At the recent New Zealand WordCamp, one of the sessions looked at building successful media relationships. In a session titled “How to be a Media Darling”, Doug Casement from Renaissance talked about building relationships and pitching for coverage with mainstream media. I covered the event for Idealog magazine but thought it was worth returning to for this audience.

His advice was good, and was, in my opinion, applicable to organizations wanting to foster relationships with both mainstream and new media – there’s significant crossover and it’s certainly not black and white as to who is traditional and who is new.

Anyway, Casement contends that the mainstream media still has a place, it can deliver;

  • General publicity and profile
  • Increased awareness in a target audience
  • It helps boost word-of-mouth (what viral marketing USED to be…)
  • If SEO and content are similar, mainstream media can make the difference
  • Multiple information streams – the gestalt effect, the whole being greater than the sum of the parts

But you need to remember that everybody sells… Even you. You need to answer these questions;

  • Can I trust you?
  • Do you understand my issues?
  • Do you care?
  • Are you committed to working with me?

Because people do business with people… and prefer to do it with those that they like and trust.

Given his experience in journalism, Casement had some good lessons for the most successful strategies to engage with journalists. Some press myths he advises that it’s best to ignore;

  • The press is not always adversarial – they’re just often busy
  • That influencing the press takes lunch, trips or tacky giveaways

But, he said, not all publications (or journalists for that matter) are equal – there are those who, like a common street hooker, will sell themselves for a junket, a gadget or some cash.

Questions you shouldn’t ask of technology journalists;

  • Do you have a technology section?
  • So you’re a weekly – how often do you publish?
  • Can I have my advert next to the story
  • I’m booking an advert, any chance of an interview?
  • I’m considering advertising – but I need a front page story first..

Seduction for dummies;

  • Journalists are people too – find out what interests them, invest in the relationship, engage with them – not just when you want something
  • Don’t hide behind “off the record”

Simple tactics that work when engaging with journalists;

  • Read, and understand, the publication. Understand the “editorial window” of the publication, understand the readership, what’s the angle of the story and the relevance for the particular journalist/publication
  • Don’t call at deadline time!
  • Never demand or harass them
  • Regard it as a sales call – be comfortable talking

The Zen of press releases;

  • Short and simple
  • Don’t tell fibs or exaggerate
  • Delete superlatives, adjectives and adverbs
  • Customize to fit their editorial window
  • Don’t shotgun – the press love exclusives!
  • Press releases should be teasers

Above all else… Be Relevant!

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Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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