Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Making the Most of the Media

Despite trying very hard, I’ve never been very good at social media while everyone else seems  supremely confident. But how about other kinds of publicity, the sort that was around long before social media  – using newspapers, for instance, or magazines or radio to trumpet how wonderful I am! Might I be any better at that? I thought I’d give it a whirl and recently attended Making the Most of the Media, a course run by Miranda Birch, miranda@mirandabirchmedia.co.uk. For many years Miranda was one of the journalists behind Woman’s Hour and Desert Island Discs, so she certainly knows her stuff. It was a day long course and I wouldn’t attempt to distil all I learned into a few words but here are several tips I picked up on the way. I’ve summed them up under the three Cs of Context, Consumers and Contact.
·       Before you even begin writing a press release, do your research. Which media outlets are likely to be the most relevant for you? Read the magazines/newspapers you’re thinking of contacting and listen to the radio programmes. If your likely prey writes a blog or is on Twitter, be sure to read and to follow.
·       Keep a keen eye on the zeitgeist and be topical. If your writing touches on issues currently being discussed, wang off that press release.
·       Think seasonal. Summer can be a good time to strike with Parliament in recess, publishing slowed and people on holiday. Journalists are looking for new material. Ditto for the Christmas and New Year holidays.
·       Download a calendar of National Awareness weeks – does your writing connect to any of them?
·       And are there any umbrella organisations you might link to which would be glad to use  your material? Romantic novelists, for example, have the RNA blog.
·       It sounds basic but you need to work out who your audience is and what they want. Will they be interested in an angle that focusses on human interest or is their concern more with factual information? If you’re a writer, I imagine (though I could be wrong) it’s likely to be human interest that wins the day, whether it’s an interest arising from the actual book or from the author’s own story.
·       If you’re targeting a range of media, you need to consider their different ‘lead in’ times – radio works 4 to 6 weeks ahead, newspapers less, magazines sometimes six months in advance.
·       Don’t forget that sometimes journalists actually ask for material. You can check this out on Twitter if you type #journorequest into the box.
·       Once you’ve decided on the media outlet, make sure you target the right person. If it’s a magazine, for example, look down the list of editors on the title page and choose the right one. Always address your message to a named person.
·       Make your press release stand out. The title line should be eye catching. In the body of the email, always put the most important/interesting feature of your press release first. Be sure to send your message as part of the email and not as an attachment. You can add a photo if you think it might help!
·       Once you’ve sent the press release, don’t decide to leap aboard the Trans Siberian railway for a holiday. Make sure you’re easily contactable and available.
·       If you get no response, be brave and pick up the telephone. Check politely that the person has received your email and offer to provide more information if it’s needed.
So there it is. Simples!