Within the past six months to a year, the local media market has been in flux. Many of the reporters and producers we work with have changed positions. Moreover, several of the programs and stations are shifting their formats and capabilities. It is a reminder that you cannot count on what was to always be.
Having a relationship with the media is just that: a relationship. It requires investment by both parties to make it strong, successful and long lasting. Some people believe all relationships are only for a season (however long that season may be) and they may be right. However, the ending of one relationship often opens up opportunities for a new relationship. With my relationships with the media, I have found three guiding principles that have served me well.
1. Go Wide and Go Deep
If you only know and talk to one person at a specific media outlet, you are at a great disadvantage if that person changes positions or leaves the company completely. Take advantage of every opportunity possible to meet and communicate with multiple reporters and editors, even if they do not directly cover your topic. You never know when that might change.
Moreover, don’t just connect when you have something to say, find out what they need by touching base and checking in. In these interactions avoid wasting their time. We all are busy and business time is time for business. This could mean offering comments or feedback on something the reporter or editor has covered. Or simply asking how you may be able to help them on a current story with an introduction to a potential source or offering background yourself. The key is to be brief, be helpful and be relevant to the reporter’s or editor’s focus, which leads me to my next principle.
2. Be Relevant
I have heard it said way too often that the media is in need (desperate need) of material. This is true. But there are qualifiers. Almost all media outlets operate in multiple platforms, which includes the web. With the instant nature of electronic platforms and the demand by the public and search engine algorithms to have a constant stream of new information, there is a great need for content. Conversely, the space at any one time is still limited. Because of this, there is ever-growing competition for that space.
News is still that, news. Just because you, or your company, did something, is offering a product or service (even if it is a new offering in the market place), or has something to say that will help people, make people’s lives better/easier or inform people of something that they need to know, this does not mean it is news.
When working with the media the most important of the five “Ws” (who, what, when, where and why) is the “why.” Why is this important/ Why should I (the reader/viewer) care? And why now? Having clear and concise answers to the why questions will increase the attention editors and journalists give to a story idea or pitch. Consequently, this increases the opportunity for coverage.
There are times that no matter how important it seems to an individual or company that the world needs to know about the latest and greatest X, Y and Z, it just does not reach the bar of being news. Advertising may be the proper avenue to share this information.
3. The Media is a Business Too
Nothing is free in this world, and that includes the news. Although many media outlets hold true and fast to journalistic integrity, the media in all of its forms is a business. Just like any business, they are not successful if they give everything away. Respect the business side of the media and consider giving their business some of your business, especially if you are regularly asking them to give you editorial space or coverage. Advertising is how most media pay the majority of their bills. Subscription revenues (if the outlet charges them) only cover a fraction of the costs to run a media business.
Respecting the business of media does not always mean buying an ad. Consider sponsoring an event the media is hosting. At the very least be a subscriber and read, watch, listen to the media outlet you are asking to give you coverage.
Like all businesses, the formats, foci and people in the media will change over time. But, if you stay in a relationship, stay relevant and respect the business side of media, there is a good chance that you will be able to navigate this change smoothly.