FreightWaves, like many media organizations, receives many requests for coverage from companies and professional media relations firms. Companies are always looking for good publicity around their products and services, or maybe around an employee who has received an award, contributed to the community in a positive way or achieved a major career accomplishment.
Media also covers breaking news, and that is not always flattering to the companies or individuals involved. Whether it is a technology outage, lawsuit or even something criminal in nature, its impact may extend beyond the company itself and affect employees and shareholders, the broader industry or community.
There is an old saying that “any publicity is good publicity,” but not all publicity is created equal.
We have put together this guide on dealing with members of the media, including FreightWaves, to help you improve the chances that your product, service or news will be covered, and to assist in dealing with media representatives during negative news cycles.
First, understand that the media is often interested in covering your news, but may not have the resources available to do so at that time. Second, remember that the media in general is committed to providing fair and objective news coverage of events – and most media outlets do so. Certainly, if you are the subject of negative press, you may not see it that way, but even in those instances, the media can be your friend (see below on how to make this happen).
Here is a simple guide on how best to get coverage of your news:
1. Don’t rely only on news services. News services distribute thousands of releases per day and yours can be buried in inboxes. Also, not all news outlets subscribe to all services, so if you only distribute through one, there is a chance you are missing part of your intended audience. It is best to build an internal contact list that includes key media members at outlets that you would like to cover your news. Some outlets have general media email addresses or phone numbers that can be used. FreightWaves uses firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find individual reporters’ contact information through company websites, web searches and even LinkedIn in some cases. Also, most media members will honor news embargoes, so sending news ahead of its official release can give your preferred media outlets a jump on getting the news out. If news is sent under embargo, be sure to get confirmation that the outlet will honor the embargo.
2. Refine the pitch. Simply sending a press release to a media outlet will not guarantee coverage. To improve the chances your news will be covered, understand the media outlet’s audience and its approach. Some outlets republish press releases as is, while others prefer to cover the news with their own staff.
When making the initial pitch, putting the news in a broader context is helpful. Is this news only relevant to your company’s customers, or is it part of a wider industry trend? A broader trend story often draws more interest from readers than product-specific stories.
3. Include relevant information upfront. This includes all the key details in the initial release and providing images without being asked, if appropriate. If company representatives are available to speak on the news, include that in the pitch.
4. Be responsive. One of the biggest complaints reporters have is the lack of responsiveness. News cycles move fast, and the longer a reporter is left waiting for a response, the greater the chances more immediate news trumps yours.
5. Ten emails are too much. Another common complaint that can impact coverage is overly aggressive follow up. One or two follow-up emails is often fine, but 10 consecutive days of emails is not going to get you coverage, just an annoyed reporter that will ignore future pitches from you.
6. On-the-record comments. Remember that what you say to media members is considered on-the-record unless specified otherwise. So, if you don’t want to read it, don’t say it.
7. We love story pitches. Some of the best story ideas come from those with boots on the ground, and that is the companies themselves. Pitches are a great way to get your company name or key executive recognized as experts in their respective spaces. Media are always looking for experts who can speak on various topics. If you see news happening in the industry, or trends that are affecting business cycles, don’t be afraid to offer up a representative to speak on the topic. Generally, members of the media prefer to speak with executives or key employees on topics because they are experts, so when making a pitch, ensure they are available to speak. Include images, graphics or video. Don’t be surprised, though, if the reporter includes other voices in the report. Inclusion of additional voices is a common technique to ensure articles are as fairly balanced as possible.
Dealing with bad news
One of the worst parts of any reporters’ job is writing negative news. Sometimes, though, the job requires it. Making that telephone call to a company or individual that may be suffering through a negative event is not easy. For the person on the receiving end of that phone call or email, the task is equally difficult.
To deal with negative news cycles, many companies have crisis communication plans in place. For some, that means ignoring media calls or issuing blanket “no comment” statements. While there may be times this is appropriate, it also prevents the business from helping shape the narrative. The news will still be published with or without the company’s input.
A more proactive crisis communications plan is often the best approach. This means accepting ownership of a situation, providing what information can be publicly shared at that time, making company executives available to media as appropriate, and continually updating the media on the status of the situation.
The media can be a conduit to your customers, so cooperating with reporters is often the most effective way to quickly disseminate information. Rarely does ignoring a situation work out in the long-term, so it’s usually best to get in front of the news and help shape the narrative.
To each company, any individual piece of news is important. Unfortunately, not all news is created equal, and as such, media outlets will pick and choose news to cover that they feel will resonate best with their readers/viewers/listeners. Companies can improve the chance their news is covered by putting it in the proper context, pitching it to the appropriate media outlets, and cooperating with the media interested in covering that news.
Like the sales process, media coverage is a relationship-based process, and simple steps that help improve the process can lead to improved coverage and visibility for your company and its services.