Got Media? How to Appease the ‘Media Wanters’ & the Media

So you want media coverage of your next activity. You’ve heard it – “get the media to cover this”- uttered of course by, not usually the CEO, but usually the event coordinator, Marketing Department or worse, individual who has done ONE PR course and now TOTALLY gets the power of media. Newsflash – media don’t just “show up” to any and all events. There has to be NEWS there.

News? What’s that? Well, a loose Communications Questions definition is “information or activity being shared for the first time or in a way never seen before” – GET IT? News is not the same people, speaking in the SAME venue with the SAME info time and time again. Ever had a “press conference” (BTW wrong term – it should be MEDIA Conference – most papers don’t even use the “press” any more) and the media don’t show up or WORSE, leave! Well, if you have, its because you did not follow the ABC of media coverage.

A: ASK, Advise, Advocate

  • Ask: Do not confuse this A with “Assume”. In fact, its the opposite. ASK yourself & your fellow “media wanters” the 5 ws and 1 h. Answer from both YOUR perspective AND that of the media – why should they turn up and what’s in it for the media/ their audience. If there is advance time, ask a few editors/ reporters how you can make the event/ activity of interest to them – what would they like to know/ hear/ do that would make the 454th media conference/ event/ speech/ dinner they attend on that day most interesting to them? Note: Food and drinks are nice but do not entice assignment editors – DON”T confuse a “lime” with WORK! Once you answer the 5ws and 1 h, turn them into an ADVISORY;
  • Advise: Ahh…. All hail the Communicator who knows the difference between an ADVISORY and a RELEASE (both preceded by the word MEDIA not PRESS). For the rest of you a MEDIA ADVISORY is sent out IN ADVANCE Of the activity/ event/ activity. It is sent in a such a time frame to adequately allow the assignment editor to ADVISE his team of reporters and…GUESS WHAT…possibly even allow for MEDIA REGISTRATION…shock of shocks…this way you CAN know exactly which  reporters AND photographers are assigned to cover your event. Imagine that power – to text them an “on the day reminder” and send them a follow up thank you – all because you followed this step – TO ADVISE. (Note, implied in this step is follow up beyond media advisory dispatch – as in a PHONE CALL and taking of names of those who received. Labour intensive? Please! Followup is some of the best way to use pre-activity time. It makes a difference! Trust me! Oh, fyi – a media release is different to a media advisory because its sent out at or after the event/ activity. In some cases however, they may be despatched before and “embargoed” until a certain times.

Note, also advise  the feature speaker of which reporters and media houses have indicated they will be present. You       never know if the presentations can be tweaked slightly to cater to some reporters (usually only senior one’s) needs/ interests/ advance questions.

  • ADVOCATE: Not just for your company in your follow up pitch calls to the media the day before and on event day

B: Be – polite, timely, beautiful & ready

  • Be Polite: You have your key officials greet the specially invited guests and SO OFTEN I see events with no one assigned to meet/ greet the media. HELLO! WTF – didn’t you “need them there”?  I don’t know them all but I generally know the names and media houses of the more senior reporters on my beat . Note though that in today’s media houses, this can change rapidly…guess who’s job it is to know the changes….(scroll up to the ask and advise section – the suggestions here can help you with this.
  • Be Beautiful & Ready: Have your media release and agenda ready for them as they walk in. Take a moment (if possible) to discuss with each media house present. Suggest best locations (or prearranged location) for cameras. Tell them your feature speakers “best side”. Give them the heads up on whether questions will be entertained after the main event. Put yourself in the shoes of a reporter – wouldn’t all that info up front make your job a little easier on the day. Have the $? Prepare a digital media release – or you can do my secret and….wait a minute, if I reveal EVERYTHING next thing you know I am unemployed! Find your own signature – better yet, scroll up to the ASK section and find ideas on how you can put your own signature on your media relations.

Challenge to Stay on Time

  • Ensure your presentation/ event/ activity runs on time. If it does and media are in and captured their story in 45 minutes, they’re happy AND most likely to partake in the thousands of dollars spent on food/ drinks/ snacks/ gift items (all icing on the cake). Run late, they not just WANT to leave but HAVE TO! In Trinidad for example, ever notice how many events our print media photographers cover in one night! Jeez! Challenge you speakers and coordinators to stay on time. The media will appreciate and ultimately so will your audience. Guess what? NO ONE likes a lengthy speech – Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream Speech was 17 minutes long. President Barack Obama’s famous “Race Speech” was just over 9 minutes long (notice his abbreviated acknowledgement of protocol – encourage you speakers to as well!). Unless either of your speaker can speak like them – ain’t nothing they can say that will keep attention for more than 9-10 minute max!

With those tips, a well briefed cadre of speakers and yes, an MC or coordinator who understands the importance of timeliness, you’re on your way to at least making the media who attended happy. Last tip – don’t drag out your activities! There are FEW things our media professionals have not seen before and NO ONE wants to see the same thing again and again and again. For example: I had a junior colleague call me to enquire on the best way to ‘handle’ media at a 4 hour tour – HELLO! 4 hours? NOTHING IS INTERESTING FOR 4 Hours…too much action in over 2 hours can kill you too – see Transformers 2…

What comes after? Hopefully coverage, but more than that, with any luck, you earn an iota of respect from the media. Why? They are professionals and you treated them as same. Maybe next time you’re company is on the firing line, they may give you a ring before printing the story? Don’t expect it – WORK TOWARDS that.

That’s it for today (long enough). Go forth and communicate for change!

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