Cracking the Media Code Part II: The “How”

If you’ve read my last post – filled with caveats about PR – and you determine your organization is PR appropriate…then you’re ready for today’s post.

It’s filled with tips on getting your organization’s story in the paper, on TV, on the radio, or featured on an internet news site.

The Press Release

Though technological trends have some stating otherwise, I still believe in the press release.

It encapsulates your story and gets it strategically into the hands of decision-makers. (if done correctly, of course)

I’m not going to bury the lead here. I’m about to tell you the most important rule when writing a press release, pitching a story, or working with the media once they’ve decided you’re worthy to do so.


These are busy people dealing in a somewhat chaotic world of deadlines and moving pieces. They don’t have the time, energy or interest to knock themselves out over your story.

Spoon-feed the media a brief and articulate rundown on why your story is interesting, why it’s relevant now, the quick details, the interviews you’ll get them and the visuals that’ll make it sing.

They’ll then know they’ll get a valuable story done, in a way won’t stretch their people and will meet their deadlines.

They won’t have to do a ton of research for stats or extra calling for interviews because you’ll take care of it.

And you’ll do it all with professionalism, charm and grace.

Make it convenient and you’re halfway there.  Then do the following:

Tip #1: Know what a story is.

When I was an assignment editor – I threw away 85% of the releases I received.

Why? Because they weren’t true stories. And I didn’t forget the people behind them because I couldn’t waste my time with their shenanigans in the future.

So what is a true story?

Remember these three things: relevant to a broad audience, timely, and episodic.

It must be interesting to more people than you, your staff and your board.

Tip #2: Know your goal.

What do you want people to do after they’ve been exposed to your story? Write to it.

If you don’t know, or you decide you just want them to feel good about you, reconsider whether or not this is worth your time. (and read my  previous blog)

Tip #3: Keep it brief. ‘Nuff said.

Tip #4: Start with a great headline.

Use active words and state why it’s important right now.

Don’t start with “XYZ Organization’s mission is…” I want to take a nap just writing it.

Tip #5: Get the details in early.

Don’t build up to the who-what-when-where-why. If you have to keep explaining, it means you’re rambling. And that means you’ve lost them.

The Follow Up

Once you’ve sent the release, you need to follow up with a phone call.   A few more tips…and again I’ll begin with the biggie:

Tip #1: Know who to pitch.

Your media list is your PR success. Treat it like gold. 

When people hire me to do their PR it’s just as much about the people I know as it is my ability to get the work done.

Form relationships with members of the media. Find those who care most about your cause.

But don’t bug them too much. Target them with your best pitches.

And once you get them to do a story on you, deliver.

Build trust with reporters by showing them you know what a story is and how to get it done efficiently and on deadline. I promise you they’ll return.

 Tip #2:  Know when to pitch.

Do not call a broadcast news station at 5:05pm. Their newscast is on and they’re scrambling.

Don’t call them at 9am to make sure they know about today’s press conference because they’re already in their morning meeting, making coverage decisions.

Know the daily routines of your preferred media outlets, and honor it.

Tip #3: Know how to pitch. Be articulate. Be succinct. ‘Nuff said.

Tip #4: Know where to pitch.

If you want to get your upcoming event in a community calendar, don’t call the main news desk. If you want to get exposure for your arts organization, don’t call the education reporter.

Tip #5: When you get the interview, make sure your spokespeople know your messages, are on point, and speak in sound bites. Consider scheduling media training if necessary.

And in the end, make sure it’s all worth it for your organization…that it somehow helps you reach a goal.

We all love our time in the spotlight, but if you’ve got nothing to show for it, you’ll just find yourself sitting there in the dark the very next day.

Now…go do good…and do it well.

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