Media relations for the virtual newsroom: Tips for landing a story in today’s news environment

The times they are a changing … especially when referring to the way today’s businesses get their news to the modern reporter.

Long gone are the days of sending out a press release via fax to every newspaper, TV and radio station. Heck, I don’t even believe most media outlets even have fax machines any longer. They have been replaced by email and mobile messaging (aka text).

While we old-timers may bemoan the loss of our former news delivery methods, good public relations strategies remain constant. They include:

  • Well-written news releases and media advisories that include pertinent, accurate and objective information using AP Style. Save waxing poetic for creative writing outlets and blogs. Today’s downsized news team is looking for a resource that provides them with the compelling reasons that your news is indeed news.
  • Directing the news to the right assignment editors and reporters. News staff changes frequently and today’s city desk reporter may become tomorrow’s   lifestyle editor. Thus, it is imperative that you maintain key relationships with the reporters covering your industry. At least quarterly, update your media contact list along with their pertinent contact information.
  • Making sure the news is relevant to the audience. Is your business contributing to the local economy, providing more jobs or building a new facility? These are all pertinent and of interest to the public and, thus, newsworthy. Always ask yourself why anyone would care (or what’s in it for them) before seeking news coverage.
  • Following up with a personal phone call. Once you’ve shared your news with the media don’t forget the most vital step – call them to see if they received it, have any additional questions and are going to pursue the story. This critical step is often overlooked, left to chance or impersonally handled through email. Remember: this is about media relations with emphasis on the relationship aspect of serving as a resource for today’s overloaded reporters.

Now that we have these tried-and-true basics covered, let’s take a look at how media outlets have changed over the past decade. Most striking is the vast expansion of the web. With this growth came social media, blogs, news feeds, vodcasts and podcasts, and many, many more online publications. Finding your business’s niche in this sea of information can be a taunting task. Align with those that best fit your business purpose and reach your targeted audiences.

On the horizon, with the potential for extraordinary growth, is the mobile platform. Smart phones, tablets and iPads have transformed the way we communicate and make news distribution virtually instantaneous.

Between the growth of the internet and new technologies like smart phones, news organizations have adjusted to meet the changing needs of their audiences. Printed newspapers are being replaced by online versions. TV newscasts don’t wait for 6 p.m. or 11 p.m. to issue breaking news but instead use their web sites and cell phone messaging. A number of radio stations are heard only on the internet. News is virtually 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

So, how does a business go about announcing important news? Draft your key points, direct it to the right person at the appropriate media outlet, diligently follow up and use all the web resources at your fingertips to spread the good news.

Lorri Rishar