“How Do I Get My Story in the Media” And Other Wrong Questions

“How Do I Get My Story in the Media” And Other Wrong Questions

Some people ask me why my main focus is marketing and copywriting rather than media relations. It’s a valid question. Certainly, many clients ask me, “How do I get my story in the media?” But they just don’t always like the answer.

The easiest way to get yourself into the media is to lead police on a car chase. That probably ISN’T the best way to generate leads for your business, and therein lies the problem with media coverage.

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What’s Your Motivation?

Like most ex-journalists, I have done full-time traditional media relations gigs a few times throughout my life, and I think I was pretty bad at them. That’s because I like to be frank about how media relations campaigns are usually a fat waste of time and money. I like to point out that many people anxious to get on TV or in a magazine have motives that have absolutely nothing to do with bringing in new leads to their business. Clients with their heart set on media attention tend not to like hearing this.

Here’s a 1 minute video I did explaining the “How do I get my story in the media” phenomenon:

I think there are almost always better ways to cultivate awareness for your business than media attention. That doesn’t mean I think my clients should never try to get on the news, they just need to know three things before they do.

There’s NO Satisfaction Guarantee

The reason I don’t JUST do media relations is because I like being able promise results to my clients, and you can’t promise results in media relations. Even though I know dozens of journalists and I know exactly what makes a good news story, I can’t guarantee 100% that a pitch on behalf of my client is going to get picked up.

On the other hand, I CAN guarantee that if you make specific improvements to your website and get your well-honed message in front of more people, you will get more leads. In fact I do guarantee this, and I have consistently fulfilled that guarantee for six years.

Getting media coverage for a client isn’t that straightforward. It’s more difficult to secure and less useful than ever before.

Every newsroom in North America is running on the fewest possible staff members. The reporters who work there do easily twice as much work as I ever had to do. Therefore, employees don’t have as much time to research stories that don’t immediately present themselves like, you know, global pandemics and insurrections and what have you.

That means the job of securing media attention on behalf of a client takes longer and is therefore more expensive.

It’s Not Always Worth It

People also don’t view the news the same way they once did. The level of respect for the craft of journalism and for journalists themselves is plummeting.

It’s quite unfair that today’s journalists are so overworked and underappreciated. I’m sad that the profession to which I dedicated so much of my life is viewed as morally on par with “Big Pharma lawyer,” “tobacco lobbyist,” or “host of Fear Factor.” However the fact remains that your message reaches fewer people through that channel than it once did, so we need to adapt.

There Are Often Better Options

I still get my clients media appearances, and I expect I always will. There are certain clients and certain campaigns that are a natural fit for traditional media. I just make sure it’s part of a complete lead generation plan. You know, the way cereal is supposed to be part of a complete breakfast. I let my clients go ahead and eat those Froot Loops. I just also make sure they have 2 eggs, a cup of cottage cheese, a banana and a litre of orange juice.

This means leveraging the other six tactics of marketing:

  • Assets (items like brochures, signage, webinars)
  • Email List Marketing
  • Social Media
  • Website and/or Blog
  • Events (including promotional campaigns)
  • Paid Advertising

Now as I said, media relations is definitely PART of this complete breakfast. I mean, marketing plan. However, the new media relations isn’t usually going after the local news, where you will beam directly into the care homes of the nation’s 75-year-olds.

The number of people consuming basic local or national news is decreasing drastically, especially the number of younger people. On the other hand, niche programs, websites and podcasts are booming in all demographics. I see more leads generated from a niche podcast based just in my own city than I do from a piece in our nation’s largest newspaper.

Don’t believe me? Here is an example of what the top five stories on the Globe and Mail were on a specific day. Remember, these are the pages the readers of Canada’s national newspaper found to be most interesting:

Globe and Mail top stories screenshot “How Do I Get My Story in the Media” And Other Wrong Questions

The top trending story is a SOFTWARE PRICE CHANGE for the legal industry? And that beat out the story about the suspicious package at the Prime Minister’s event?

I know we complain about the fact that the Kardashians are now mentioned on the real news, but dare I say this is too far in the opposite direction? To whom does this newspaper appeal? Rich lawyers nearing retirement who are only moderately concerned about the safety of the Prime Minister?  Strangely enough, that doesn’t match up any target audience that I’m aware of.

When I do embark on a media relations campaign, I go for the podcast. Or the industry trade publication. Or the community newsletter. In all of these forums, I can predict that the audience is interested, invested and engaged in the same things as my client.

It’s better to reach fewer people about something you know really interests them than reach legions of people whose interests you don’t know.