Accessing the Media
- Why do certain stories appear in the press?
- Why won’t the news cover my story?
- How can I get in the newspaper? How can I get on the news?
- How can I get good press?
- How can I get more media?
- How can I market my product or business to the media?
- Is the media biased?
- What are ways to contact the press? How can I access the media?
1. Why do certain stories appear in the press? For many, the thought about the irony of the timing of a breaking news story does cross their minds, but there is nothing to substantiate that thought. So the idea is pushed aside, the story is absorbed as truth, and assumed to be a coincidence. It is seldom irony nor coincidence when Apple is in the news. The company carefully plans their every move. Here’s why it is imperative for anyone looking for press to follow suit: The press has access to thousands if not millions of consumers collectively, who will help spread the word about you or your product. Even if your press coverage does not talk directly about your product, but promotes something positive about your business, you are getting your name out there, or the concept of what you are selling. People have a fascination with those who receive press. The news buzz about you will entice clients or buyers to notice you above your opponents. Just like Coach Mike Krzyzewski, who knows how to call the perfect play by reading the players on the basketball court, the press knows how to anticipate what consumers and constituents want to watch, read, or hear.
2. Why won’t the news cover my story? In Sir Isaac Newton’s law of gravity, all objects attract each other based upon a certain gravitational pull. Newton’s law of gravity could apply to the news and you. If you are a politician the news needs, you. If you are a source of expert on a particular subject, the news needs you. There will be an undeniable gravitational pull between you and the media. Why, then, is it hard to receive favorable coverage? Perhaps, the news has not heard of your story. As my eighth grade English teacher, Mr. Rewald, once said, “There are no boring things in this world, only things who significances are not yet appreciated.” If the thunder of your story has not been heard yet by a news station, I am assuming you did not present your story properly. If this is the case, you might wonder, what is the step-by-step process to accessing the media? My book Accessing the Media: how to get good press, dives into these details.
3. How can I get in the newspaper? How can I get on the news? If possible, make a phone call first to create a good rapport. Abraham Lincoln said, “A drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall.” Use a drop of honey with journalists. Reporters and producers are human. On a conscious or subconscious level, a reporter may help you depending on the rapport you create. Therefore, it is important to make a phone call first to create a connection. Make sure you tell the truth. Telling the reporter the truth is as important as going the speed limit with a police officer near you.
Send a press release second. Sending a press release without a phone call or creating rapport is like sending a blind man into a lion’s den. The odds of the press release surviving are slim. What should I include in a press release? Here is a sample press release check list from my book Accessing the Media:how to get good press:
- Email: The subject of every email sent to should say: “Reporter’s name––Story idea.” Anyone in the news is always looking for a good story idea.
- National News: If national news is covering a similar story, quote the national news at the top of your press release to give your story validity.
- Statistics: Use statistics to tell why your story is important.
- Video: provide your quote in a video. Or attach a video of you on the news addressing a similar topic.
- Photo: Always provide a photo to put a face with a story. You are humanizing the story.
- Graphic: If you don’t have a photo, provide a graphic, especially if there are numbers involved.
- Avoid Jargon: Do not assume everyone is as knowledgeable as you are about the subject. Break down the information.
- Be Concise: Keep the first press release short by providing information in five categories: who, what, when, where, and why.
- Contacts: Include contact information for everyone involved in the story.
- Grammar: No grammatical errors.
5. How can I get good press? By creating a relationship of reciprocity and understanding a journalist’s mentality. Reporters work tirelessly. A scholarly reporter recognizes what story will be cast on the five o’clock news. He or she grasps this concept because they have fought for the lead story during the daily meeting. Why? Every good reporter wants to be the one covering the lead story. Subsequently, the reporter has learned which story will likely be the top pick of the day. In short, a reporter has come to realize what the viewers prefer to watch and consequently will make the top of the lineup. Although this may seem crude, voters and consumers can be lazy or too busy. Most want one reason––not many––to reject or to continue to support a candidate or product. Hence, this is the reason why messaging is so crucial. Just one good takeaway in a story can give a voter or consumer the single reason they are looking for to make up their mind. And when that mind is made up, it does not usually change. To paraphrase a cliché, you only get one chance to make a lasting impression.
In my book, Accessing the Media, I discuss the importance of crafting your story to ensure the press reports it well. Enable the editorial selection of the story easy for the journalist by providing what is needed: a story idea and content. Your opponents may not do so which leaves them idly sitting on the sidelines collecting dust. Often the biases do not show up in the content of the story, but rather in the editorial selection of the stories. For example, the story may end on a positive quote you provided. Often times, readers and viewers remember what they hear at the beginning and the end of the story. The middle of the story tends to get lost in translation. So if a reporter starts with a good quote from you, or ends on a good quote from you, the reporter is helping your case and perhaps showing some bias towards the story.
6. How can I market my product or business to the media? You must be creative and think about a different angle to a story so the news is eager to cover it. Remember, the news likes to cover the latest stories, stand up against bullies, and defend the underdog. The news also likes to support local community programs that help enable a sense of community for the underdogs. Just like a mother bear protects her cubs, the media tries to be the voice for us.
You must present this properly in your press release. Your press release needs contact information, photos, video, statistics supporting your story, a quote from an expert and quote from a person impacted by your story. Videos and photos are especially important. Extra video of the event is called B-Roll. Below Jeff Gravley explains. Jeff is a journalist who votes for the winner of the Heisman Trophy Award, is a seven time Emmy award winner, and has twice been named the North Carolina Sportscaster of the Year by the National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.
“As a news organization, we get hundreds of e-mails per day from people and organizations pitching story ideas. There is no way we can fulfill all of the requests for coverage. The good thing now is sharing video is easier than it has ever been. Providing a short clip of a client on camera works much better that a written quote. It’s better for television coverage as well as the web and social media. Working in sports, we sometimes get interviews and highlight clips of some of the non-revenue sports that we can’t get to. It’s a proactive way to try and get coverage. An invitation to cover an event can sometimes get lost in the shuffle. A follow-up e-mail immediately after the event that includes video is a good way to get noticed. It doesn’t guarantee it will make air, but it increases your chances.” – Jeff Gravley
7. Is the media biased? For those of you who say the media is biased, you are right. It is. Reporters and anchors are human. Humans, by nature, have an opinion. While covering a political race, some are deciding who they will vote for while checking off the box on the ballot. While listening to a business, as a consumer, the reporter is deciding whether the product is good or not. It is human nature to think for ourselves. Reporters are not robots, nor should they be. Asking a reporter to be one hundred percent unbiased is like asking an employee to work one hundred percent everyday. There are certainly fantastic employees just like there are brilliant journalists who work diligently with very little bias. However, it is impossible to give one hundred percent day in and day out. Sick days happen. Vacation happens. Triumphs and defeats occur in life which influences our behavior and work habits.
8. What are ways to contact the press? How can I access the media? If you want to gain positive media, you must think like the press. You must have at least three points of contact with the media: 1 – before the event, 2 – during the event, and 3 – after the event with a second press release. (Most people cut themselves short and only have one or two points of contact.) If you are extremely selective about what is presented before the press and when, instead of throwing a flurry of press releases in the reporter’s lap, your odds of getting coverage increases. Remember, you are not trying to just get a bigger share of a fixed pie; you are also trying to motivate inconsistent voters and consumers to support you or your product. You can make that happen with good messaging and communication.
To get more information, order Accessing the Media: how to get good press by Jill Osborn.
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A special thank you to all my fellow journalists. Thank you for tirelessly relaying the truth! Keep up the good work!