Whether you have an in-house public relations team, outsource to an agency, or manage your organization’s PR on your own, media relations are an essential part of any comprehensive marketing plan. Positive media relations can yield high-return results—the media can lend credibility to your brand, encourage top-of-mind recall, and put your name in front of people who would have never seen it otherwise. Unfortunately, earned media is not guaranteed to be positive—and pitching certainly does not guarantee coverage. At Archer & Hound, we use the elements of newsworthiness to estimate the potential success of a story and guide our hands when developing topics to pitch to local, regional, and international media.
THE ROLE OF THE MEDIA
In the beginning, the word “media” referred specifically to printed newspapers and books, but the definition has expanded to include a variety of radio, television, and digital outlets. This transition has resulted in the globalization of media—today’s news travels around the world instantly, and that lack of delay has both advantages and disadvantages. The entire world may have the opportunity to see a positive story about your organization, but it is also very difficult to contain anything negative. Word truly travels fast.
According to the Global Ethics Network, the role of the media is to be a watchdog to protect public interest against malpractice in business and government and create public awareness. The media has been referred to as the fourth pillar of American democracy, along with the legislative, judiciary, and executive branches. The media is not out to ruin you, but it’s not their job to promote you, either. Their role is to provide information to the public—but because they also need to profit, the information they provide must be capture the interest of the public and meet their audiences where they are, hence the transition from newsprint to the web.
MASTERING MEDIA RELATIONS
Experienced PR practitioners know that by establishing the right news angle and pitching strategically, news coverage can be obtained. Behind the scenes, wheels are turning and pencils are scratching, transforming story ideas from drab to fab in order to catch the attention of the right reporter. Relationships have been built up over time so that when the PR person reaches out to the media with a new pitch, reporters are more likely to open the email or answer the call. These relationships are built on a foundation of trust—a reporter’s favorite contacts send them exclusively high-quality stories, where important details are clearly stated and errors have been eliminated.
Simply put, reporters are more likely to take on your story if you do the leg work for them by preparing news releases, photos, videos, interviews, and talking points in advance. Interviewees should be media-trained and prepared to answer any pertinent question. At Archer & Hound, we advocate treating media contacts like our best clients, consistently proving ourselves a reliable resource in the field.
8 ELEMENTS OF NEWSWORTHINESS
At the end of the day, what you think is important regarding your business may not have the same value to the media. When a reporter or staff member is evaluating a story to see if it belongs in the news, they measure the story against this criteria—which means you should, too. Before you try to garner any hits in the media, reassess the story you plan to pitch and make sure you’re meeting as many of the newsworthiness standards as possible. Remember that modern news outlets have limited time and space—your story is competing against any number of other newsworthy pieces, and your goal is to stand out among the clutter.
TO PITCH OR TO DITCH?
These elements are the ruler by which we measure potential pitch topics. If your story does not measure up, it’s not worth pitching. There are other outlets that are more suitable for sharing these kinds of stories—social media, blogs, or even a text to friends and colleagues would each be more appropriate than pitching a story with no substance. You’ll lose credibility with reporters by sending a subpar story idea, and in the process, you could jeopardize future news coverage opportunities.
Before you throw away your story, though, try approaching it from a different angle. Focus on making the information as helpful to the public as possible and find popular, relevant tie-ins to reference. If it still isn’t meeting the standards of newsworthiness, it’s probably time to move on to your next idea and develop it into something amazing.