How to secure media coverage: an expert insight

News notifications popping out of a computer screen. Someone else opposite is reading a book.

Media relations is a core part of a successful communications strategy.

Recent research from Ofcom shows that 96% of UK adults consume news in some form, with trust in traditional media much higher than on social platforms.

But with so many companies vying for a finite amount of space, how can you make your news stand-out from the pack? What should you bear in mind when working with the media? And what shouldn’t you do?

We spoke with experienced business journalist Rob Buckland, editor of Bristol Business News and its sister titles in Bath and Swindon in our latest Distinctive Discussion webinar.

Rob told attendees he receives more than 100 press releases every day, with most of them sitting on a digital spike. He has been open in sharing his ‘dos and don’ts’ for media announcements, which chimed with our experience as PR professionals.

It’s worth considering the broader context facing the UK’s media industry today. Many titles are under financial pressure and journalists are time poor and always facing a deadline. Making it easy for the media to use your content is key.

Tips for working with the media

Following these tips will help get your email opened and your news heard and shared.

#1 Facts, not fluff

Rob highlighted the importance of creating comprehensive and contextual press releases that present all the facts. “I write about business, and business is very factual,” he said.

Assume the journalist has never heard about your company before and provide the fundamental details about the business. Give context, back up your claims, and provide the data and numbers to make your release credible and factual. If you’re the biggest, best or first, explain this.

#2 Be relevant

Know the title you’re sending your press release to and what they cover, whether that’s a geographical patch or a specific sector. “You’re wasting your own time, and the journalist’s, if you send something outside their patch,” Rob said, adding that he has received releases about Manchester despite the fact that he runs Bristol Business News.

Desktop research is all it takes to select relevant and appropriate titles for your news and reading them will help you to understand what stories will work. Put that relevant information in prominent view – you can highlight the key facts in a concise covering email.

Know what information they are interested in too. As a business title, Rob is looking for the facts of the news, without jargon or hyperbole. Write with the title in mind.

#3 Understand the news agenda

‘Timing is everything’ with news, and it’s worth planning ahead even if you’re reacting to current events. Know your target publication’s deadlines and how they like to receive their news. Sometimes, if your story isn’t used it can simply be a case of timing.

Have an eye on the wider news landscape. What is going on that might dominate the headlines, meaning your news could get lost? Be aware of major news events, such as political announcements or breaking business news. You’re less likely to get coverage when a journalist’s eyes are on these stories.

But the news agenda presents an opportunity to secure coverage too if you can provide timely and expert comment. Take the Chancellor’s budget announcement, for example.

Those who responded quickly with genuine expert comment (not just stating what was in the budget) secured coverage. Bonus points if you can prime the journalist in advance to expect an expert view – but make sure you deliver on what you have promised.

Screenshot of Rob Buckland and Ben Lonwdes laughing on the webinar.

#4 Create no obstacles

Make journalists’ lives easy by giving them everything they need in one go.

“Journalists love information, but they need it there and then,” Rob said. “If I’ve only got 10 minutes to write a story, I’m going to go for the one where I have all the facts and information.”

And make sure someone is available to respond swiftly, should the journalist come back with any questions. ‘Hit and run’ emails on a Friday afternoon tend not to land well!

#5 Think about photographs

A strong picture can help to tell your story, but make sure it’s doing its job. Think about opportunities to showcase your product in a unique or striking way or illustrate your company’s news outside of a standard corporate headshot.

That said, any news of appointment or expansions should be sent with a professional headshot or team photo. Rob advised that getting a professional photographer in to capture any team members who might be quoted in a press release can prove valuable – keep those on file for when you need them.

Remember to include captions with your release and send smaller images with a WeTransfer link if sending your release to a digital only title to avoid clogging inboxes (see point 4).

#6 Work collaboratively

“Journalists are not your enemy,” Rob stressed.

“When it works, it can be a symbiotic relationship.” If you send a relevant, timely, and authentic press release, that gives all the facts a journalist needs, you’re likely to secure that publicity.

And you don’t need to work with a PR consultant, journalists do take news from other sources, but a PR agency can help. “If I see a press release from a PR firm I know and trust, I’m likely to look at that,” Rob said.

Watch a full recording of the webinar online here or below.

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