Earning Media Coverage for Your Event
Media, both mainstream and industry, are hungry for content. They want stories to tell. However, the space a reporter has is shrinking, and their available time to find stories is becoming even smaller.
It is no longer enough for you to create a press release, float it to the world, and expect that interested parties will find it. If you want your story told, you need to make a reporter’s job as easy as possible.
Create a Media Contact List
If you can’t expect the reporters to come to you, you need to go to them. Do so by creating a list of every media outlet that interests you and that you could interest. This includes daily newspapers, weekly and monthly magazines, trade publications, TV and radio stations, news websites, blogs, community-related calendar of events, and more.
The next step is to find the reporters who cover events or industry news at those publications. Get their direct phone numbers, email address, Twitter handles, Facebook profiles, and whatever else will help you to make contact. Useful places to start are online directories or by calling the reception or news desk.
Once your list is finalized, you will want to check it about once a year to make sure it is up to date.
Prepare a Distribution Strategy
Before you send anything to the media, create a strategy around the distribution. This means carefully going over your list and selecting the right names for your announcement. For example, if you are hosting an event that is relatively exclusive and niche to your industry, then you don’t need to notify any national press; they won’t cover it. Instead, stick to industry publications.
Find the Hook
Now that you know who you are speaking to, carefully consider how you intend to say it. You are more likely to obtain press coverage if you provide reporters with a hook. It may help to try and see your event from the reporter’s point of view. What will captivate the press? Is your event having a special anniversary? Will a big-name speaker be giving a presentation? Is there a social aspect to the event? Will the event benefit the community?
Discovering the elements most likely to interest reporters will also help as you create marketing collateral for the event.
Write the Press Release
With the preliminary legwork completed, it is time to pull out your quill and ink and scratch out a press release. You know your angle; you know your target audience; now, all you have to do is the reporter’s job for them. Write their story – or most of it, anyway. Create a catchy first paragraph. Put all relevant information near the top. Include a quote or two from key members of your organization (be sure to get their approval).
Try to craft something where a report can slap on a byline and call it a day. A press release should always answer the fundamental questions of who, what, when, where, and why. It is all about facts, facts, facts. If you want to include opinions, like how amazing the event will be or that the speaker list is the best lineup around, put it in a quote.
You may also want to include some photos, perhaps of a past event or headshots of speakers. Do not include these photos in your email; that’s likely to get it rejected by the mailer daemon. Instead, indicate that photos are available upon request or link to a cloud-based file where reporters can retrieve a photo.
Craft the Release for Your Audience
Now that you’ve written one press release, it’s time to create several more. Don’t worry. It’s easier than it sounds. Every publication has a style. Some use a subheading below the headline. Some start articles with summation bullet points before the narrative begins. Some like to have a quote early in the text, while others prefer them near the end.
Review articles in your intended publication and determine how you can make your press release match their style. You don’t need to make significant rewrites to every single submission. With a few simple edits, you can craft your press release to suit the quirks. Remember, everything you do to make the reporter’s job easier increases the chances of receiving press coverage.
Do Not Send a Mass Email
Just as you make little tweaks to the release, you need to find ways to personalize your communications with reporters. Again, it helps to look at things from the reporter’s point of view. They’re busy, searching for stories, and an email chain with dozens of recipients (or “undisclosed recipients”) featuring a “To whom it may concern” salutation hit their inbox. That thing is going in the trash without being opened (if it makes it past their junk filter).
Now picture this scenario. They receive an email addressed specifically to them, with a catchy subject line, and a brief description of how news of the event benefits their target audience. You want to make your communication stand out from the piles of others they receive. If you can make the reporter or editorial staff quickly understand the benefit of your event, you are much more likely to move your press release to the top of the queue.
Start Big and Work Your Way to Small
Start your submission process with the publications that have the greatest reach before moving to publications with smaller readerships. There are two reasons for this approach. First, you get a higher return on your efforts from publications with a large number of readers. Also, something could sidetrack you away from submitting press releases, and you want to have the larger publications completed before that occurs. Second, smaller publications follow larger ones. When something catches their eye, the publications will often use the story verbatim and cite the source. When this occurs, it’s a significant time-saver for you.
Follow Up – Once
Before proceeding, you must acknowledge that there is a not-so-fine line between being persistent and being annoying. One follow-up call is fine; several may get all of your hard work sent to the garbage.
That said, a simple follow-up call to the reporter asking if they received your press release and if there are any additional questions you could answer can be extremely effective. If you do not speak to the reporter directly (and you probably won’t, busy reporters are always racing against a deadline), leave your name and number, and leave it at that. Don’t call again; don’t email again. You have done the best you can. At this point, more meddling can only hurt your cause.
Use the Coverage you Receive to Generate More Press
Every story published about your event is an opportunity for further promotion. Keep interest in your story alive by circulating the article on social media and posting it on your website. Be sure to include other publications in your social media blast. Once one outlet has declared that your event is newsworthy, others are more likely to do the same.
If you have the social media handle of the reporter, send them a public thank you message. You should also send a private “thank you” email. This will help nurture a relationship with that reporter, which could increase your chances of receiving press coverage in the future.