5 Ways to Make Headlines and Get Media Attention
By Aaron Broverman
As a freelance journalist, the one question I get from my corporate clients all the time is, “How do I attract media attention for my business?” There’s no tried-and-true system that works consistently 100% of the time (journalists are people too), but the following are a few dos and don’ts that are certainly a great starting point.
Don’t Carpet-bomb Reporters and Editors
The one thing reporters and editors hate is when you clog their inbox with multiple copies of generic press releases and promotional materials ad nauseam. Instead of a shotgun approach to every outlet you can think of, try to pick those that will have the greatest impact or write stories that deal with the issues, products or sectors you are promoting, or trying to attract. Get to know the kind of stories a particular publication writes and then, once you pick your outlet, target the most relevant editors who manage the section that would most likely feature a story on what you’re promoting. It also makes it easier for you to manage communication and follow-up if you only have one or two relevant points of contact at each outlet.
Ask Yourself, is it Newsworthy?
Chances are, your product or event will not change the world as we know it. If it did, you’d have no problem attracting worldwide media attention from all kinds of major news outlets. Those who aren’t so lucky must ask themselves, “What makes my company, product or event newsworthy?” A story that is newsworthy is current (timing), significant (it affects many people), has a close proximity, (happens close to home), features prominent people (celebrities always get more coverage), and is of human interest (has emotional appeal).
To drill down even further when determining newsworthiness, ask the following questions:
- Do you have something new?
- Do you have something unique (the first, the biggest, the oldest, the longest, the last, etc.)?
- Does your product or event tie in to a wider issue (something you can comment on and raise awareness of to your target market)?
- Do you have a celebrity or prominent brand partnering with you?
- Do you have something funny, inspiring or weird to share?
- Do you have new high impact research to reveal, from a study perhaps?
Position Yourself as a Prominent Expert in Your Field
Instead of constantly approaching the media for publicity that’s promotional in nature, why not give them something they can really use. Journalists are constantly on the lookout for experts: high-powered people of influence in prominent positions at companies that can provide quotes full of commentary, opinion and analysis to help them write their stories. If you can position yourself or another executive in your company as someone available to the media who can provide commentary on trends in your industry, forecasts for where your industry is going and even opinion on current events and industry news, you may prove yourself invaluable to reporters. All you have to do is keep your message simple and straightforward and you may find that journalists keep coming back over and over again. If you prove reliable, they will then be more inclined to pay attention the next time you distribute a press release and need a little coverage of your own.
Find the Story within the Story
Remember that the story isn’t always what you think it is. You may not be able to get the media to cover your event or product on its own merit – perhaps it doesn’t look compelling when presented in such a direct fashion – but if you dig a little deeper, you may find another angle that’s more newsworthy than simply “Company X Announces Great New Product.” Sure, you might be excited, but that doesn’t mean the media will be. On the other hand, if, for example, the manufacturing of your product has employed 40,000 people in the otherwise bankrupt city of Detroit, or if it’s made entirely out of recycled material, it could be worth broader coverage because it’s helping the economy and the environment. Plus, if you can attach a broader story to your product or event it opens you up to broader general-interest outlets as opposed to restricting you to business-to-business coverage.
Cultivate Relevant High-Value Contacts
The old adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” certainly applies when you’re trying to get the press to pay attention to you. But, many business owners are at a loss when it comes to establishing contact with reporters in the first place, or even getting themselves recognized as an expert. The good news is, there are a few strategies you can employ to hopefully have reporters coming to you, rather than you having to go to them:
- Teach classes, workshops or seminars on your company’s area of expertise and partner with existing public speakers who complement your business, and go on tour or get booked at professional development conferences.
- Write a short blurb on your business in the local chamber of commerce newsletter. This will also force you to articulate what your company is about in a small space, which is good practice for writing press releases and the “About Us” page on your website.
- Write a business leadership/self-help book or memoir of the things you’ve learned while working at your company or your journey through business. The more good advice, or the more inspiring or unique the journey, the more likely you are to get coverage.
- Sponsor a contest or survey that’s tied-in to your business and announce the winners publicly.
- Make a significant charitable contribution to your industry or other worthwhile cause. You can also host a fundraiser or sporting event and invite the leaders in your industry and community to contribute.