By Steve Reside

Yesterday I attended the last of this season’s Technology Executive Breakfasts (TEBs) sponsored by Ottawa’s Centre for Research and Innovation (OCRI).

The session was titled: “Evaluating your media technique: are you a hooker or a pusher?” and featured a panel of sage industry veterans from television (Paul Brent, CTV Ottawa’s TECHNOW), radio (Rob Snow, CFRA Radio) and newspaper (James Bagnall, Associate Business Editor at the Ottawa Citizen).

The discussion was focused on how to approach and engage the media, and I took away 6 key pieces of powerful advice that those wishing to promote their organization through the media should pay careful attention to.

thumbnail.jpgIs your story news worthy?
If you’re pumping out a press release for the sake of doing a release, you’re just wasting your time and money. Think carefully about your story angle and why it might be of interest beyond your organization's walls. No matter how you dress it up, if it’s not news, it’s not going to draw interest from the media.

Take the time to understand who you are pitching your story to
All three members of the panel stressed this. It isn’t unusual for an Assignment Editor to get over 400 emails and 150 calls a day (yes a day!) and the only way you are going to break through the clutter is to pitch a newsworthy story that is relevant to the media you are are targeting. Take the time to find out what your target media likes to write about, how they approach their writing, and what they have written about recently.

Know your story and have your facts straight
Nothing hurts your credibility more than having your facts wrong. Take the time to do some background work to set the context for your news, and offer the journalist interesting and accurate information that supports the story. A well articulated news item with thought provoking background material offers a journalist an appealing writing opportunity.

Speak in plain English
Resist the temptation to use technical jargon. Journalist want simple, common language that clearly and succinctly illustrates the story line. If they can’t grasp the essence of your story in the first 2 or 3 sentences of your communication, then they most likely are going to move on. 

Paul Brent read a great example from a press release he had recently received. The first sentence was  fifty-six words in length and was riddled with acronyms and technical jargon. The release did generate some discussion at the station however, but unfortunately for the author the talk was centered around how bad the release was.

Be brief
Enough said.

Be available
If you are lucky enough to have your story generate some media interest, don’t lose the opportunity by not having someone ready to answer follow-up questions or be available for an interview should one be requested. Media deadlines are tight and absolute. If you can’t make someone available for a follow-on discussion, then you’ll more than likely lose the opportunity.

Media placement is a powerful promotional tool for any organization, but if you're not paying close attention to how the media wants to be approached and engaged, then your efforts (and money) are likely being wasted.

To learn more about how you can harness the power of PR, check out some of our other blogs, or peruse our client testimonials to see how others have done it.

(Steve Reside is Vice President and Creative Director with market2world communications inc., Ottawa, Canada's tech PR and product marketing agency.)