When you hear the term “media,” what comes to mind? To us, media represents an expansive universe of local and national newspapers and magazines, television stations and networks, radio, podcasts, and social platforms. The far-reaching influence in this universe, when properly leveraged, provides organizations with powerful channels to highlight major initiatives, showcase the impact of their work, and shape public understanding of key issues and relevant current events.
Given the immensity of the media universe, it can be challenging to identify the most advantageous opportunities and effectively allocate limited resources as part of a focused media strategy. We are here to help! For twenty years we have been helping our clients navigate the media universe to best position their organizations and leadership. Here are some ideas to get you started.
Fundamentally, media coverage contributes to two desirable outcomes:
1) Growing brand awareness among a larger audience than you could have reached on your own, or
2) Building the thought leadership and influence of key individuals by positioning them as experts in the field (and, in doing so, inviting future coverage).
In developing an effective media strategy, start with what you are trying to accomplish. Once you settle on that driving goal, consider the following tips and best practices to make the most of your media outreach efforts.
GOAL 1: Build Awareness and Grow Your Audience
- Identify your differentiators. Identify two to three elements that distinguish your organization from peers and competitors. These elements might be the impact of your work on a specific target population or the practical application of your research on local, state, or national policymaking. In the process of identifying these characteristics, identify the most compelling impact data your organization has to illustrate success and your standing in the field. This will demonstrate your organization’s ability to speak authoritatively on relevant issues.
- Target media outlets that want to tell your story. Once you identify your differentiators, conduct a search of outlets that have covered trends in your field. Often, those outlets are interested in presenting the latest thinking and updates in a particular topic. Or they may simply seek to highlight organizations that illustrate the promise of a particular approach. Make sure to conduct outreach to those outlets every few months to highlight your unique perspective on the issues they are writing about; even if it is only a background conversation, this kind of dialogue can often translate to mentions in future news articles.
- Use media releases and alerts to highlight organizational updates. Have you recently expanded your offerings to new communities or received significant grants? Have you recently conducted research that supports the impact of your programs—or a particular set of policies? These are the types of developments that can be shared with reporters, particularly if the information is packaged in a way that quickly communicates their newsworthiness. Include the following in your outreach:
- Why this information is significant;
- The need your information addresses and/or the impact it has; and
- How it ties into the overall work your organization is seeking to accomplish.
GOAL 2: Establish Your Organization and Staff as Thought Leaders
- Determine the outlets and reporters that reach influencers in your space. Remember, your audience is not the media outlet itself! The outlet’s audience—and who they influence—is your target. Choose an outlet or reporter based on the information your audience is most likely to engage with—and communicate with that publication on a consistent basis to share your perspectives on related issues and build a lasting relationship.
- Sell your ideas, not yourself: Reporters receive countless self-promotional pitches every day. Few of these pitches illustrate the unique ideas or perspective that “thought leaders” bring to the table. This is your chance to position yourself as a reliable source of information and expertise. Lead your pitch with bold ideas and compelling insights.
- Proactively position your ideas and insights on current events. In a 24/7 news cycle replete with policy developments and events, you only have a few hours to reach out to reporters who are writing a breaking news story. Use that window to position your organization to comment, framing your work’s relevance to a story, demonstrating why your organization can serve as a source on the issue, and explaining how that work ties to the larger breaking news story. Use the outreach to emphasize the novel perspective that your organization (as opposed to countless others vying for media attention) brings to the piece.