Not long ago I sat in on a few nonprofit marketing workshops as a news media panelist. I got the usual questions from the marketing folks attending — how do we get the newsroom to actually read our press release? How to we get information to a reporter? Why won’t the news media come to my press conference / gala / event? They are the same questions I still get from well-meaning, passionate nonprofits, startups and even big businesses looking for solid media training.
What’s important about all of these questions is the theme they represent: “We don’t have (or we don’t want to spend) money for traditional advertising and we know there must be a way to get coverage of our awesome work.” The good news is — there is.
Here is the hard part, earned media may be free in terms of dollars, but it requires a commitment of real resources — people, time and energy. This is obviously a big challenge for small businesses and nonprofit organizations already doing too much with not enough.
Earned media is called “earned” for a reason, you have to work for it. Here are the first steps you need to take BEFORE you start pursuing it:
1) A strong, consistent message that proves your expertise and gets media attention.
2) A working knowledge of how the news media works and a deep respect for how hard the job is.
3) Meet and build a relationship with newsroom staffers, especially news reporters.
4) Have a willingness to answer the phone.
5) The skill to present your message — strong media performance — in a consistent way.
All of this may seem a bit daunting, but the payoff of this work can be amazing. Imagine becoming the public media voice for your clients and customers; imagine being the first to get a call from a news reporter looking for expertise in your area; imagine getting meaningful news media coverage that reaches not only your current customers, but a huge pool of potential new ones.
News media coverage is comparable to standing center stage in a large stadium full of potential donors, clients and customers — and you’ve just been handed the mic.
Here’s a crazy secret — as intimidating as the news might seem, the news media is looking as hard for you as you are for them. Good stories need experts and witnesses. Your job is to be that expert, the go-to organization, the one a reporter can count on. If you can do that, your marketing job becomes easier — reporters love to include people who deliver, over and over again.
If you are willing to do the hard work up front — it won’t cost anything but time — the payoff of a powerful message and good news media training can take you and your business to another level.