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yARN: rules of engagement

yARN: rules of engagement

Dealing with the media - and is a steak a winner?

Have you ever pondered why some companies appear to be talked about in the press more than others (for example, regular coverage in ARN)? Or, wondered why it is that their stories are told no matter how insignificant they appear to be while the more newsworthy efforts of others go unnoticed?

A conspiracy theorist may suspect that they bought the journalist a good steak or that some underhanded preference is at play based on how much money is on spent on advertising.

No. There is no smoke and mirrors here, just some extra effort in engaging the media.

Firstly, ask journalists what type of information they are looking for. Journalists pride themselves on being independent, factual and fair with their main charter being to service the information needs of their audience, whether that be in print, online or broadcast.

Secondly, give them what they want and that is information. This doesn’t need to be a costly exercise. You don’t necessarily need an expensive PR company to engage with the media and get a bit of coverage if that is what you are after. However, you do need to start a professional relationship with a journalist or journalists. Here are a few quick tips.

Know your media

Make sure you focus attention on media outlets that service your market. If you are buying and selling technology or providing an IT service, the information sources that are going to help shape the procurement decisions of your customers are not the Fin Review or mainstream newspapers. They read tech industry magazines and websites and, in the channel, they read trusted, niche brands like ARN.

Self-funded retirees, investors and corporate high flyer wannabes read the Fin Review and commuters read the mainstream press looking for footy gossip. A slight generalisation here but you get my point: Your customers are not reading these information sources to be better informed in making their channel decisions.

Be the source

Journalists live and die by the quality of their sources of information. In the cut-throat world of modern news reporting where online services and social media have conspired to create a reporting environment where there are no longer deadlines, just multiple delivery mediums.

News needs to be distributed as it is happens. Scoops are measured in minutes and journalists are continually hungry for news stories that are relevant to the communities they serve. The vast majority of the news stories they write will be based on information that someone has passed onto them in one form or another.

Even if you don’t want your name anywhere near the information you pass onto a journalist, being the source of quality intelligence about what they are covering makes you an invaluable associate. When the time comes to seek comment on issues of relevance for stories they are writing, as a trusted source the journalist will turn to you and ask your opinion which creates the opportunity to build your profile and be tagged as a subject matter expert.

Follow that journalist

Many journalists these days will make extensive use of social media. Twitter, for example, is very popular and regularly used to communicate with readers and sources. If you want to use media engagement as a tool for building your profile, then start following the journalists who meet your information needs on Twitter, their blogs and their media Websites.

Read their work, interact with them through social media or traditional email, add value to their body of knowledge and feed them some news leads. At the very least you will build an understanding of what they are interested in writing about while they, in turn, will have enhanced awareness of who you are and what you do.

Invite them along

Another great way to engage with media representatives is to invite them along to an event you might be hosting. Whether it be a celebration for reaching a milestone or the launch of a new office or a new product, these sorts of events offer great opportunities for journalists to develop sources and for you to meet journalists.

Journalists are busy and cannot accept all invitations so they will select events that appear valuable to their work or just plain good fun. It is important that you make their effort worthwhile by providing some news value which could be anything from access to key individuals to a behind the scenes insight to your business or industry vertical.

Whatever the case, just by inviting them along, you are increasing awareness and putting yourself into the picture.

At the end of the day, it is not that hard to generate a bit of media attention if you want it. Indeed is remarkably similar to what you are already doing in terms of business development. All you have to do is understand what they are after, engage with them and add value.

However, when all else is taken into consideration, it never hurts to buy a hungry journalist a good steak.

Gerard Norsa is a former ARN editor who now is a director of Schmooze Communications. He can be contacted via: gerard@schmooze.com.au PS: he may have eaten the odd steak in his lifetime


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