PR: The Good, Bad and Ugly
How to Make the Media Your Friend at an Event
by Kathleen Donnelly on 10/29/2012
Whether it is a groundbreaking ceremony, press conference, awards ceremony, large gathering or anniversary celebration, events serve as a great way to receive free media exposure. So how can you increase the odds that the media will come and cover yours? Be prepared, assertive and organized.
Although I have only been at MMI Public Relations for a little over six months, I have had the chance to work fantastic events where Governor Beverly Perdue, James Goodnight, the iconic Greensboro Four, Jim Collins, Eva Clayton, and Justice Henry Frye have been in attendance. After a great deal of practice, I have compiled a list of tips for “making friends” with the media at these occasions.
1. Figure out what makes your event newsworthy. First and foremost, you must establish why the media should cover your event. The media is constantly being asked to attend and cover community happenings, so take what you know about your plans and make it unique and newsworthy. This will help separate you from all the others and increase the odds of more people and press in attendance.
2. Do your research. What media outlets should you invite? Who would most likely be interested in attending and covering your function? Spend some time researching media outlets and decide who to reach out to based on what they have covered in the past, in addition to their interests and specialization. Keep an eye on the newspaper and calendars to see what other occasions you might be competing against.
3. Write a strong media alert. Take time to put together detailed information for the media, including the important details that will encourage them to offer coverage. Often, I find it most effective to list the most important information at the top of the media alert. A media alert is crucial because it serves as an invitation to encourage a reporter to attend and gives sufficient notice for the reporter to schedule their attendance. If the event is on a Wednesday, I recommend sending the media alert out on Monday and then again on Wednesday morning.
4. Call, call and call again. Make a list of reporters you would like to cover the event and call to make sure they received your media alert. Once you get them on the phone, you can gauge their interest in attending, answer any questions they might have and ensure that they have all of the information they need. A call also adds a personal touch, showing the reporter that you care about having them specifically in attendance.
5. Do not forget the media kit! Spend some time putting together all necessary and helpful information to hand out to any members of the press that come to your event. A good media kit should include a press release, the media alert you sent previously, and any other written materials the press might need to reference for additional information, quotes and facts. Be sure to give the reporter your business card as well. This will help build your relationship for the next time you need them to come out and support you or your client.
6. Know the event like the back of your hand. The more you are able to familiarize yourself with your venue, schedule, special guests and other details, the more knowledgeable you will be throughout the occasion. This will allow you to be incredibly helpful once the media does arrive. Know ahead of time who will be available for interviews and when. The more you know, the better the media coverage will be.
7. Stick to the media like white on rice. As soon as reporters arrive, introduce yourself and tell them that you are there to help. Make them your new best friends. Find whomever you need to get them the best interviews. You may feel like you are being a nuisance by following them around, but do your best to stay near them and help them with any requests or needs. They will appreciate all of your help!
8. A thank-you note can go a long way. A simple follow-up email or letter to a reporter can really help you stand out among other public relations professionals. Taking a few minutes to thank a reporter for attending and covering your event will leave a great impression in their minds and can help you stand out the next time you need media coverage. It can also help you stand out in reporters’ minds as someone who understands what they cover and helps them find important stories without wasting their time.
There you have it! The media can be your very best friend and ally, and these are tips I have found for strengthening that relationship. Now, go out there and secure great media coverage for your next event.
What tried and true tips do you have? Feel free to comment below.