Clearly in Insider Magazine - How to get the media interested in what you have to say

21 September 2021 | 5 min read | News
Portrait photo of Paul MacKenzie-Cummins
Paul MacKenzie-Cummins

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Have you ever watched a TED talk and been impressed at how each speaker successfully sticks to the 18-minute time limit?

There is a good reason for this, as TED curator Chris Anderson (founder of Bath-based magazine publisher, Future) explains in ‘Talk Like TED’: “[18 minutes] is long enough to be serious and short enough to hold people’s attention.”

The same logic can be applied to your organisation’s approach to public relations, and the key to generating media interest in your business is being clear on what you say and how you say it.

One newspaper editor I spoke with told me that she receives upwards of 40 or more press releases from businesses every day. Yet she can only run with one or two of them. I asked her how she decides which ones to run with. It’s simple, she says, those that make the cut have something to say that our audience will want to hear about.

It is important to put yourself in the shoes of those journalists whose attention you want to win. Journalists are constantly under intense pressure. They are charged with having to find and create great content that will help their publications to retain and grow audiences and attract advertiser revenue. Not to mention the rush to get it out the door and into the public domain as soon as possible.

“[Businesses] that make the cut have something to say that our audience will want to hear about.”

To achieve actionable attention of journalists means getting to the point of what you have to say quickly and to do so in a way that will make their readers, viewers or listeners stand up and take note. It is easier said than done, I must admit. But that doesn’t make it impossible. Take the example of a renewable energy provider we worked with.

Each year, cities around the world switch off their lights for 60 minutes in a global gesture of solidarity that encourages people to reconsider the way in which they consume energy.

Earth Hour has been a tremendous success for many years, and our client wanted to show its support for the event. We refused. We reasoned that if millions of businesses and homes across the globe are standing up for climate change, what difference will one extra voice make to the media?

“To achieve actionable attention of journalists means getting to the point of what you have to say quickly.”

The answer, of course, is not a lot. However, that didn’t mean there wasn’t a media opportunity to be had from this. All we had to do was think creatively – to consider a strand to the debate that hadn’t been considered in the press, such as the impact on the national grid when all these millions of lights are turned back on again.

We did some research and found that the surge in demand for electricity once the hour has elapsed overrides all that was saved during the preceding 60 minutes. It is counter-intuitive, and so we approached the media and said that while our client supports the cause behind Earth Hour it disapproves of the method being used to convey the message.

This piqued the interest of the media because it was the last thing they would expect a renewable energy company to publicly state. The Guardian, The Telegraph and two BBC Radio stations covered the story and interviewed our client.

Repeating what every Tom, Dick and Harry says won’t get your business in the media. But taking a trending topic and opening the debate will. It’s all about adding value to the subject and being relevant.

Indeed, the latter point is important. The fact that you have hired three people this month is unlikely to be of interest to anyone outside the four walls of your organisation unless they are a ‘name’ within your industry.

Similarly, the launch of a new product or service will only gain traction if you clearly communicate the problem it seeks to solve (and have the data to back up your claims).

“Repeating what every Tom, Dick and Harry says won’t get your business in the media.”

That’s not to say that all company announcements are dead ducks, quite the contrary. You just need to consider what will interest people.

For example, right now the media are particularly interested in stories from businesses who are expanding (especially into non-UK markets) in the wake of Brexit and the pandemic, mental health, social impact and mobility, diversity and inclusion, skills shortages, sustainability, leadership and more.

Your job is to work out what your target market wants to talk about. Then all you have to do is work out how best to craft your message in a way that resonates with them. Get this right and you’re halfway there to enabling your business to be heard and understood by those who matter and in a way that increases your impact, influence, and bottom line.

If you need guidance on developing your post-pandemic communications strategy, get in touch.

This article was published by Clearly in the September 2021 issue of South West Business Insider magazine.