When you’re looking to generate media coverage for your organization, there are two major steps involved.
The first involves planning your media event/campaign and carefully crafting the key message(s) you’re hoping to deliver. But the second, and often overlooked aspect, is informing the media of your event/campaign and getting them to dedicate resources toward covering it.
There’s a misconception among some organizations that if you host a media conference or have an important cause, the media will automatically show up. You need to learn how to effectively communicate with the media to ensure you get media coverage. And one of the best ways to do so is having a detailed media distribution list and understanding how to target selected audiences.
Step #1 – Create your media list: You’ll want to create a list of all the possible media contacts in the area that you are located in. The amount of contacts on your list will largely depend on the scope of your organization (whether your services affect people in one city or an entire province). For each media outlet you add to your list, be sure to include their name, a general email address (typically for the newsroom), a mailing address (if you plan on sending out more formal invitations), a key contact (usually an editor) and a website URL link to the contact/staff/masthead page (for updating staff contact info in the future – more on that later).
Step #2 – Organize your media list: Most media lists can get cluttered very quickly if they’re not organized. The fastest way to do so is by category: daily newspapers, community newspapers, TV stations, radio outlets, Indigenous media and magazines/specialty publications. Furthermore, you should organize your contacts in a program such as Microsoft Excel. Avoid creating contact lists through your email browser, because it is usually very time consuming to manage and difficult to navigate. Using Excel will also make it easier to update your contact list in the future
Step #3 – Consult your list before each mass distribution: Once you’ve created an extensive media list, it can be tempting to include all of these contacts on every media release distribution you make. This is a mistake. Say you have contacts from all over Saskatchewan but are hosting an event in Regina. It wouldn’t make sense to send the media release to contacts not in Regina or surrounding areas. Media outlets don’t like to be overwhelmed by unnecessary emails and may wish to unsubscribe. Along with the geographic area, strongly consider the subject. If you’re promoting a technology conference, for example, you can check through your list to see if any publications have beat writers focused on that area. By contacting them directly, there’s a chance they might then sell their editor on the story.
Step #4 – Strongly consider specialty publications: Mentioned earlier in this article, specially publications range from magazines to industry publications to community newsletters. These are valuable publications because their focus is much narrower than traditional media. They may have room to run larger stories on your subject. After you have sent out a media release, go through your list and highlight some of the specialty publications in your area that align with your topic. Personally follow through with them and see if they require help setting up interviews or need any more information.
Step #5 – Update, update, update: This can’t be stressed enough. Even the most well-put-together and organized media list will be ineffective if it isn’t updated. The great thing is, it’s normally not too difficult to know when it’s time to update. If you ever send out an email and receive an undeliverable reply: make a note of the address, see what organization it’s affiliated with and then visit their website to find the new contact information. It may turn out the publication has ceased to publish. By using a program like excel, you can easily add, erase and edit contact information.
If you feel overwhelmed at the idea of putting together and managing a media list, there are other options. Benchmark Public Relations publishes the Saskatchewan Media Directory and Manitoba Media Directory on an annual basis. These directories contain hundreds of provincial contacts, organized into categories. They are rigorously updated to ensure you have the newest contacts at your fingertips.
Beyond our media directories, Benchmark also maintains extensive media lists and offers media release distribution services. We specialize in sending out your media release to the right audience and targeting specialty publications. The end result is that you receive a large amount of media coverage.