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‘Old school’ thinking won’t cut it in the age of digital media

Electronic and paper media concept

For a small business or start-up navigating our 24 hour news circle is a difficult prospect. Positioning yourself positively in the media can generate sales and redefine an outdated marketing strategy. Of course, though, negative media can ruin reputation and stifle growth.

When conducted correctly, the process of gaining media attention can be easy and harmless.

Constantly as a media consultant, I’m asked by business owners and entrepreneurs how they can receive positive media attention. And that they are dismayed their media releases don’t get reported on.

The problem is right there, relying on an outdated form of communication – the emailed media release.

As a former journalist and media adviser, I’m well versed in all things media release and argue 90% of the time they don’t work.

Much like a media release, it’s old school thinking to assume emailing one to a generic ‘news room’ address will work.

Think of it like an email to a large corporation – where does it go? Who receives it? And do they care? The same applies to a busy news room with many stories on the go.

You might get lucky and your media release could be printed out. If so, don’t expect miracles beyond that.

It will be throw in a heap with every other ‘look at me’ media release. Journalists are time poor and don’t or won’t spend much time rifling through it to find gold.

Don’t get even more ‘old school’ by writing a media release longer than War and Peace. If printed, it won’t get stapled before being thrown at the heap. If it is picked up and the second page can’t be found, game over.

In fact, a media release longer than one page risks never being read at all. Students of journalism are taught the importance of the ‘hook’ to keep your reader reading. If you don’t hook a journalist with your heading, they won’t go beyond the first paragraph.

Keep in mind journalists are emailed countless media releases daily.

Like Twitter, you have only a few characters to sell your story (in a media release) – make them count. If it’s superfluous get rid of it.

After a catchy heading, make your text concise and appealing. Focus on the story, not the product or service. Let the narrative tell the journalist (and hopefully reader) that your product or service is ideal for them.

Let’s not consign the humble media release to the annals of history though. It can be a vital tool, when used correctly.

Choose your market. Don’t send out media releases to every media organisation if they don’t cover your area of business i.e: don’t send a media release to the Herald Sun if you’re a business operator in Perth simply because you have a few customer in Melbourne – seems obvious, but happens all the time. A smaller relevant database is greater than a large generic one.

Three journalists reporting on your industry in your contact book is greater than having all the big “media players” numbers on speed dial.

Like building a client or customer base, gaining media attention should be the same process – forming relationships. Journalists look for stories but not necessarily off media releases. If you’re in contact with them, a casual text or chat over coffee might do (as long as you pay).

Research the media in your area (both industry and location). Smart money says you’ll find a plethora on Twitter alone. ‘Follow,’ ‘like’ and engage with them in the build up to trying to gain media attention, it’s another form of business and/or brand recognition.

Through doing this you’ll learn what appeals to particular journalists and then you can target your media release or approach to them. It will increase your chance of success.

Without building a professional relationship with journalists your media release remains faceless, doomed for the heap.

Digital technology has gifted small business an arsenal of options to help project your name, use it to your best advantage. Start building your media connections now for when you need them.


About the author:

Luke BuesnelLuke Buesnel is an experienced journalist and political media advisor with an interest in small business issues and trends. Luke is now the Founder and Director of Real Media Management