videos are the most shared and ‘liked’ types of media. You only have to look at the booming popularity of sites like YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest to see this trend working its magic.
When considering how to connect with your audience keep these things in mind
Share-ability is key
Infographics are changing the way businesses communicate. They are an essential tool for anyone interested in communicating information in an easy-to-understand and shareable way.
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Social media accounts act as the public persona for many organisations. People, including customers and stakeholders, believe what they read on social media. And if someone has taken over your account, they can post all kinds of incorrect or even offensive information. The damage to your brand could be significant.
So it’s vital to protect your social media accounts from being hacked. And, if you are the unfortunate victim of an attack, you need to respond immediately.
Here are some tips on how to protect your company’s reputation:
1. Don’t have an easy password
If your password is easy to remember, there’s a good chance it’s going to be easy for others to figure out too. This includes using the same password for multiple accounts. If one account becomes compromised, hackers can use that password to access every account.
2. Don’t share your social media passwords with every employee
Not everyone in your organisation needs or should have access to your social media passwords. Choose two or three people who will access the account regularly, and trust them with the password and the responsibility of posting on behalf of your organisation.
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We’ve all been there. The end of another day when we only completed a fraction of the items on our to-do list. The ideas we come up with in the shower but forget to write down. We’ve all resolved to be more productive, to find a way to capture those ideas, or to tick off things that have been sitting at the bottom of our to-do lists for far too long.
But there’s a big difference between intending or wanting to do something, and planning to do it.
Start with systematic business planning
Sadly, proper, systematic business planning is a dying art. In many cases, the process is so detached from reality that it’s become a time-wasting exercise. Planning never feels like action. Too often we fear that if we’re not in a constant state of motion we are achieving little. However, without a clear goal and milestones mapping out the journey to get there, being busy adds limited value.
We should all undertake some form of planning at least once a year; identifying goals and strategies to achieve them. Your business plan should be succinct yet effective.
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