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MCLELLAN: Media coverage is not a given


I have the opportunity to review many business plans, and one thing that always causes me some concern is that all business owners believe that they can generate a significant amount of marketing exposure by getting media coverage. They pepper it throughout their plan because to them, it feels free and easy to get.

My concern comes from how unrealistic business owners, nonprofit directors and business leaders are about the type and amount of media coverage they’re going to be able to garner.

Here’s the reality check most need:

• Most of what is newsworthy to you, is not newsworthy to the rest of the world.

• Most reporters/editors are bombarded with news releases. Yours has to stand out to even catch their attention.

• Blindly sending your release to everyone is a sure way to annoy most of them and reduce the likelihood of receiving any coverage.

• Good manners go a long way.

Let’s dig into each of those reality checks to see if we can identity some best practices that will increase your chances of getting the coverage you want.

It has to actually be newsworthy: Earning media coverage can be daunting. Journalists have a finite amount of space/time, and they have to decide which stories are going to be of value to their audience.

As you consider pitching a story, ask yourself: How would a reporter sell this story to an editor? What could make this story so compelling that someone would share it?

If these questions have you stumped, odds are the story isn’t newsworthy and you shouldn’t risk damaging your credibility by pitching it.

You have three seconds to pique their interest: Reporters and editors get buried in pitch phone calls, emails, faxes and snail-mail releases. They’re going to read the headline and scan the release, so write it with that in mind.

Your headline will make or break you: If it doesn’t grab the editor’s attention, you’re headed for the “thanks but no” pile in a hurry. Make sure your headline makes them want to read more and tells them exactly why this is something their audience needs to know about.

Don’t let your laziness or ignorance cost you coverage: Because of my blog, I get pitches from PR pros and business owners every day. I’m often embarrassed by their efforts. They clearly got my contact information from some list, but they have no idea what I write about.

Before you hit send: Be sure you’re sending it to the right reporter and the right publication. Take the time to review the last few issues or shows and get to know the kind of content they routinely cover. Don’t embarrass yourself or irritate the reporter by waving your laziness under his or her nose.

Say please and thank you: Never forget the importance of decent manners. Be helpful, be available and be grateful if they tell your story.

Don’t be a pain: Don’t call them incessantly to see if they got your release or if they’re going to use it. Don’t get ticked when they tell you “thanks, but not this time” or it will be the last time. And if you really want to earn their appreciation and trust, you might give them a story or two that don’t involve you or your clients.

Earning media coverage takes some time, some preparation and some forethought. But most of all, it requires you to take an objective look at your “news” and only pitch it when it’s worth pitching.

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