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Positive media coverage is a great way to showcase your business. But how do you get noticed? Today I have some tips about timing. You may have some important news to share about your business, but if you don't pitch the media at the right time, you likely will not get the media coverage you want.
1. Look for news hooks (AKA pegs)
2. Learn media deadlines?
3. Do not pitch during breaking news
4. Be persistent and flexible
5. Realize that not "everything" you want to promote is newsworthy
What is the best time to pitch to the media or hold a news conference? I am often asked that question. There is no single correct answer. On social media you are your own producer and can post anytime. But what if you want TV exposure?
More viewers watch TV on weekdays, but don’t assume it’s bad to try for weekend coverage. The chance of getting your event covered on a weekend, which is traditionally a slower news period, is often greater than it would be M-F. Weekend assignment editors and producers are constantly looking for fresh material to fill the broadcasts. Large corporations typically do not hold weekend news conferences. The same thing is true for government officials, unless of course it involves breaking news. And there are only so many crime stories a producer wants to include in his newscast. That leaves an opening for your news.
You will need to work around media deadlines. So don’t plan to hold your news conference or event at a time when it is next to impossible for the media to cover it. Always factor in their drive time, especially if you are in a market such as Los Angeles. If you are dealing with a TV network, all planning is done to accommodate the Eastern Time Zone, even if you live on the west coast. A reporter piece that is to air at 6:30 pm ET, has to be in the can and ready to roll at 3:30 pm PT. That means network reporters on the west coast really have to hustle and gather elements early in their day.
With 24 hour news networks and Internet media outlets, deadlines are more fluid. But to optimize your media presence, I still recommend working around broadcast and print deadlines in your market.
Regardless of when your news event, news conference or interview is scheduled, expect to get bumped when breaking news happens. You’ll need to determine just how big this breaking news is, before rescheduling. Is it something that will fill the air for a few hours? days? If it is big enough, your local media outlets and the networks will be tapping into all their resources. If a commercial airliner crashes in Dallas; producers, crews, reporters and live trucks will be dispatched from any and all bureaus. If a small plane crashes in Dallas, more than likely it will be covered with local resources. But, suppose a major celebrity, politician, or corporate leader is among the passengers of that small plane? The media will make it a bigger story. You’ll remember the coverage following the crash of JFK Jr.’s plane. I was CNN’s Bureau Chief in Los Angeles at the time. You may not think the LA Bureau would be impacted by an event that took place off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. But we were very much involved in the coverage. There are always side stories (sidebars) to be done.
There are a few tricks to grabbing media attention. Having a video go viral is a terrific way in. But we aren’t all that lucky (or maybe clever). You’ll want to use your social networking sites (Facebook and Twitter to name just a couple) to get your word out. You will also need to write a news release and distribute it to traditional media outlets. There are free on-line distribution services, just a Google search away. Others charge for their distribution services, but often it is worth the money. Here are some I have used: Marketwired.com, PRNewswire.com, and PRBuzz.com. You’ll need to determine which is a good fit for you.
If your event is planned for a Saturday, be sure to get your news release to the weekend assignment desk no later than Thursday. It doesn’t hurt to alert the media the week before, but don’t expect an answer about coverage that early. If your event is on a weekday, make sure your release is directed to the weekday assignment desk a few days in advance. Do your follow up calls the day before and the day of. I recommend early AM release times. That way your news release may work its way into the morning editorial meeting when coverage plans are determined (pending breaking news).
The more reason you give the media to cover your news the better. So look for things to tie in. This could be other events in the news, holidays, or monthly government reports (such as unemployment figures or housing numbers). Let’s say you have written a book on how to get a job in a slow economy. What better day for a news producer to book you as a guest, than when employment numbers are released?
Or, the First Family gets a new dog, and you manufacture unique dog products. Look for a way to tie your products to that national story. These news hooks or pegs can and do make a difference. Producers like to have flow in their newscasts, and these sidebar stories work great.
Some final thoughts about timing. Don’t call a newsroom during breaking news to pitch as if it is business as usual. Whoever answers the call will be rude and you may end up being so put off, that you won’t call back.
If you are already known to that newsroom (been a prior guest or interview subject) and you can significantly add to the breaking news coverage, then proceed with caution. A quick call and/or email to let them know you are available if they need you, is fine. This is not the time for a hard sell or for a newbie to contact the media.
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