Invite the Media to Tell Your Story
People often ask me how I managed to get on major networks like Fox News and NPR. My response is, “Decades of growing a successful legal nurse consulting business.” You have to lay the groundwork before you can expect national media attention.
It took me 19 years to build the kind of professional presence that would attract the interest of a national media outlet like The New York Times, but 31 years later, I am still benefitting. And you don’t have to wait that long to see your name in print. You can start right now enticing local and regional media to tell your CLNC® story. Unlike advertising and many other forms of marketing, you don’t pay for this type of publicity. It comes from the media free of charge, but in turn requires more effort than advertising.
Media relations is also riskier than paid advertising. When you pay for an ad, the publication is committed to running your ad just as you designed it. The same is not true for media relations. There are no guarantees that just because you gave an interview the media will include a story about your company and, more importantly, that the story will say exactly what you want it to say. You have no control over who else they might interview or how they’ll spin the story. Don’t expect to see, much less approve, a copy of your story before it runs.
However, when a positive article about your CLNC® business does run in the media, you get a huge payoff. The public perceives a news story as far more credible than any advertisement. A published article or broadcast news item is accepted as a media endorsement of your company. Also, even though the story might not match your expectations exactly, you can still benefit tremendously.
Vanquish 3 Myths
Before beginning a media relations effort, you’ll need to overcome the myths about media relations that could prevent you from creating an effective campaign.
Myth #1 – The media will discover me. False. You have to help them along. You must boldly and unabashedly offer the media a relevant, valuable, fascinating story about your CLNC® business. Many of the stories published or broadcast about companies come directly from the companies themselves. The media needs and appreciates story ideas, but they’re not likely to come up with an idea about your company unless you give it to them.
Myth #2 – The media would never be interested in me. Not necessarily. Even a small company can grab the media’s interest. You can, too, by carefully developing the story of your CLNC® business to speak directly to the media outlet’s audience. Think about how your unique experience on a newsworthy case can be interesting and helpful to that audience. Look for ways the story of your success can educate or inspire others.
Myth #3 – I could never speak persuasively to the media. Of course you can. Calling on the media is no more difficult than calling on any new attorney-prospect. All it takes is preparation. Make notes before you make contact, practice what you want to say and be ready to catch a reporter’s interest in the first 15 seconds.
With preparation and diligence, you will overcome almost all media relations challenges.
Implement 11 Media Relations Strategies
Any public relations activity must be designed to answer one simple question: What’s in it for the reader, viewer or listener? The media marketplace you’re trying to reach must gain an important benefit – either information, education or entertainment – from what you have to share with them, or your story has no value in that marketplace.
- Think about your target audience. What do they read? What radio stations would they listen to? Consider local community and daily newspapers, weekly business journals, legal journals, business radio programs and other outlets of interest to your target audience. Those media will be the focus of your public relations strategy.
- Get to know your target media. Before you can successfully sell your story to the media, you must be familiar with the types of stories they want. Read the publications and listen to the radio programs you’ve targeted. You’ll need to adapt your story to fit the style and tone of each outlet.
- Develop your story. Think about what would make your CLNC® business interesting to each outlet’s audience. Can you share business lessons you’ve learned? Do you have a great success story? Were you involved with a highly publicized case that you have permission to discuss? Does something in your personal background make your CLNC® success unique or inspiring?
- Look for connecting story ideas. The media thrive on a variety of unusual stories. Not every successful PR effort will focus directly on your CLNC® business. Most of you know that my husband Tom works for Vickie Milazzo Institute. When my public relations agent pitched a story to Entrepreneur magazine about women who employ their husbands, the Entrepreneur editor liked it and ran with it. We’ve pitched stories about everything from what our company does to why we’re unique in building employee relationships. Some of your most successful story ideas will come from linking what you know and do to current events.
- Don’t forget the “R” in media relations. Identify and get to know the individual reporters or editors who are most likely to be interested in your stories (i.e., reporters who cover small businesses, entrepreneurs, woman-owned businesses, healthcare issues or the legal field). Again, it’s important to be completely familiar with your target media, to understand the types of stories each reporter seeks. It’s also important to develop these contacts before you need them. Or as business whiz Harvey MacKay says, “Dig your well before you’re thirsty.” Develop your media relationships now.
- Create a “media pitch list” and a strategy for reaching the people on that list. Find out how and when your targets prefer to receive pitches, and include a news release, along with all pertinent contact information. Most media today prefer email.
- Refine your pitch. Find an objective person (or several) to read your news release or listen to your pitch and ask them for feedback. If your friends don’t find your story interesting, the media definitely won’t. Keep refining your pitch until you’ve got something that truly piques interest.
- Proceed confidently. You are a successful businessperson with a unique story to tell. Create an interesting angle, an angle that showcases how your story benefits readers, viewers or listeners of your chosen media outlet, and reporters will respond enthusiastically. Avoid arrogance anytime you’re dealing with the media – this will definitely lessen your chances for winning coverage. Present honest, thoughtful and compelling information, and reporters will value your contribution. The media needs you as much as you need them.
- Follow up. If you don’t hear back from a reporter after your initial contact, wait three to five days and follow up with an email or a brief phone call. Reporters are often inundated with story ideas, and a quick reminder call will bring your story back onto the radar screen. Be respectful of the reporter’s time and don’t push.
- Keep working at it. Like prospecting for clients, securing a story with the media can be challenging and may require contacting several different reporters before you find the right fit. Don’t be discouraged by a “not interested” response. You will find the right person, and your media relations efforts will reap big rewards.
- Express your gratitude. After your story runs, drop a note to the editor to say “thank you” and to report on the response to your story. You’ll be surprised and thrilled to see how much interest a story in the media can generate. By sharing these positive results with the editor, you credit her insightfulness in using your story. Everybody appreciates acknowledgement.
Any media exposure is a learning experience. Bring your CLNC® business into the spotlight by making a concerted effort to attract local and regional media. Learn by developing relationships with smaller publications such as your community newspaper, so that you’re ready to speak out confidently when USA Today® and The New York Times come calling.
I’m just sayin’
P.S. Comment here and share your media relations experience.