Thoughts from Raleigh PR Society’s Media Panel

One of the hats I wear is that of Vice President of the Raleigh Public Relations Society. Tuesday’s RPRS meeting featured a Media Panel comprised of Sharon Delaney, news anchor at NBC17 in Raleigh; Rob Christensen, top political reporter at The News & Observer; and Rick Smith, managing editor of WRAL LocalTechWire. The panel offered a number of tips and pointers for Public Relations practitioners to increase the effectiveness of their media relations efforts.

Rick included an excellent article on the panel in today’s WRAL LocalTechWire First Edition e-mail update. That article is here: Media Relations: Too Many Times Companies, Agencies Bungle Chances To Get Out Their News.

Below are a few of my thoughts from the panel. Rick touches on many of the same points in his article; if they are also discussed here, it is because they are important enough to bear repeating.

WRITING PRESS RELEASES
– Don’t write a press release targeted for a niche audience and expect the general media to cover it. Make sure your release appeals to the media outlet’s audience.
– If you are writing a press release for a general circulation publication, avoid using niche-specific acronyms and buzzwords that have no meaning to a general audience.
– Make it presentable and easy to understand.
– Keep it clear and plain; if the first paragraph doesn’t get the attention of the reporter or editor, it will likely end up in the trash can.
– Provide the reporter with information that will help them sell the story to their editor.
– In the very succinct words of Rob Christensen, “Newspaper people love numbers.”

HOW DO TV STATIONS DECIDE WHAT GETS COVERED?
– Timing & content are key. Is it interesting & useful that day?
– Does it have a local angle?
– Does the story fill a specific reporter’s niche or beat?
– Is the story something that is “promotable” (meaning the station might promote it ahead of time to attract viewers)?
– Make it quick & easy. If you don’t understand something in a printed news article, you can re-read it. Conversely, a TV audience typically has just one chance to “get it.” While we do now have the ability to replay television items thanks to TIVO and DVR technology, it is a safe bet that relatively few people TIVO the local news.

GENERAL TIPS
– Develop relationships with the media.
– Be persistent, not passive.
– Be accessible when reporters attempt to contact you. In the words of one of the panelists, “If you duck us when the news is bad, don’t call us when the news is good.”
– Put a human face on your story. Reporters are storytellers, and a human face will personalize your story and increase its newsworthiness.
– If you have multiple related news items, consider grouping them into one larger news story. For example, if your company is making a number of small changes, consider how those changes tell a bigger story about a new direction for your company.
– Understand that you cannot control other news stories. Other news events could impact whether or not your story or event is covered.
– If reporters are calling about a negative situation or event, be prepared to announce the proactive steps your organization is taking to solve or prevent the situation they are covering. This may help you obtain some positive coverage in what would otherwise be an entirely negative article.

Frank L. Williams

Frank is the founder and president of Pioneer Strategies.