When our clients want us to publicise an upcoming event or promote their organisation, we create a media event such as a photo or video opportunity to attract media coverage.

Although there’s a lot of buzz around digital media, the biggest audiences by far are still found with broadcast and mass media. So, having a Media Event as a form of publicity is one of the lowest hanging fruits you can possibly focus on.

I highly recommend it. It’s very easy. And it costs almost nothing.

So here are my three steps to getting your story out there. These are the steps we use with our clients.

1.    The Media Alert

You don’t want the media contacts to be relying only on your Press Release going out on the day of the Photo Opportunity, because there are so many things competing for their attention. If you get into their minds early, you’re much more likely to get coverage.

So, at the Media Alert stage, it’s about letting the media contacts know a Photo Opportunity is coming. This means the event will be in their minds and diaries early, and they can plan in advance.

The Media Alert gives a quick summary of what the story will be about, and a brief explanation of the Photo Opportunity.

It also gives the following details:

  • Who’s going to be involved
  • Where the event is
  • When the event is – the time and date
  • Clear details on how to get there
  • And a description of the photo video opportunity.

Before sending the alert, do some fact-finding by phoning around the major local media outlets, such as the newspaper, radio, and television, and talk through the Media Event you are planning.

  • Find out who to send the Media Alert to, get an email address, and if possible, speak to someone about the event.
  • By listening to their reaction, you can gauge if they think it’s a good opportunity. Ask them, “Does that sound like something you’d come along to?”
  • If it doesn’t sound like there’s much interest, then go and re-think the event. Come up with a better visual, or make it more attractive in some way. Next, go back to the media outlet, and talk about your new approach.

2.    The Press Release

a) Sent out on the day of the Photo Opportunity

Send by email before 8:30am

The Press Release is an elaborated version of the Media Alert. You can call it “Press Release”, or “Media Release”, it doesn’t really matter.

The timing of your email is important because at around about 8:30am they’re making their decisions for the day. If you don’t get in touch then, it’s already too late. They’ve set their diary for the day.

When writing your Press/Media Release, use the Media Alert you sent out previously. Flesh it out and put in some choice quotes from the parties involved. This includes the message in a nutshell, and quotes from the people who are involved.

So, at the Photo Opportunity I ran today, there was a quote from the Director of the Foundation being promoted at the event. The quote outlined why their upcoming event is so important. We also had a quote from a person who is an example customer of the organisation, about the sort of difference the organisation makes.

Having those quotes means you’re much more likely to get the type of story you want. It also makes it much easier for the press because they can cut and paste those quotes. All around everyone is going to be happier. A bit of a win-win.

b) Call your contacts after sending it

On the morning of the Photo Opportunity give each of your contacts a call, particularly the ones you want to be there. Tell them you’re ringing to make sure they’ve received your Press Release, and that they’ve got it in their diaries. Find out if they’re going to send anyone out.

Sometimes it won’t be possible to know for sure if they are going send someone. That’s okay. But by giving them a call, you’re at the top of their minds on the day. It means you’re much more likely to get someone there.

Your call also gives them the chance to ask you questions or follow-up with extra information.

At today’s Photo Opportunity, I had a question from one of the news crews saying, “Can you send the Media Alert through again? We got it. We received it yesterday, but we would just like it at the top of our list again today.”

I had already prepared the Press Release to go out, so I sent that instead. It meant they had all the information, along with the extra quotes. At that point I knew I would get media coverage.

3.    The Photo Opportunity

This event must be good for both photo and video. If you want visual media, like print or news, it depends strongly on the quality of the visual. You need to think from the perspective of the journalist who wants to get their story in front of an editor. So, ask yourself these questions:

  • “What would make a great photo for a newspaper?”
  • “What would make a great visual for TV news?”

A Photo Opportunity should be coordinated by your Media Coordinator, who can oversee what goes on, welcome people as they arrive and troubleshoot any issues.

What’s the best day for running your Photo Opportunity?

Some days are better than others for news, so it’s worth keeping a track of what’s happening in your local media. As a rule of thumb, we always try to get our press releases to land on Monday or Tuesday. They are slower news days and you’re much more likely to get press coverage.

Five Tips To Get Your Media Alerts & Releases Noticed

  1. When you send out your Media Alert and Media/Press Release, write it in Word. Then cut and paste it into the body of an email. Sometimes I attach it to the email as well, so they get it two ways.
  2. The subject line of the email is the heading of the Alert or Release.
  3. I send the email out individually to each person I particularly want to receive it. Then I bulk email (using Bcc) to the rest of my contacts.
  4. After the heading, I write the main body of text. Then a horizontal line and the subtitle: “Photo/video Opportunity”. Then a sentence or two describing clearly what, when and where that is.
  5. at the bottom of the Media Alert or Release, always list the contact details of people involved so the press can get in contact with them.

Something to be aware of . . .

The only potential negative with using press and public media is you are likely to find your story will be slightly incorrectly written, or presented with a different angle than you anticipate. If you have a contentious issue, it is worth thinking very clearly through your process, your wording and the message you want to convey. Just know the journalist is not going to write what you want them to write. They’re going to write the story that will sell, and it’s possible you’ll feel you’re misrepresented in some way. That is just par for the course for media coverage.

However, for ninety-nine percent of circumstances, you’re still far better off using the local media using the steps I’ve outlined, than not using them at all.

Using this simple process, I’ve achieved 100 per cent press coverage for every Media Event in the past 15 years. This process might not work in larger markets, but it’s worth a try. I estimate, in markets of a population of over a million people, it may be challenging to get media coverage with this method. But anything under that, it quite likely will happen. You just need a good story, a photo opportunity, and communication with media outlets as I’ve suggested.