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Mastering the Media Tip Sheet

Tags: Tipsheet

On August 14, Culture Days hosted Media Training: Mastering the Media with PR Consultant, Mercedes Findlay.

Approaching the media seems scary, but it doesn’t have to be. In this webinar, Mercedes offered her expertise on pitching to the media, how to tackle interviews and effective strategies for promoting your Culture Days event.

Weren’t able to attend the webinar session? No problem, we’ve summarized Mercedes’ top tips below!

1. UNCOVER YOUR STORY BEFORE APPROACHING THE MEDIA

The meat and potatoes of everything you see or hear in the media is the story. Before you start anything else, Mercedes suggests uncovering your story. The media’s daily goal is to serve their audience by giving what they came for – great content. When thinking about your Culture Days event or program, ask yourself, is this newsworthy? Mercedes notes that an interesting story is:

  • Compelling
  • Relevant 
  • Timely 

Because Culture Days is an annual, collaborative initiative happening on a specific date, timeliness and relevancy are baked right in. But, what about your event is compelling? What’s interesting and different about it? Mercedes advises starting with the general details and then digging in much deeper to find the captivating kernel.

Pro-tip: Brainstorm with others – ask your colleagues, partners, or friends for their opinions and input.

2. FIND YOUR AUDIENCE AND MATCH IT TO MEDIA WITH THE SAME AUDIENCE

Once you’ve got a semblance of a story, it’s time to ask the tough question – who cares? Somebody does – but you need to be clear on who that is because it will provide the clarity and direction you need to determine the broader narrative of your story and the right media to help you spread the word. You likely already know your audience well. You know what they like to see and hear, where they spend time online and in real life. You want to be very clear on the profile of your audience and match it to media with the same audience.

When considering media options, consider the following questions:

  • Who are the hosts?
  • What is the overall style and tone of the show?
  • What do they usually cover or talk about and how?
  • Do they have special segments that cover your subject area?

3. GET ORGANIZED AND READY TO CONNECT

Once you’ve determined your audience and ideal media partners it’s time to look for the right contacts. Mercedes notes that reaching a human-being is ideal - in other words, if you can avoid generic emails, do. The “Contact Us” page is a great place to start. There, you’ll usually find a listing of people who head up departments or handle media inquiries. If not, you can find a general line to call and ask for the right person to contact. Also, don’t sleep on the power of social media for finding people. Most writers, journalists, and of course bloggers are on social – particularly Twitter. It’s becoming more and more common to find and even reach out through the platform. If it makes sense, give it a shot. 

4. PERFECT THE PITCH

This is the fun (but hardest) part! You’ve fine-tuned your story, pinpointed the audience and the right media and now your task is to craft the words to convey your great idea. Mercedes suggests keeping these words in mind:

  • Compelling
  • Concise
  • Clear
  • Targeted

Journalists at large publications receive an average of 28 pitches a day, so you want your pitch to stand out. Spend some time on the subject line – Mercedes notes that it often makes the difference between a click and a pass over. It needs to tell the story in 49-70 charters or less. In the e-mail message itself, be specific with your ideas, use names or refer to the programming specifically, and don’t bury the lead.

5. BE READY AND FOLLOW-UP

Prepare for the best and be ready so that if you get the coveted “yes!”  you are able to immediately give them everything you promised. However, also be prepared for radio silence. A follow-up is often as important as the initial outreach. Send another email simply saying you just wanted to check in and see if there’s any interest in your idea. Mercedes notes that she often gets more of a response with a follow up than her initial email, so don’t be shy to send another message. Always be polite and professional. The final decision is theirs and if it’s a “no”, thank them for the response and/or feedback, make a note of it, and move to the next.

6. LANDED AN INTERVIEW? ACE IT WITH MERCEDES’ CHECKLIST:

  • Fine-tune your messaging – what are your key takeaways?
  • Know your stuff – remember: where, when, what time, what for?
  • Ask questions ahead of time so you can be fully prepared
  • Practice, practice, practice
  • Be flexible 

7. DON'T FORGET, YOU ARE MEDIA TOO!

If you have a website, social media presence, newsletter or blog you should be using those to promote yourself and your Culture Days event or program too. You have the ability to connect directly with your audiences through your own content channels so make sure you are making full use of them in conjunction with your media relations efforts. Being talked about in the media provides a validation boost, but isn’t the only way. Alternately, you should also use these channels to boost any media coverage – tell people about it before during and after! Share, post, tweet, and circulate!