The rise and rise of social media and online publishing platforms such as blogging and podcasting has spawned millions of micro media channels around the world and in doing so has greatly diminished the power and influence traditional media outlets once enjoyed.
Concurrently, the media has had to endure the fiscal hardship that comes with shrinking audiences, and there have been no shortage of articles sounding the death knell of traditional media, in particular newspapers.
Which has led us all to believe traditional media is dead, right?
Well, errr … no.
Yes, traditional media has undergone significant change in recent years, and it continues to evolve, absolutely.
Does it collectively boast the audience it once had? No, but it is still has a decent reach all things considered.
Is it as influential as it used to be? No, but it is still wields power.
So, should the PR profession put all its eggs in the media relations basket?
No, that would be silly. But clearly there is still a critical role for media relations in the overall communications mix, it’s just how you go about doing this has changed in the wake of such factors as drastically shortened news cycles (news today, like a shooting star, travels faster but burns out more quickly) and newsrooms and production teams that have been decimated through retrenchment, leading to less bodies doing more work (in turn leading to growing collaboration between journalists, producers and the PR pros who pitch them the stories).
But the pages (virtual or hard-copy) and airwaves still need to be filled, and this is where savvy PR people come in (N.B. you don’t need to be a PR pro to effectively pitch a story to the media – if you’re a subject matter expert looking to raise their profile, you too can learn the skills needed to generate valuable editorial in the media).
If the attendance at #MeetTheMedia Melbourne was any indication, there is still considerable interest in generating media coverage. The event was sold out; discussion around the topic and subsequent interaction between journalists and broadcast producers (panel members) and members of the audience, was lively.
- Tom Andronas – senior producer, 3aw Drive program (@tomandronas)
- Alana Schetzer – science journalist and freelance writer, formerly with The Age (@schetzer)
- Daniel Ziffer – senior producer, Mornings with Jon Faine, 774 ABC Radio (@danziffer)
- Sacha French – executive producer, Hughesy & Kate Drive Show, Australian Radio Network (@sachf)
- Chris Bendall – senior producer, The Project, Network Ten (@CFBendall)
- Kate McGrath – news chief-of-staff, Channel Nine (@KateMcG6)
Here are a few takeaways I gleaned from the media panel:
- These people are super-busy, so your story is going to have to be good to cut through the clutter – several of the panel members revealed how many emails they receive per day: 300, 400 and “a couple of hundred” – how are you going to stand out with your story?
- Story is everything! Your pitch needs to contain a story hook or angle that’s fresh and unique and has the potential for emotional engagement (“will it make people laugh or cry?”); Dan Ziffer referenced “proximity, power and impact” as the three core elements of a story that will work for the morning talkback radio show he produces.
- Your pitch doesn’t necessarily need to be fully formed: Bring raw story to the table and then work with the journalist or producer to turn it into a better story.
- Any visuals that add depth and meaning to your story are welcome e.g. pictures, animations etc.
- Anything shot on the phone for 60 seconds can often make or break a potential story (for TV news and current affairs).
- If you’re pitching an interview opportunity for TV or radio, it’s a pretty good possibility the presenters will have the final say, so even if you get past the producers you will still need to clear the ‘presenter hurdle’; if they are interested in the story or subject matter, your chances of getting on the show will dramatically increase.
- Social media is important for journalists and producers; not only does it give them an idea that a particular story or theme is ‘hot’ but it also allows them to get in direct contact with people who they might want to interview. If you’re a professional subject matter expert looking to increase your profile, it pays to be open and accessible on social media (and don’t forget to include contact details on your personal website if you have one – and it’s advisable that you do if you’re serious about building exposure for your personal brand).
- Social media also serves a purpose the other way around – often you can contact journalists and producers via Twitter and Facebook, although most prefer email and some actually don’t mind phone contact either (although one producer did say he doesn’t answer his desk phone or check its messages, but is easily contactable on his mobile).
- “What we want from you is not always what you want to give us” – a degree of flexibility is important, says Chris Bendall from The Project.
- “I don’t want old, I want news” – Kate McGrath, Channel Nine News
- “If you have a Star Wars story, I’ll do it” – Alana Schetzer (subtext – do your homework, understand who you’re talking to).
TAKEAWAYS FROM NIC HAYES, MEDIA STABLE:
I asked Media Stable boss Nic Hayes what were his key takeaways from #MeetTheMedia. This is what he said:
- Media wants content and stories from you but each media has different priorities on how they want their story pitched and packaged.
- Get to the point – no room for waffling. A great subject line, emotive words and get your story firing in the first paragraph.
- Storytelling skills need to be employed – make it interesting, unique, obscure and different. Be creative!
- Research – the program, the audience and the social media platforms. The more you know about the media the more you can tailor your pitch.
- Take control of your own media destiny. Don’t wait for the media to come to you. Take it to the media.
Great lessons right there!
Hanging at #MeetTheMedia w/ Steve Sammartino (left) and Tristan White.