The public relations industry has a standard playbook that includes a media kit—with information about your business and collateral material such as biographies of key staff, product details and images—and the issue of media releases. PR agencies send these out to media outlets in the hope of obtaining coverage.
The problem with the standard playbook is that media coverage is not a one-size-fits-all game and small businesses are rarely the right size. Consider the appointment of a new CEO, for example; in a small business, this event is rarely newsworthy unless the CEO is someone famous. But when Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer first took up the role it was big news because she had come from Google. Being from a big company makes big moves big news.
So when should a small business use media kits and releases? There are a few rules you should heed when using these as tools to obtain media coverage.
Media releases should be newsworthy first and foremost so make sure they contain news, not general information. The other thing to remember is that newsworthiness is often in the eye of the media outlet so what might be big news in a specific industry, for example, may not even make ripples in another.
Statistics and data can often help an otherwise generic message become more newsworthy. New statistics or a new take on data, for example insight on trends or interesting figures that can support your news, are welcome additions to media releases.
You can also make your own news through methods such as staging a stunt or event, creating a photo opportunity, or conducting interesting research, or leverage other newsworthy events or people of note.
If your media release contains general information about your business without a news hook, consider a different format to disseminate these details rather than a media release.
Timeliness and currency
Somewhat related to newsworthiness, timeliness gives a media release an edge, particularly if it contains information that is new, groundbreaking or a first. Also consider whether the announcement has an expiry date as it may only be relevant for a certain period of time—for example a prediction about trending colours for the next season—and shape the release around these parameters.
In addition to timeliness, currency can also help your media release gain traction. If there are similar stories circulating in the media, or if a journalist has recently covered the issue, you can leverage this attention by pitching an angle with a new twist on the trending topic or use its popularity as an aspect of its newsworthiness.
Media outlets tend to look for stories in their own backyard as a priority so if your media release covers an issue or event at a specific location, you’ll find that it’s more likely to generate interest close to that location. With this in mind, don’t discount approaching local news outlets and community newsletters.
Popularity breeds popularity so if your media release features a high profile person or event, it’s more likely to be picked up by media. Beware of the misuse of celebrities, however, as their presence can often overshadow your key message.
Note that not all of these traits are considered newsworthy by all media outlets. For example, talkback radio might be interested in statistics on trends while a homewares magazine may not.
If your media release does not contain any of these traits, consider whether this is the right PR approach for your business. If not, remember there are plenty of other ways to obtain media coverage.