TOP TIPS FOR CHANGEMAKERS #6
So many of my clients come to me obsessed with national media coverage. ‘I want to be in The Guardian’ they say. ‘I want to be in the Financial Times’. Don’t get me wrong, national media coverage can be a game-changer – although unless you’re an international, listed company you will struggle to get in the FT – but it can be hard work and disheartening particularly for someone who is very new to PR. So in this blog, I share some of the easier routes to coverage and some encouragement for those of you just starting out.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
I’m not used to being interviewed. It’s been a very long time since I was on the ‘other side’ of the table from a journalist rather than the one helping to arrange interviews. And so although I’ve spent many years preparing my clients to be interviewed, it makes me a little nervous to be the one being grilled! So I am practicing. I’ve done some podcast interviews recently and I’ve asked a friend of mine who is a journalist to put me through my paces.
My point is this, I’ve been in PR for 25 years but I still need to practice certain elements of this. Don’t expect that you will it right on day one. Don’t berate yourself when you make mistakes. Your stories won’t always work out. Your interview answers may sometimes be a bit clunky – mine were! Don’t allow the fear of not being perfect to stop you. Practice is the only way to get good at this stuff.
And on a related note, I am quite strict with my clients about having a clear and targeted strategy when it comes to media choice because it’s important to place stories where your clients are. However, in the beginning, if someone offers you an opportunity even if their outlet doesn’t reach your perfect target audience, say yes. It’s great practice.
It’s very rare that I will recommend to an Actually client that they do their very first media interview with a major national title or on a podcast with millions of subscribers. It’s unusual that I would advise them to pitch their first ever story to The Times or The Daily Mail.
Don’t get me wrong, I love ambition and I believe that you are all capable of great things. But I also recognise that PR can be intimidating and it’s sometimes better to start small, build your confidence with all that positive feedback and then go for your big, hairy audacious goals. Once you realise how brilliant you are on a podcast with 100 subscribers, you’ll feel more confident on the podcast with 1000 subscribers and so on..
DON’T OVERLOOK THE REGIONAL MEDIA
Because I believe in practice and starting small, I often advise clients to start with regional media. The circulation of The Croydon Advertiser is far smaller than any of the national media and it is therefore a lot less intimidating. But it’s not just that regional titles are less scary, there are some very positive reasons to work with regional press:
Reach: Recent research shows that regional media reaches 75% of adults in the UK every month. If you live in Manchester, the Thursday-Friday edition of the Manchester Evening News reaches an average 1.97 million readers across print, digital and mobile each month. So, if your potential clients are also based in Manchester, there’s a good chance they’re reading the Manchester Evening News!
Ease: Journalists working on regional media are often even more strapped for time and resources than their national counterparts. What that means is that if you have a great story idea with a good local angle, it can often make it directly into print from a press release with minimal changes.
Positivity: Local media are more likely to be interested in putting a positive spin on a local news story. They are keen to promote their region and often feel a sense of obligation to the community. And, of course, local media benefits from a strong local economy so they are often keen to promote local businesses. The old adage that bad news sells, is simply less true at a local level!
AND DON’T FORGET THE TRADE PRESS
The trade press are often overlooked by people obsessed with national coverage. And yet, a lot of professionals read their trade press religiously – I know I do. So, if you know that your potential clients largely work in HR, then an article in Personnel Today, HR Director or HR Magazine is more likely to be seen by them.
And just like regional journalists, the journalists working on trade titles are often significantly under-resourced. I’ve lost count of the number of articles I’ve read in PR Week that are cut and pasted press releases – including typos on one notable occasion.
Just beware of ‘peacocking’. If you’re an accountant, it may be gratifying to get an article in Accountancy Age or the ICAEW Economia magazine but unless your clients are other accountants, it doesn’t really help you to raise awareness or generate more clients for your enterprise.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO IT ALONE
Stepping into the media arena, developing and pitching your first story, doing your first interview…these can be nerve-racking moments. But you don’t have to do it alone. Find a friend who has done some successful media work and ask their advice. Or…ahem…you could always ask a professional!
The How to Actually Spread the Word course is our flagship training programme. We cover, amongst other things, how to develop great stories for media and how to pitch to journalists. Come and learn the tricks of the trade and approach your media work with more confidence and ease! We run two cohorts a year – and there are only 20 places in each cohort to ensure that you get all the 121 attention you need. To find out more click here.
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