Thursday, 9 June 2016

How do you get your stories out in the media?

Image by Flickr user Damian Gadal. CC BY 2.0
Believe me, most of the time, communicators are busy thinking of strategies to get their stories in the mainstream media.

Sometimes, the stories are newsworthy and the journalists come on their own to get information from the communications team. However, most of the times, it’s the other way around. I have seen communications people calling journalists frantically at the last moment to make them attend their press conferences. And it’s obviously to get their piece of news out in the media – be it print or electronic.

Difficult it seems, but if planned well, getting out the stories in the media is not an invincible task. You just need to make sure you expedite every option that leads to getting your stories there. Here are a few of them.

Use your social media network to track journalists and pitch your stories
Gone are the days of press releases. Try to find out journalists writing on the subject. Social media has made it much easier to get your message across. Send short pitches – succinct ones with interesting angles to get the initial attention. Once they show interest to your proposal, be prepared to pitch the whole story.

Believe me, it works better than sending the press releases and contacting the journalists to write about it.

If you haven’t already read this legendary piece “Die! Press Release!, Die! Die! Die!” by Tom Foremski, make sure to go through it before you consider continuing with the ages-old ritual of getting your stories in the media.

Pitch you stories to community blogs
Community blogs are one of the most visited and widely read sites, especially visited by the people interested in that particular subject matter. Suppose you are writing something on a recent biogas intervention by your organisation and want it to reach a wider audience. The first and foremost thing you need to do is search community blogs on energy, their popularity and check whether they allow guest blogging or not.

Contact the administrator and pitch your blog. Once it gets published, share it widely in your social media network. Sometimes, journalists come searching for you reading about your interesting interventions in the community blogs.

Try jotting down opinion pieces for popular daily newspapers
This requires time, detailed research on the subject and your personal opinion as well. It might get your issue in the media but not certainly your organisation’s name in the piece. The editors at the other end try to make sure it is an opinion piece and not an advertorial promoting a certain organisation.

However, as the editors receive hundreds of submissions every day, you will need to wait. Make sure you submit the write-up at least a week ahead of the date you want it to be published. But above all, the piece should be interesting and thought-provoking, written for a general audience.
Write joint articles with your colleagues

Have you ever tried writing a joint article? Two is always better in the eyes of an editor and if you can write about an issue together with your colleague who can supplement your thoughts, it’s more likely to get space in the publication. 

Write a letter to the editor
It’s an old trick but it works most of the time. Pick any recent pieces related to your theme published in the newspaper and write to the editor, putting forth your views about the author’s idea. Meanwhile you can also talk about your alternative view and about your project or work related with the published issue.

Interestingly, people read the “Letters to the editor” and it is likely that your views will attract eyeballs. 

Send press releases and follow-up
While I started by saying “do away with press releases – gone are the days of press releases”, make sure you do this every time you organise workshops and seminars where some interesting issues are discussed and it needs to be disseminated to a wider audience.

Give an interesting angle to your story including an attractive headline that catches the attention and a first paragraph describing the 5W (what, where, when, who and why) and 1H (how) of the whole story.

Email the press-release (the journalists would sometimes copy-paste your content and edit it a bit only to save their precious time), fax it (interestingly, some televisions and radios still prefer the faxed press releases) and call them whether they received your release.

Keep your social media channels abundant with stories
Last but not the least, make sure your organisation is present in all popular social media channels (presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram is a must, rest depends on your team’s ability to manage them) and you are adding fresh stories every now and then to those channels.

Maintain a regular blog roll of your work, staff experience and opinion pieces from your staff and guest contributors. This attracts journalists and bloggers to your work and it’s likely that they will contact you to get insights on your work – most probably to write unbiased pieces on similar work being done by others. And it’s for sure – there will be a mention of your work!

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