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Media savvy - becoming a savvy media player

by Diana Clement


So you want to become a media darling, but where do you start? It's easier than you think to get your company's name in the newspaper, magazines, and on radio.

Your two main avenues to free publicity will be writing articles [or hosting radio shows] and being interviewed by journalists for their articles. Journalists need experts to speak to and editors want industry professionals to write columns for them. It's a symbiotic relationship that anyone with an opinion and guts to speak publicly can tap into.

A third avenue, that isn't free, is sponsoring a radio show or newspaper/magazine section. It may cost money, however your target audience, be it potential clients or potential investors, will take more notice than if you ran an advertisement.

So why do certain people get quoted over and over again? Because we journalists know we can ring them up, run a scenario by them and get a quick quote, without the hassle of them clearing it with their partners, asking to see copy before it's published or just being too paranoid to say anything more interesting than the sort of chit-chat you'd hear at an old folks' coffee morning.

Journalists need to develop relationships with "contacts" in their industry, and they don't necessarily need to be from the 'Big 4', says Professional Public Relations' John Kerr. Small practitioners with opinions who are comfortable talking to the press are always in demand. "If you are a financial planner and they are a financial journalist, there is overlap," Kerr says. "And if you are doing innovative things in the industry you are going to have good enough opinions you are going to get some time with a journalist."

If you can become a "Rent-a-Quote", someone willing to comment on virtually anything, you'll soon find yourself in demand and get plenty of column centimetres in the media for free.

Perhaps the best Rent-a-Quote I've ever met was in the UK . The man, Justin Urquhart Stewart, was a walking quote machine ensuring whichever company he worked for at the time was in the media almost daily. Type Urquhart Stewart's name into the Google search engine and you'll see in excess of 800 mentions of him.

Urquhart Stewart had great stock quotes that he trotted out time and time again. One of his favourites: "This year's fashion could be next year's tank-top" appeared in the financial sections of just about every UK daily newspaper at some stage and was heard on the BBC , ITV, Sky and sundry other radio and TV bulletins.

Even better than the 'Rent-a-Quote' is the 'Controversial Rent-a-Quote'. There's no doubt that plenty of readers of article foam at the mouth when they see someone controversial quoted in the press. But you will still read their opinions and discuss them. A controversial quote will stick in the minds of the readers—your potential clients.

Perhaps simplest method of getting to know journalists is to get someone on your board that already has extensive contacts in your target media. Failing that, you'll have to take the DIY route.


DIY Contacting

Your first step is to research your target publications and find out who is writing and what they're writing, to shortlist target journalists you want to get to know.

The next thing is to do some professional stalking. Find out as much information about the journalist as possible—from their email address, which is usually printed in publications, to the name of the gym they go to—so that you have something to talk about when you meet. By reading the journalist's articles you will find out the type of issues he or she is interested in and possibly some personal information thrown in as anecdotes.

Don't just stop there. Become an Internet sleuth. You can find lots of personal details about the person in question from websites. You can often find out if they're single, married, have kids, where they've worked in the past and lots more. These are all skills you could use in familiarising yourself with potential clients.

Note: PR professionals often go an awful lot further "stalking" their targets for clients. One multinational that wanted to do business with a particular company asked its PR people to track the movements of the target company's chief executive. It then placed billboard advertisements along his route to work and sponsored an event at the school his children attended.

Next step is to decide what to talk to the journalist about. It might be a current issue such as fees versus commission that you have a new take on, but it needs to be something you care about or you will be sniffed out by the journalist in seconds. You have to have real views or you will make an enemy.

You've got to start somewhere and once you're ready to meet your first journalist, it's time to pick the phone up or fire an email to your target, suggesting you meet up. Most people naturally love to be helpful, so chances are that your target will say "yes". If not, wait two to three months and try again. It's more than likely they won't remember you, so you can start afresh.

Lure the journalist to your offices. In that way they have the opportunity to see how your company culture operates. "Your objective is for the journalist to think 'this is an interesting company'," Kerr says.

Once the meeting is over, the rule is to thank them via email or letter and to action anything you promised to do and set yourself two channels to follow up. They might be providing the journalist with story ideas [in which you'll probably be quoted], or social events, such as going to the gym together. If you have kids of the same age you might even organise a play date at the local kindergarten.

A couple of months later make sure you find the opportunity to re-contact the journalist, Kerr says. But if it gets to the third contact and you haven't been mentioned in an article, chances are you've blown that contact.



Reports I have written:

Measuring the impact and ROI of social media
Measuring the impact and ROI of social media - for Ark Group
Making social media work for your business
Making Social Media work for your business - for Ark Group
Social Media: the new business communication landscape
Social Media: The New Business Communication Landscape - for Ark Group
How to get started with podcasting in your organisation
How to get started with podcasting in your organisation - for Melcrum Publishing
How to use social media to solve critical internal communication issues
Contributing author to How to use social media to solve critical internal communication issues - for Melcrum Publishing

How to use social media to engage employees
Contributing author to How to use social media to engage employees - for Melcrum Publishing

Contributing author to How to communicate with hard-to-reach employees - for Melcrum Publishing



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