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Tips for earned media

By CCIWA Editor 

How do you get in the news? To be honest, unless you’ve built a relationship with journalists, invented the fountain of youth, done something stupid or a crisis has happened involving your company, it’s unlikely your story as a small to medium business is going to hit the big headlines.

The methods you use to gain publicity will be vary, depending on the size of your business. Let’s look at the best ways for you to earn publicity in free media (earned media):

1 Research the outlets

There are many different types of media ranging from newspapers, radio, television, online, magazine, industry specific publications. If you’re a SME, select publications to target. Are they in your business’ location? Do they reach the audience you need? For the size of your business are they likely to cover your story?

2 Build your relationship with journalists

Find the names of the journalists or commentators working in your space and contact them. Organise to go for a coffee or meet up in their office. Sit down with them and tell them what you do, and the types of things you can comment on. Tell them if they ever need a voice from industry, you’d be happy to help them. Let them know challenges for your industry, or the exciting things about your industry.

They may do a story if you can give them an industry-wide context. Annette Ellis, strategic communications advisor and CEO of Cannings Purple says, “even if the proverbial hits the fan, you want the journalist to pick up the phone and say; ‘I know your name, we met, this is what I’m hearing, what’s your side of the story’.”

3 Press release

This is a page, or less, of information that has everything the journalist needs to know. It has the who, what, where, why, when, how and the date and the phone numbers of the people to contact. In the first paragraph, put the most interesting or newest information – from the perspective of the media organisation’s audience – it’s not necessarily the same as yours.

Also, if you can, include a paragraph that contains an anecdote or story because journalists work with stories. You’ll have more success if you tailor your press release specifically for the news outlet you’re sending it to. And follow up with a phone call if possible.

4 News opportunities

Keep a look out for news opportunities and let the journalists know if you hear something that you think they might be interested in. Flick them an email. Also keep your ear to the ground about new developments/issues in your industry. If politicians have spoken about something in Canberra, how does that relate to your knowledge?

What can your comments add to the bigger issue? Knowing this, being proactive about it, and contacting journalists will help you use earned media. For example, in 2018, the national Gonski 2.0 report into education was released. Because of prior relationships, some journalists knew to contact Gifted WA (a not-for profit dealing with educational needs) for comment, because of the relationship that had previously been fostered.

5 Press release distribution service

These organisations send a press release to hundreds or thousands of news organisations at once, for a fee. You write your release then select and send to distribution channels. There will be occasions when a company needs to get news out to every news outlet at the same time. This shotgun approach may be more relevant for larger businesses.

Type ‘press release distribution service’ into your search engine to find out more. The problem with earned media is you don’t have a lot of control about the final message being put out and to whom. It is also difficult to get tangible figures on the impact for your business. However, a major positive is that it is seen as mostly credible.

Overall, if the thought of dealing with journalists and news organisations is daunting, Ellis says public relations and communications specialists or organisations can help. After all, many of them were former journalists themselves.

How do you get in the news? To be honest, unless you’ve built a relationship with journalists, invented the fountain of youth, done something stupid or a crisis has happened involving your company, it’s unlikely your story as a small to medium business is going to hit the big headlines.

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