How to: get a story in the media

Media relations is a key part of our work as a communications agency. It’s part of the public relations toolkit and is often the one which people struggle to get right. That’s because it’s not an exact science.

Based on years of experience as well as insight post-pandemic about how media relations can be most effective this is our tried and trusted our formula for effective media relations:  

Research + news hook + timing + tenacity

= coverage

1. Research

Gather insight about your story, look at the market, what else is being covered by the media on similar topics or stories. What context can you add to your story to make it as topical as possible, e.g. facts and figures, emerging trends, upcoming national days or industry events. Apart from someone from the business, is there anyone else who has credibility in the market who you can approach to endorse your story and provide a quote? Fact check and source any claims made so your target journalists don’t have to.

2. News hook

Once you have your research work out what the news hook is. It needs to be ‘new’, interesting and of value to the audiences you want to reach. Be careful to make sure it’s really a story.

A new company website is not news. But the growth or investment which has led to the new website might be.

Make sure your headline and first paragraph of any press release tells the whole story. A press release should be a series of factual statements. Avoid superlatives, jargon, acronyms and unsubstantiated claims. A ‘world first’ really does need to be just that.

3. Timing

So, you’ve done your research, written your news copy and checked everything. The strongest news story can fail to hit the headlines for two reasons related to timing.

One, you sent it out at the wrong time (the publication’s deadline day/to the wrong person); or two, because something far bigger than your story has happened in the world (avoid sending out a story on a day when a prime minister has resigned, admittedly, this is tough these days).

Pitch your stories by phone and email. Often before 9am is a good time to hit a journalist’s inbox – before their daily editorial meetings and ahead of the 2,000 other emailed press releases they will receive from other PRs.

4. Tenacity

You might not get coverage from your first attempt. Being tenacious is a vital tenet of the PR’s job. Sometimes the story might be good but, your target journalists just missed it (swamped by the deluge of daily emails – see above).

Nothing replicates picking up the phone; if you can’t get hold of people (it’s become a lot harder post pandemic with more journalists working from home) consider trying other means – pitching by Twitter or LinkedIn can sometimes work. Think about who else on the editorial team you can approach with the story.

Go back to timing – if it wasn’t quite right, another more targeted and differently timed pitch may work.

Finally, your story distribution and pitching will also give you great insight for the next time – make notes about what stories work well; take feedback from journalists if it’s offered (don’t be afraid to ask them). Add this insight into stage one – research – for your next story.