Securing Press Coverage
Overview of Media Landscape
One of the most important initiatives you can undergo in your public relations program is securing earned media. Today, a lot of companies use direct communications, content, and social media to get the word out and that is fine. However, getting independent press and media coverage helps to sway a lot of people once they see, read, or hear the story. Plus, the company can use these wins to promote and extend the media lifecycle.
With that in mind, I will try to hit on the key points as it relates to tech companies developing and deploying a media relations program.
Before we get started let me clarify a couple points to remove confusion. Media and press are usually the same term. The press originally was coined for print publications when the printing press became available. Broadcast journalist (TV and radio) typically referred to themselves as media. In sum, these terms are pretty much interchangeable today.
The same can be said for news release or press release, although, I prefer the term “news release” to make it more applicable for the journalist rather than having it sound like a corporate document.
First, it helps to have an understanding of the different type of media. In general, I find it useful to broadly categorize by horizontal media and vertical media.
Horizontal media are those outlets that cover news and features to audiences of various professions. In other words, a story or segment would be developed that a doctor, a salesperson, a construction worker, and others would find equally useful, educational, informational, timely, local, and relevant.
Examples of horizontal media include television, radio, newspapers, consumer magazines, and news services such as the Associated Press or UPI. Without confusing this point, it is noteworthy to understand that some radio stations do focus exclusively on industries such as tech but those are of vertical nature rather than broad-based consumer. Further, within these horizontal outlets like TV or newspapers, they might cover a tech story, but the story would be written or aired so that everyone could understand and find it useful.
On the other side is the vertical press. These magazines and sites focus on specific industries and trades. With this focus, their coverage is more specific and tailored for audiences; readers, viewers, listeners, from that particular industry.
This distinction is very important to understand as the approach for reaching out to them should be customized; not by a method that a company finds appealing, but more so how the media accepts and creates stories.
Specifically, I would add that each outlet also has specific guidelines for the development and creation of stories.
A television station creates segments that are visually appealing for TV, that are tied to the specific region, that are related to a current event or season or trend, and that have interest or information for their viewing audience. The best way to approach a station is by creating a news release, media advisory, or short pitch letter (sent by email or fax) to the assignment desk and producer and reaching out via the telephone to ensure delivery. These people would take this information to their assignment meeting and discuss if they want to cover the story.
Approaching a radio station is very similar except there is no visual component. Therefore, what is appealing here are guests or stories that can provide interesting quotes and soundbites during a segment or content for the host to discuss in a news brief.
For newspapers, news services, and consumer magazines, the approach is text focused and requires written narrative. Here, getting interest for a story would begin with a news release, a pitch letter, or a feature story. Offering an interesting headline and photo with appealing caption also helps. Trying to schedule an interview either on the phone or in person helps to fill in the story. If the story being offered is tied to a press event or hosted event, a media advisory might be created and sent to the appropriate reporter and news desk to try to get a reporter to attend.
To get stories in a tech vertical publication, this story or pitch would be more specific and tied directly to the tech publication for a tech audience. Customization is key as the magazine might cover tech channel networks or software development or enterprise software. So, in the end, one-to-one PR is always best, and working with specific reporters and having an understanding of what they cover is crucial.
It also varies depending on the tech trade magazine, but they often like to cover new products, new executive hires, new partnerships, product reviews, feature stories, and case studies. Within these magazines, there are also opportunities for media coverage within their sections, supplements, ezines, digital magazines, newsletters, blogs, radio, video interviews, email updates, portals, or website.