Whether you are the owner, manager, or public relations director of a company, chances are, you’re always looking for ways to get your name in the public eye. While advertising is a great start, enhancing your advertising with publicity creates a perfect marriage of exposure for your company. What is publicity? It’s non-paid communication to promote your company in a positive light using media vehicles like television, radio, magazines, and newspapers. Through publicity you build mutually beneficial relationships between your business and the public on whom your success or failure depends.
When it comes to publicity, most people believe they can write a press release, send it to a TV station, radio station or newspaper and just wait for the avalanche of phone calls. But time goes by… and after they realize there aren’t any reporters beating down their door, they make a few phone calls to the newsroom only to discover that no one even read the press release. All of that time and work goes down the drain. You’re back to square one and you start over, but to no avail. So how do you end the vicious cycle of disappointment?
Research can make or break your pitch
Research. Plain and simple, you need to know your audience and know your media market. And research is the key to both.. So first and foremost you need to take a look at your message and ask yourself a few questions–is it newsworthy? Is it consumer-related? Does it have a local twist? Is it a visual story? What demographic am I targeting–how old is my audience and what is their target household income? The answers to these questions will help you craft your ‘pitch’ and determine which media outlets you should target.
While most people go for the saturation effect, seeking radio, television and print media simultaneously, the reality is that your message might not be a good fit for all media. So that brings us back to the research table. Now it’s time to do a little homework and figure out where your message stands the best chance of garnering media attention.
How do I get on TV?
TV newscasts communicate to their audience through pictures and conversation. Producers look for newsworthy topics that are visual and entertaining or informative ‘how-to’ segments. They want compelling conversation and pictures that will grab the viewers’ attention. They don’t want a ‘talking head’ rattling off statistics or blatantly plugging a new book.
Worried that your message isn’t visual? Try this- ask yourself how you’d explain your message to a child? Did that help you think of any pictures or simple words that fit your message? Those pictures or simple words can translate into graphics for a TV story. We once had a life insurance agency that wanted us to arrange local and national TV appearances for their CEO. The pitch we created offered interviews discussing the importance of life insurance and why it’s vital for women to protect themselves for the future. Sounds like you could sleep right through it, right? But we offered more than just the interview. We had the client prepare graphs and bullet points with short information snippets showing the mortality rate of women versus men. The TV stations turned them into graphics and voila– it became a very powerful visual story that was successful for our client and the media.
Keep in mind too, that the morning, noon and evening newscasts are each geared towards a different audience. The early morning shows are usually watched by working adults and families getting ready for school. Notice how the news formats shift into more of a talk and lifestyle segment that’s sprinkled with news ‘updates’ after 8AM when most commuters have already left for work?
Saying Your Piece on Talk Radio
Radio talk shows engage their audience through words rather than photographs. Most radio stations are turning to local angles for interviews. So it’s important to figure out if your message has a local tie-in or is important to your community.
Because radio doesn’t require visual props or photos, it’s a great fit for just about any message, so long as you can discuss your topic for a good 30 minutes. Because what you’re really doing is having a conversation with the listeners, you need to be well-versed in your topic and able to handle plenty of questions. Your message should be topical too; something people want to talk about at the office water cooler or over coffee.
Radio talk shows, which are found mostly on the AM dial, also vary from morning to night. Morning shows have shorter interviews during this “drive time” to work. Talk show hosts don’t have time for a 30 minute interview because morning shows are jam-packed with news, weather and traffic updates.
Midday shows were once known to target women, but that’s changed because so many people listen to the radio at work. Now, you’ll find many business shows air during typical daytime work hours. After work, you’ll find the second “drive time” of the day. Unlike in the morning, listeners are more relaxed. They’re on the way home from a long day at work and there’s more time to air a 30 minute interview.
During the evening, it’s a mixed audience of people listening from home. And don’t discount the reach of overnight interviews–while you may think no one is listening, think again! Overnight talk shows (from midnight to 5 a.m.) are very important due to overnight jobs that bring in listeners – 2nd and 3rd shift factory workers, public service employees and many other industries that operate all night long.
Getting Yourself in Print
Print publicity includes magazines and newspapers. While they are two different vehicles, their requirements are similar to television. Your pitch needs to be newsworthy, entertaining, informative, and in some cases, even visual. Newspapers work on tight deadlines, so make sure you don’t wait a week after a hot story is released to offer your expertise or an interview on the topic. Magazines, on the other hand, often have a 30 to 60 day lead time. Research the publication you want to contact and make sure they have a reporter who covers your topic or message. It’s also helpful to offer quality visuals. For example, restaurants offering a recipe, a gym offering tips to a tighter tummy, even the latest trends in jewelry, can all be accompanied by photographs to support the story.
I’ve Narrowed the Search, Now What?
Once you know the types of media you want to target, how do you know which TV stations, radio stations, or print publications are in your area? You can always subscribe to some sort of media list, but why would you do this when the internet is full of free media information? Some websites you may find helpful are www.radiolocator.com, www.usnpl.com, www.newspapers24.com , www.mondotimes.com and www.newslink.org. You can also use a basic search engine and search for your city + media, for example type in “Tampa Media.” You’ll find a whole list of media outlets at your fingertips.
Now that you’ve found a list of media contacts, you’re well on your way to creating a Power Publicity campaign to drive business to your company. Now that you understand why it’s so important to find your media niche, next up in our series, we’ll focus on creating a powerful message. To be successful at publicity, you must create your message specifically for your target audience and then find the best media vehicle to drive your message home. That’s why pushing those standard press releases didn’t work for you in the first place.
About Marsha Friedman:
Marsha Friedman is the CEO of EMSIncorporated, (EMSI) a leading publicity firm that has represented many well known clients such as Motown’s Temptations, Teamsters Union President Jim Hoffa, Jr., National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane, Bristol Myers Squibb, Financial TV personality, Jim Rogers and Dr. Barry Sears.
EMSI is a nationally-recognized publicity firm specializing in arranging interviews on radio shows around the country, appearances on local and national TV and obtaining editorial coverage in newspapers and magazines.