How Do You Get Your Story in the News?

This question comes up a lot when talking to clients about their products and services and how to gain earned media. I define earned media as anything that gets published about you that you didn’t pay for.

Prior to starting a Lakeland public relations firm in 2007, I spent many years as a journalist. To this day, I continue to work occasionally as a freelance writer because:

1) I love to write
2) I feel like it keeps my skills at finding great stories sharp

Those skills come in handy when trying to attract media attention for my clients. I help a local hair salon promote Hair for Hope, a charity cut-a-thon, annually. Every year around this time, we brainstorm ideas on how to garner some coverage for what, on the surface, seems like just another boring cut-a-thon.

When you’re trying to get the media to pay attention to what you’re doing, ask yourself these questions:

1) What does my product/service do/provide that people can’t get anywhere else?

2) What is the most unique/unusual aspect of my product/service?

3) What is trending locally or nationally that my product/service ties into?

All of these answers might be enough to generate some media attention. To use Hair for Hope as an example, it is held annually in October- Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Media outlets provide a great deal of coverage on breast cancer-related topics during October, so sometimes the fact that Hair for Hope takes place that month is enough to generate some interest.

Our greatest success in garnering media attention has been in painting a picture for media outlets. Pay attention to coverage of products/services similar to yours and consider the story angles. Angles we’ve successfully pitched for Hair for Hope include:

1) We located a breast cancer survivor who had received a wig through the American Cancer Society’s wig bank (hair collected during Hair for Hope is made into wigs that are distributed through ACS wig banks). This brave woman spoke on camera about what having a wig meant to her; how it made her feel “normal” on the outside, even when she was sick on the inside.

2) We got a donor to cut her hair on camera and talk about why she was donating it.

3) Because pink is the official color for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the salon provided pink hair extensions to promote the upcoming cut-a-thon and donated the proceeds to ACS.

I suspect it would be difficult to get a news station to come do a story if you only said, “Hey! We’re having a cut-a-thon!” But when you find a great story to tell and you wrap it around your cut-a-thon event, that’s when you strike gold.

I’ll admit that it’s sometimes a challenge to find “The Story.” It can be difficult to identify the news hook that will get a reporter to pay attention. That’s when you pull out the big guns:

1) There’s strength in numbers, so recruit some help. Get friends, coworkers and others familiar with your product/service to brainstorm possible ideas.

2) Identify trends, studies and statistics that help lend more credibility to your story.

3) Hire a PR firm to help you. They deal with media outlets constantly, and a good firm knows many publications’ and reporters’ tastes when it comes to topics.

Photo Credit: Novel Novice