“All that glitters is not gold – Often have you heard that told.” — William Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice, Act II Scene 7
It’s a classic quote but surprisingly relevant when talking about why we want media coverage. The quote is an aphorism to mean that attractive things are not always valuable.
Getting a piece of glossy media coverage in a national paper, website or TV segment can be a powerful and exciting way to create awareness and engagement for your organisation.
The possibilities that can come from the exposure are attractive. Who knows who might see your organisation on a television program, or while reading the daily broadsheet? All the better, earned media means the coverage is based purely on the newsworthiness of an announcement. There is no exchange of money – what a dream!
For results-oriented campaigns, the appeal of a great headline, or getting your messages on Breakfast TV can frame all aspects of the campaign thinking, from the media release to the pitch email sent to the journalist.
However, experience with hundreds of media pitches suggests when a company is very obviously trying to drive a marketing push, it’s neglecting one key thing: what makes news.
Engagement with the media should form just one part of a considered strategy promoting an organisation’s profile, its thought leadership or a range of other communication objectives.
Here are three key things to consider when deciding if a media strategy is right for a campaign:
1. Shift the focus from the outputs to the inputs
Journalists are overwhelmed and underwhelmed by organisations inundating their inboxes with marketing material dressed up as press releases and news stories.
They receive hundreds of pitches every week from organisations and agencies vying for column centimetres. But the shrinking media landscape means there are fewer editors who have the time to analyse stories that fall outside of the immediate news of the day.
The inputs – what you offer a journalist – are just as important as the outputs, or the coverage.
For organisations that do not deal with the media frequently, the excitement and nervousness of landing a big piece of media coverage can overshadow the rules of the game.
The reality is – and what marketing and comms professionals don’t like to hear – nothing puts off journalists faster than the sense they are the company’s mouthpiece.
Media engagement that shoehorns short term marketing messages and materials into releases and pitches for journalists is like announcing a product discount during an Oscar speech.
Just because it’s a large audience and the opportunity is temptingly good doesn’t mean it’s the right channel through which to jam all your messages.
2. News values are the currencies of media
Your organisation’s news might feel like an event to shout about but if it’s not a news story it’s time for a dose of reality.
The challenge for a public relations professional when crafting a pitch is to start thinking like a journalist. At the very least this means thinking about what they want, how it will maximise the news value and how you package it to align with that all important news context.
These are aspects of the news you see every day that can create the basis for a worthy story: Ask how it will impact the community? What’s novel about it? Are there prominent people or organisations involved? Is it happening in our backyard? Is it quirky? Is there conflict? Does it offer a contrarian view?
If your announcement doesn’t answer any of these questions, it’s time to rethink if a media strategy really is suited for your campaign.
3. Remember that a media outlet is just one channel
While it’s tempting to think of ‘PR-ing’ something for media, it’s important to know when media should play a role and how and when it can be utilised best for the organisation.
Ultimately it is about the audience you are trying to reach and engaging them in the story you need to tell. That piece of TV coverage may be great, but you may be better served by placing an A5 brochure in the right hands at the right event.
An experienced consultancy will be able to advise whether the story you have is the gold you think it is and how to go about prospecting for it with the media.