Good publicity is the best advertising. Telling a story often requires contact with the media - in other words, a journalist. Your cause depends on the media sending the right message to win the hearts and minds of your target audience.
The types of media you may like to consider for your story or cause are: newspapers, magazines, newsletters, websites, radio and television.
Before pitching your cause to the media, it’s important to familiarise yourself with who you are calling. If it's a newspaper, read it - don’t blindly flick through the pages - really get to know the sections, style and journalists. If it's a website, read the web pages, find user contributions, analyse links to other websites and critique the writing style.
Understand deadlines, especially for magazines and newspapers. Magazines work months in advance. Don't give a seasonal-based pitch for hot summer months to magazine journalists in March. In other words (sorry to sound like your school teacher) but... do your homework.
If you do your homework, you'll shoot ahead of a hungry pack trying to grab your best radio show; your interview on a TV show or your well-place article in a newspaper or magazine.
If you don't do your homework, you will irritate the gatekeeper - the busy journalists and it's unlikely they'll give your story a run. The journalist will see you as lazy or a waste of time.
Tips for calling a journalist
Follow those simple six steps to win the attention of a journalist when calling them on the phone.
1. Tell the journalist who you are and why you are calling.
2. Ask if it's a good time to talk.
If it isn't, ask the journalist to suggest the best time you should call back. After a while, you may get to know the best times to call, for instance some journalist fight tight deadlines in the afternoon and would prefer calls in the morning. Never ask a journalist to return your call. If it is a good time for the journalist to talk, go to step 3.
3. Let the journalist know you are familiar with the publication or with stories s/he writes about.
4. Explain your idea or message in a sentence or two.
5. Explain quickly why their readers or target audience will care about your idea or even find it attractive.
6. Ask if the journalist is interested.
If they are interested, the journalist will usually ask you to send a media release and high resolution photos immediately. Respond quickly and efficiently to requests for images or further information. Make sure you have written a media release and have photos ready before you call. If you don’t reel in the journalist right at that moment, you'll loose them. It's sort of like fishing. Tough but true.
If they are not interested, keep it friendly and politely thank the journalist for their time. Don't feel despondent, your next pitch may win them. You just don't know what other stories you are competing with on the day or when the journalist may be able to help you later. Relationship building can be the best way to increase your media coverage.
Above all, focus on giving the journalist what he or she wants, and don't take it all too seriously. In a funny kind of way, media relations is a bit like dancing with a stranger. Sometimes you get the rhythm right, other times you won't but just so long as the music is good, you'll have fun! Good luck.
Working with the Media - Toolkit provided by Tourism Victoria to help you understand what the media is, how it works and how to use it to your best advantage.