You spend hours making signs, calling friends, and educating people on why it’s absolutely critical they be at your event at high noon in front of the state capitol to send a message to lawmakers that you will not be ignored. You are sure it’s going to be a wake up call…except that your lawmakers largely don’t show up to get the message and the media aren’t there to carry it beyond your event. You end up entertaining 100 friends who care deeply but your message is frozen on the steps of your capitol building. And you end up unfairly jaded toward an “agenda-driven” media that ignored you simply because they disagreed with your point.
Capturing media attention to send your message far and wide starts well in advance of your event. It starts the same way you gathered the crowd of friends to your event. It starts by building relationships with target members of the media, in a word, media relations.
Media relations involves cultivating your personal rolodex, taking the time to understand the needs of media professionals, becoming a subject matter expert for them or someone who can find the connection for them. It involves being seen as the go-to resource for helping them get the stories they want including the ones you want them to cover. It involves intentionality and time.
Good media relations involves doing your home work, having sensitivity to journalist deadlines, knowing the types of audiences they serve, the types of stories they are looking for and the news cycle itself. It requires researching to understand the local angle, the details they need, the compelling visuals surrounding your event that help dramatize the story for their audience, the great speakers and spokespersons that give context and a human interest element to the visuals that their cameras are coming to shoot. Selling your event requires remembering that your event is a part of a larger story, a story where it is a driving factor and not simply a footnote. And capturing media attention requires succinctly communicating the point of your event and focusing your message to one main theme.
So where do you go to start building this rolodex and researching the media landscape in your community? Look for local press clubs that you can join. Introduce yourself at outside press events, at other events where media are present or around media row on an on-going basis. Purchase a directory of contacts from a broadcast association. And go online to discover journalist contacts for the major broadcast affiliates in your area. In time, you will become a trusted media partner and will achieve great media coverage for the issues you care about the most!