The five biggest myths about the media – let’s bust them right now!

 


I love hearing about the amazing things many businesses and organizations are doing. There are so many great stories out there that deserve to be told!
 
I also hear about the struggles many businesses face in making their marketing dollar stretch further – and the frustration of not being able to “cut through” the clutter of information that’s all part of today’s world.
 
It’s fantastic when the media picks up a really positive story about a business. Everyone wins; the media gets a good story that will interest their audience, and the business gets a huge boost in profile that helps to drive customers to their door.
 
But if it’s so easy, why isn’t everyone doing it?
 
That’s a great question, and the answer might surprise you. The fact is, most business owners and organizational leaders miss out on all the benefits free media coverage could give them, not because they’re not newsworthy but simply because they’ve fallen for some of the myths that surround the media.
 
You don’t need to do that. I’m going to knock down some of those myths right here.
 
In reality, by following a relatively simple process, many businesses can greatly increase their opportunities to get positive media coverage. 
 
Myth #1 – Media coverage is only for celebrities.
 
In fact, the media LOVES to tell stories about ordinary people with something extraordinary to say.
 
Now, if your last name’s Kardashian or you’re the leader of one of the world’s most powerful countries, there’s no denying you’re going to have a head start in getting onto the news. But the point is, you don’t have to play a celebrity card.
 
Remember in our last lesson we talked about story angles? That’s the key. You don’t need to be famous to come up with a killer angle that’s going to have journalists falling over themselves to talk to you.
 
Or, let’s break it down even further. Who says you have to get full-on, front-page, mainstream media coverage? Remember, the purpose of getting into the media these days is more about the mileage you’ll get from the story by promoting it shamelessly through your social media and your other forms of marketing.
 
Large-scale stories are nice-to-have, that’s for sure, but you can still get plenty of mileage from a local media story or a piece in a trade publication.
 
So, don’t let the fact that the paparazzi don’t stalk you and fans don’t camp outside your house, as reasons for not going after a great media story. Who knows, after you develop your awesome story angle and get into the media, you might get a degree of fame anyway.
 
Myth #2 – It costs a lot of money.
 
If you have heaps of cash, and you’re keen to part with large sums of it, there are any number of PR and media companies out there to take it off your hands. And they’ll probably do a great job for you (although, like any industry, there are some under-performers).
 
My point is, if you don’t have the funds to pay a PR professional, you can do a perfectly good job of getting into the media all by yourself.
 
I’ve already developed the process for you, based on more than three decades of working both in the media as a journalist/producer, and on the other side of the microphone – helping businesses and leaders get great coverage. I’m sharing the tools with you so you don’t miss out on free coverage.
 
I’ve seen countless businesses and organizations put these skills to good effect, getting fantastic coverage that cost them nothing more than a little bit of their own effort. I’ve also run campaigns for charities and not-for-profit groups where there was zero budget for media – and they’ve got so much free promotion people have commented on how much they must have spent on marketing when in reality it cost zip!
 
A while ago I was approached by a community theatre company, desperate for help with promoting their latest production. They’d invested a huge amount in the show, and had to almost sell out the season to get their money back, let alone make a profit.
 
I worked with them to come up with a series of story angles, each targeted at a different media outlet. We set out a timeframe, staggering the stories over about three months.
 
The results were incredible; the production attracted a huge amount of media interest and the group was then able to share all those stories through social media to get double the impact. Their season was a sell-out, and it cost them virtually nothing!
 
There’s no reason why you can’t do that. You mightn’t have multiple story angles, but you’ll have at least one really good one. Hone it, develop it, and let it loose!
 
Myth #3 – You have to do something exceptional to get the media interested.
 
This is in the same vein as Myth #1, and similar principles apply. There’s no doubt that the media likes stories about exceptional acts in exceptional circumstances – but you don’t need to achieve that to get a good story.
 
Yes, those who make medical breakthroughs, perform major acts of bravery or achieve stunning victories against all odds have the makings of media stardom.
 
Others getting into the media by manufacturing their own extraordinary feats. Over the years, some business leaders have spent a lot of money – and put their safety and dignity on the line – to take part in outrageous publicity stunts.
 
These may help accelerate the process, or attract the attention of tabloid media, but always remember that the story angle rules supreme. If you have a great story, - even if you haven’t survived in the jungle on nothing but a chocolate bar - and you take it to the right media outlet, you’ll get a good result. You can then amplify that result by pumping the story out through social media.
 
I’ve seen many examples of businesses and organizations getting into the media on a less-than-earth-shattering angle – especially in media away from the mainstream, capital city outlets. They’ve simply put my angle-finding principles to good use (refer to Lesson 3) and added a little creativity. They include:

  • A not-for-profit sports training academy that got a three-page newspaper spread about their programs;
  • A government organization snagging a headline story on two TV networks (for a positive project, not a negative issue or scandal!);
  • A small business winding up in a national paper because of their role in a big infrastructure project;
  • An entrepreneur interviewed at length on national radio about their new book. 

So, don’t be put off because you think you don’t have anything to offer. Delve deeper for your angle, and you might be amazed at what you come up with.
 
Myth #4 – The “old-fashioned” media is dead.
 
You don’t have to look far to see that media, in its traditional form, is shrinking while social media multiplies at a dizzying rate.
 
But don’t let the diminishing form of newspapers (I started referring to the printed version of my local rag as a “newsletter” some time ago when it withered to just a few pages) fool you. Despite signs to the contrary, many media outlets – including TV programs, radio stations, newspapers and magazines (mostly now in digital form) – are still kicking along.
 
Over time, they might disappear completely as the world yields to the fact that everyone is now an amateur news crew just waiting for something to happen. But for the present at least, you still have access to the type of media where professional journalists, photographers and camera operators ply their trade – albeit in smaller numbers than they used to be.
 
Remember, the key element here is that the story is written by a professional journalist, not a random blogger or someone you’ve paid to show your business in a good light. The power of traditional media lies in the fact that the writer is independent, with no vested interested in you, your business or organization. That’s why it has more credibility than something you’ve written on your own Facebook page or website.
 
So, as long as the old-fashioned media is still around, admittedly gasping its last breath in some cases, why not make the most of it? If you don’t, someone else will – and they are, every day.
 
Myth #5 – The media only covers negative stories.
 
We’ve all seen those stories on tabloid TV where the intrepid reporter chases a harried dodgy car salesperson down the street, shouting questions at their prey’s retreating back. Oh yes, the media loves a good chase when someone’s done the wrong thing.
 
But for everyone else – especially those who approach media outlets with proactive stories – it’s more a case of simply looking for a strong angle that’s going to attract the attention of their viewers/readers/listeners.
 
Sure, it’s the media’s job to report stories objectively, so if they turn up some juicy information, they’re not going to spare you just because it might show your business in a negative light. It’s not their role to give you a free commercial, or do your PR for you.
 
However, the average journalist doesn’t approach every story with the idea of attacking business owners or organizational representatives. They’re just there to get the job done, and get out quickly so they can meet their deadline.
 
The key is to go in with your eyes open. Understand that it’s the journalist’s job to produce an interesting story. If you deliver that to them, courtesy of your great angle, they’ll go away happy and will probably want to contact you again for more stories in the future.
 
The other good news is, there are techniques you can use that make it virtually impossible to be tripped up in a media interview. You’ll be able to get your message across, every time. Don’t go into an interview without being properly prepared.
 
To recap:
 
I’m sure you’ve heard variations of the saying, “don’t believe everything you hear in the media”. I’m also saying, “don’t believe everything you hear about the media.” Contrary to what you might have believed before,

  • The media will do a story on anyone if the story is interesting enough.
  • Media coverage (unless it forms part of an advertising package) is free.
  • If you follow the process and have a good story angle, you can get media coverage with zero budget.
  • Traditional media might have shrunk but it’s still kicking, so make use of it.
  • Journalists aren’t there to give you a free ad, but play your cards right and you’ll get one anyway!

So, having dispelled a few myths, it’s time to forge ahead into the wonderful world of getting you promoted in the media. Are you ready to dive in? You won't regret it.
 

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Neryl East

Neryl East is a reputation, communication and media expert who shows businesses and organisations how to stand out - for the right reasons! EDUCATION: PhD in Journalism, University of Wollongong Master of Arts, University of Wollongong Certificate IV Training and Assessment (TAFE NSW) International Certificate of Public Participation (IAP2) EMPLOYMENT HISTORY: Director - Neryl East Communications Pty Limited Manager Communications and Public Relations - Wollongong City Council Manager Media and Communications - Shellharbour City Council Head of Communications and Marketing - Australian War Memorial Lecturer and tutor - University of Wollongong Lecturer - APM College of Business and Communication Manager External Relations - University of Western Sydney Freelance journalist - The Australian, ABC, Southern Cross Television, Prime Television News Director - WIN Television, Western NSW Journalist/producer/presenter - WIN Television, Wollongong Journalist/producer - Radio 2CH INTERESTS: Netball umpiring, theatre, travel