Are there secrets to gaining media coverage or is
it pure luck? It's a question that I am asked often
while meeting with small-business owners who are seeking
press attention for their companies or products. While
luck certainly plays a part, the short answer to this
question is "maybe." However with a little practice
and skill, a small-business owner can significantly
increase the chances of garnering coverage by following
some basic journalistic rules.
I started my career in public relations the way many
college students do - as an intern. While working
for a PR agency one summer, I learned the greatest
lessons from a crusty, old newspaper editor with whom
I had to have constant contact.
Each time that I called him to follow up on a story
idea, I would learn something new - by the time he
stopped yelling at me. At summer's end that editor
had become a mentor for me and the rules introduced
by him have served me well in placing news stories
over the years. You see the greatest gift that he
gave me was not a hypothetical example found in my
college textbook. Rather, it was practical experience
in pitching story ideas to "real" journalists.
What I learned from him about approaching journalists
with story ideas can be summed up in one word - relevancy
and its multiple meanings.
Allow me to share with you what I learned that summer.
Fifteen years later, I still think about that editor
- and every PR mentor I have since encountered - whenever
it is time for me to pitch a story idea to another
reporter. I still stand by my answer that "maybe"
there are secrets to gaining media coverage, but truly
understanding the power of relevancy and how journalists
regard it is a better bet. It could make the difference
between whether a story idea makes it on the front
page or lands in the trashcan.