Gone are the days that local media are actively looking for human interest stories in and around their communities. Or so it would seem. All too often we see syndicated articles of drivel, originating from elsewhere in the continent, taking up valuable space in our local newspapers. Local journalists struggle to eke out a living within the confines of their employing editor’s supervision.
News isn’t something that is new anymore. It can be entertaining, tragic, pseudo educating and attempt to manipulate you in a direction that you hadn’t considered moving before. It can be blatantly self-promoting or oppositional to something they don’t believe in and don’t want you to believe in either. They being the editorial department of a media outlet who follow their directions from the owners and they in turn from … who, us the viewer/reader? Not likely! More likely their sponsors who pay big bucks to get their message spread via their favorite form of media.
So if any of this rant is true, why would we possibly want to rely on a news conference to spread our word? We don’t necessarily want to rely on them but we do want to take advantage of what they can offer, if they do what they are good at.
As in any event planning scenario, the bulk of the activity takes place before in preparation for the media conference. Here are some practical tips to consider as part of your planning process.
- Be honest with yourself, is your event truly news worthy? When we put a lot of hours and the proverbial blood, sweat and tears into organizing an event, it’s easy to lose site of what is truly important and what isn’t. Journalists are looking for something different. The better your cause, the better the chance they can create a memorable and effective piece on your behalf.
- Media relations … is not advertising! You are not paying the journalist to create publicity for you.
- You need to decide in advance what the “take away” is for the journalist and what do you hope will be done with it?
Before the media conference:
- If you are a frequent event organizer or at least see a few more in your future, it is worthwhile developing a “Media List.” Start off by developing a list with the headings of local newspapers, radio, television, local on-line news websites and locally produced magazines and circulations.
- Next step is to flesh out your list. Which of the above media have featured similar publications to yours? Using a newspaper as an example and your event relates to seniors or business, does it have a regular Senior’s section or a Business one? Targeting a media outlet that doesn’t cater to your topic is a waste of both your time and theirs.
- If they do have a particular person assigned to the “beat” that you are trying to market to, who are they and how can you contact them?
- Create and distribute a media advisory bulletin outlining the details that you want the media to be aware of about your event. This is their invite to the birthday party. It gives them enough information to foster a curiosity about the event but not enough that they could pass on your conference and write about it by proxy i.e. without having to show up.
- Create a media kit to be distributed to each media contact on the day of the event. The media kit should contain the details of your announcement i.e. your media release. Providing additional background information such as who they can contact for further info, your website address and your organization’s purpose for existing. Basically, spoon feed them with any details that they would likely go searching for in order to complete their article. Make it easy for them!
- Cross promote! Take advantage of your social media venues. Local Facebook and Linkedin groups are excellent places to promote your upcoming media conference and your cause in general. You can post in your own groups as well as others.
- Choose a location for your media event that is conducive to being seen and heard. A recent media event that I attended at my local City Hall’s front street entrance was marred by an enthusiastic City worker who chose the exact moment of the main presenter’s opening comments to use a gas-powered leaf-blower to clean the sidewalk off a mere few feet away from the event. I intervened and encouraged the worker to take a well-deserved unscheduled coffee break.
- If you will be holding your media conference in an area that may challenge you being heard by your audience, give careful thought to securing a public address system i.e. microphone and speakers. Outside locations with nearby traffic can take away from your event’s effectiveness if you haven’t made yourself hearable. The amplified sound from the speakers will assist any video recording that you do on your own behalf. The extra expense of renting the sound equipment will be well worth the expense.
At the Media Conference:
- Your professionalism is on display so you should be on your best behaviour. It is best to develop a plan in advance and work the plan on the day of your event. Yes, your media conference is an event in its own right. Your plan should include who will be making the “official” announcement.
- While you as the official announcer are readying the lectern/podium for the announcement, you should have others to distribute the media kits and be generally schmoozing.
- If at all possible, have other members of your organization attend the event. Have you ever noticed that many politicians when holding a media conference surround themselves with happy, smiling supporters?
- If you are planning on sharing the limelight with other presenters, ensure that they have the speaking and presenting skills to add to your message, not take away from it. Work with them in advance of the event to fine-tune their content so that it reinforces your message. Personal testimonials can be an excellent way to add credence to your message.
- Think “sound bites.” If there is any value to your cause, the media will likely want to capture the essence of what your media conference is about, condensed to a few second sound bite. Plan ahead for potential questions that the media may pose. Prepare short and to the point answers. Fight the urge to go on and on about the topic. You may be excited about the topic and have lots to say but you are working on a timer. The media’s … not yours.
- Have your own photographer taking pictures and video so that you can use the content for marketing purposes without having to receive permission from the media outlets. You can always link to the on-line version of their media release on your website.
After the Media Conference:
- Upon completion of your media event and hopefully the coverage that you are seeking, send a thank-you message to those that participated and worked on your behalf.
- Undertake an event review when the event is completed. What worked? What didn’t? Make note of what you discover to improve the effectiveness of your next event.
- Don’t be surprised when watching your local news telecast that your story has been pre-empted by a story of a cat being rescued from a tree by the local fire department. You can’t control the media. You can only work with them and hope for the best! Hey, that sounds like a sound bite …
Top photo credit courtesy of Flickr CC.