It is a time-honoured tradition that defines the daily news agenda – and is a golden opportunity that you can potentially exploit to maximise free publicity for your business or brand.
For decades, news outlets have been news sources for each other in what is commonly known as the news cycle.
Knowing how this cycle works and how to leverage it can potentially deliver huge exposure for your business, giving you a distinct advantage over your competitors.
Before the disruptive influence of the internet and social media, the news cycle formula followed a simple linear pattern:
- Generally, stories in the first 6-10 pages of a typical morning newspaper would be lifted by radio and TV stations to use in their fixed bulletins and programs through the day.
Today, it is more like a news cyclone - or, if you prefer, the news recycle, such is the volume and prevalence of media outlets repurposing each other's news stories to fill column inches, pixels and airtime (sometimes for the sake of it):
Talk show radio hosts lift live breakfast TV stories originally printed in the
morning papers whose online editors run radio grabs while bloggers syndicate
top news stories (including paywall content) as behind-the-scenes TV producers
trade tapes with rival networks whose footage floods their Facebook pages as
print reporters retweet press conference soundbites streamed live in midday
bulletins built with grabs from rival radio talk show hosts while – underscoring
them all – wire service journalists are filing continuous takes from every other
outlet, fanning the flames of an ongoing story and on and on and on …
Phew! Tiring, or what? Just imagine it was your story that was their talking point for the day!
So, knowing now how it all works, what can you do to potentially get your portion of publicity and own the attention of the media for at least a few hours?
1. Ensure you have a strong story idea - your pitch to media will be only as good and successful as the product, service or expertise you are offering up. Free media exposure is vastly more credible and effective than simply paying to advertise because what you have or what you know is newsworthy and therefore earns the media’s attention.
2. Think about the key ingredients of any successful headline story:
- Controversy / Conflict
- Human interest
- New / Exclusive
- Topical / Relevance / Current Affairs
Does your story or idea have at least one of the above elements?
- Is your commentary or opinion contentious, even outright CONTROVERSIAL? If not, …
- Does your pitch have the HUMAN INTEREST factor, the emotion? Is it an idea involving people?
- Honestly ask yourself: does your story really have IMPACT? Will it make a difference (to the readers and listeners of your target media)?
- Is your idea, product or pitch NEW and shiny and never seen-nor-heard before? In other words, is it EXCLUSIVE?
- Is your idea CURRENT, TOPICAL and RELEVANT in today’s news agenda
3. Hijack a breaking news story or event
Newsjacking is the art of hijacking the daily news agenda, particularly a developing news story, by injecting your ideas or commentary to generate publicity.
While business risk consultancy New Risk may not have purposely newsjacked the story of missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, this is a perfect example of offering an exclusive, high impact, emotional and topical idea which garnered huge headlines internationally.
What you can do:
- Establish a reliable real-time media monitoring process – including online and social media alerts (e.g. Google alerts, Mention) and RSS feeds – for issues relevant to your industry or sector;
- Be ready with a rapid response media statement and factsheet template to pull together a quick comment on a breaking news story or event;
- Pitch your media statement with ‘available for interview’ notice into newsrooms with a handful of follow-up phone calls to key influential journalists on your media list (see next point).
- Expand your media statement into an ‘expert comment’ article to publish instantly across your own digital and social media properties.
4. Build your own custom media list - of key journalists covering your industry issues, specifically a broad mix of print and online (including social media editors), radio & TV – including talkback program hosts and behind-the-scenes producers – high profile commentators, newsroom Chiefs-of-Staff, even wire service writers.
Better still, start building a relationship with them today, including offering them different story ideas with no expectation of any publicity or interviews in return. Then, when the big occasion does arise, you’ll be much better placed to capitalise. Ensure your key contacts are also on speed dial.
From time to time, it will help to use a paid media release distribution service (so start exploring account options today), but maintain – and respect - your media list as much as your own personal contacts.
5. Get your Google footprint in shape – one of the first places a journalist will go to is Google to look for follow-up information about your business, industry or the issues of the day. Will you be there, top of the rankings, or at least on the first search page and preferably above the fold?
By ensuring your SEO is up-to-date – your web, blog and social media content and keywords are current – you increase the chances of being found by journalists wanting more of you!
6. Direct them to your digital domains
Today, all journalists are time-poor and under incredible pressure to file multiple stories the same day, so bogging them down with long-winded press releases is a quick route to the recycle bin. Similarly, incessant follow-up phone calls will result in short change.
So make it easy for them. Give them the tantalising essentials of your pitch with the call-to-action inviting them to visit your website, blog or Slideshare presentation to get the full picture.
Of course, your digital domains will already be loaded with useful, practical information (they will, won’t they?). If the journalists like what they see, if your offer truly is compelling, then they will more likely contact you for an interview or further information.
Your goal is to get others talking about you and your ideas (as well as talking TO you): this means you being seen as an influential industry expert; of having the talked-about opinion or product of the day; of having something that people will want to read and share, particularly on social media.
Over to you: have you successfully exploited the news cycle, or been part of a topical story widely covered by multiple media outlets? Please share your stories and questions in the comments below.
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