By the thinkBIG Team
Positioning yourself at the forefront of the market place is one of the most challenging tasks anyone organisation can face.
It’s a delicate balancing act of marketing, advertising and an effective customer relations system that encourages and responds to feedback.
But more so than ever before, companies big and small are realising that proactive media management is a key component of any successful public affairs strategy.
In short, what used to be a luxury is now a necessity.
A bigger media profile helps establish your organisation as a market leader. It will also allow you to shape public opinion and set trends. But becoming the media’s “go to” person when issues arise takes persistence, focus and discipline.
The growing diversity of media outlets like online news and greater competition for readers, viewers and listeners has pushed back the traditional definitions of “news.”
To boost audiences, news organisations are turning more to lifestyle and entertainment stories – and an ever growing emphasis on consumers and their demands.
The shifting media goalposts present a big challenge – how to satisfy the news media’s insatiable hunger for more sensational headlines and attention grabbing headlines. But it also presents huge opportunities for positive exposure.
Virgin tycoon Richard Branson propelled his stellar rise to fame and fortune with a good dose of media savvy – and a lot of planning to maximise his brand’s exposure.
But getting the most out of an effective media strategy doesn’t always mean dominating the nightly news or the front page of the metropolitan dailies. Local newspapers, industry magazines and even internal publications like newsletters and emails can be just as effective depending on the task at hand.
A few simple questions can help any organisation work out how prepared they are to deal with the media – and what they need to do to get started on a strategy.
What are you trying to achieve?
Clearly define your media goals and objectives and be clear about why you want to lift your organisation’s profile. For example, are you promoting a specific product or project? Do you want to lift the number of repeat customers? Or do you want to be seen as specialists in a particular field and differentiate yourself from competitors.
What are you trying to say?
Do you have key messages that tell your story in simple, jargon-free language? Remember, you’re communicating with an audience that often isn’t familiar with who you are or the subject matter. And the media won’t run convoluted explanations. Keep your message short and sweet – think in 5-7 second “sound bites” that are easy to understand. Key messages form the backbone of every strategy and every attempt should be made to stick to them when talking to the media.
Underpinning your message should be a few, choice “killer facts” that illustrate why what you’re saying is important. In one stark, persuasive sentence, The Make Poverty History campaign spelled out why its work was valuable – “To give every child in the world primary school education would cost $10 billion. This is less than the United States spends on ice cream in one year.”
Always, always think pictures. TV newsrooms won’t consider a story without a strong visual element, whilst simple eye-catching graphics to support your point can lift your chances of getting a print run.
Who are you talking to?
There’s no point spending time and energy trying to get publicity in a particular magazine if your target audience gets its information from TV. The best strategies devote attention to clearly defining who you are trying to reach and how you should reach them. Know your media, do your research, keep an eye on the types of stories that run and which journalists cover your area. This will also help you spot media opportunities.
Who’s doing the talking?
A media campaign means getting the right spokesperson. Whilst it’s great to have the boss focussed on the media, media management is an intensive task that can be heavily distract from the top job. You’ll find organisations that perform well in the media always have a dedicated communications professional – internally or externally - helping coordinate their efforts. The right spokesperson doesn’t always have to be the most senior person in the organisation. But it should be someone with solid presentation skills and who’s prepared to undergo media training.
What resources do you have to help the media?
Newsrooms are not immune from the modern business environment. Reporters have less time to juggle increasing work loads and there are fewer resources available to cover stories. Making it easy for the media to access relevant information about you and your operation is essential. Every organisation should have a decent media kit available that covers the basics: a media release, fact sheets, pictures and/or graphics and CVs or key personnel. Making this material available online for the media is always a welcome step.
A media strategy can often form the basis of other work plans that support your business goals. Government or stakeholder relations are often an important part of business and the key to good relationships is communicating clearly and consistently.
A final word of warning: always get advice from a media professional before you actively seek out the media. It’s a tricky business, loaded with pitfalls and mistakes can be very difficult to correct.
A good media strategy lays out a clear plan of action in the event of bad stories and negative press, helping an organisation through difficult times. A negative run in the media can be devastating, damaging an organisation’s reputation built on years of hard work.
A good strategy helps make the most of opportunities to promote who you are, what you’re trying to achieve and what you’re saying through the media.
A good media professional will have the years of experience, expertise and the contacts needed to help you get the job done with positive results.