The media, especially venerated newspapers like the New York Times and Washington Post, has long been considered a safeguard to the public trust in the U.S. Presidents, corporations, and governments have been brought down thanks to the hardworking men and women who have intrepidly reported on the stories that matter most at the time. Even the public health at large has been improved thanks to stories that have shown on light on pollution, unsafe products, and porous safety conditions that threatened the lives of workers. However, while the mainstream media was once one of the most trusted source of news in the country, public trust in these institutions is at an all-time low.
A recent joint survey conducted by USA Today and Suffolk University found that the media has an approval rating even lower than the current President, who suffers from one of the worst approval ratings in modern history.
Throwing additional fuel onto the dumpster fire that’s become the national media’s current credibility, a recent Harvard/Harris poll found that two-thirds of Americans believe that the mainstream media spreads fake news.
The public discourse revolving around the media appears that it will remain toxic for the foreseeable future. However, online, broadcast, and print media still offer useful channels for small business owners to leverage for increased exposure. Despite the current level of distrust of the media, over 75 percent of consumers still rely on their preferred news outlets for information.
Given this seemingly contrasting information, here are a few insights on how you should try to market your small business through media outlets.
The old adage taught in journalism classrooms of “If it bleeds it leads” still holds mostly true today. While many in the public believe that media coverage tends to skews left or right politically, media is actually more biased towards covering controversial topics. Stories involving natural disasters, acts of violence, and crime receive just as much attention from the media as stories regarding health care, the environment, and taxes.
That’s what media outlets want to cover because they understand that these topics generate interest, likes, shares, and retweets. The more controversial the better off their clicks and ratings become. Understanding this basic fact can help you develop a marketing message and a more effective media pitch.
Relevancy is Key
The root word of “news” is new. The media’s main focus is to cover the latest breaking story that will have the biggest impact on their audience. Terms like “current news cycle” or “15 minutes of fame” encapsulate the media’s fixation on always moving onto the next story, especially in today’s digital climate where getting the scoop can be more important than accurately reporting what happened.
Whether a blog, newspaper, or radio program, members of the media want to provide their audience with the latest, most up-to-date information possible regarding the current story of the moment. The more relevant your message is to what’s currently going on, the better your chance of receiving coverage becomes.
Time is a Valuable Commodity for Media Members
It’s easy to assume that reporters sit at their desk waiting for a story to break. In truth, reporters are incredibly busy, making their time scarce and incredibly valuable.
In addition to focusing on meeting their current deadline, reporters are also working on future stories, developing contacts and sources for later use, updating their Twitter feeds and promoting their online content, as well as conducting interviews and attending press conferences.
Keep this in mind when issuing a press release or trying to pitch a story idea to a publication. Also try to vary your media pitches. If a reporter isn’t responding to your emails, trying calling instead. If you can’t get them on the phone, reach out through Twitter. Eventually you’ll find their preferred method of receiving a pitch and have a better chance at getting the exposure you want.
Don’t Waste Your Time on Press Kits
An old media practice that hasn’t faded into obscurity like it should is that businesses still feel the need to send out press kits. Spending thousands of dollars on glossy folders brimming with bios, fact sheets, and high-res images to send out to newsrooms or distribute at conferences is no longer a good use of your resources. Most of these types of materials simply end up being either thrown away or filed away and forgotten.
Even worse, these images could very well come back to haunt your business. It’s not uncommon for newsrooms to hold onto press kit photos just in case a local entrepreneur, politicians, or news maker gets arrested or is the subject of some other type of negative controversy.
Don’t Think You Can Dictate the Story
A reporter’s job is to question the truth in order to uncover what really happened. Therefore, don’t be surprised if a reporter questions everything you say and is unwilling to take your story at face value. You may spend an hour talking to a reporter only to find one sentence of your conversation used in the story that was not even the primary message you were trying to get across.
The fact is the media isn’t nearly as interested in telling your side of any story as you are. You may even find that they pull apart your story and insert the details into a completely unrelated piece they’ve been working on.
Often getting as much as 70 percent of your message across in a media story should be considered a huge success. After all, if you want to be able to dictate 100 percent of what’s said about your business there’s a perfect avenue already in place – it’s called advertising.
Despite the challenges and current public perception about the media, your small business can still find opportunities to expand your message and reach your target audience. You just might have to work a little harder to find them than before.