Before delving into these handy tips you will need to ensure your media strategy is up to scratch – if you have one. If not, it’s time to make one.
Read Our Community’s Media – Preparing a winning strategy help sheets to better understand, and take advantage of, the media process.
1. Know how to write a media release
Learning how to create a media release which can attract the attention of those in a newsroom and can be turned into a story with as little effort as possible will increase your chances of attracting coverage.
For a guide on how to write a great media release, read Our Community's Preparing a winning strategy – writing a media release help sheet.
2. Find the human interest element
Producing timely and relevant case studies that relate to your story is a good way to get your story covered.
As a rule, the media is more likely to cover a story if a human interest element is involved. By producing a case study concerning somebody who benefits, or who would benefit, from your work you will give the media more incentive to cover your story.
This also gives the media a great photo opportunity. Many newspapers tend to give the front page to the story with the best picture – use this to your advantage.
3. The news desk won’t do – aim for specific journos
Don’t send your media releases straight through to the general news desk, by doing this you’ll be running the risk of having your story overlooked.
Target specific reporters to increase the chances of having your story covered, especially social and community affairs reporters in bigger news outlets. Reporter details can generally be found on an outlet’s website, or through a quick phone call to the outlet.
4. Ban the phrase "No comment"
You might be under the impression that saying "No comment" to a journalist will save you from answering any hard questions and might force them to drop the story. This is wrong.
When no comment is offered to journalists the story will still go ahead, just without your side of it. Do yourself a favour and defend yourself against accusations.
This will also save you from the line at the end of a story that states you 'declined to comment', making you look like you had something to hide.
5. Be available
Make it easy for a journalist to contact you to follow up on a story – this is as simple as providing a mobile phone number. Being readily available can be especially useful if a journalist is trying to contact you outside of your office hours (but just before their deadline).
If you're not the spokesperson, make sure the person who is is ready to comment on the issue you're spruiking.
6. Find the local audience
The work of many not-for-profit organisations targets a local audience – yet many make the mistake of only targeting big metropolitan media outlets instead of their local media.
Be sure to take the time to contact your local media, and rework your message so it is more relevant to the local audience.
For a comprehensive list of media outlets in your state check out Our Community’s Media Contacts Listing.
7. Build relationships
Journalists do play favourites – if they know you (and know you return calls, provide good quotes and know your stuff) they might choose your story over another, or contact you for comment more often.
Ditch the telephone and email when possible and meet a journalist face-to-face – it will build a stronger relationship between your group and the media, and will hopefully get your stories more airtime/print space.
8. Grab their attention
If the first line of your media release or email is boring, it’s not going to make it to the news.
Journalists get flooded with media releases and story tip-offs every day, and if you can’t catch their attention in the subject line and first sentence your story won’t be published.
Make your subject line and first sentence are intriguing, exciting, and engaging to encourage the media to take notice.
As a rule of thumb, if it won’t be of interest to the media outlet’s audience, it won’t be published.
9. Do your homework
Knowing the media outlet you are contacting will go a long way towards pitching a story that makes it into publication.
Do some research before calling or sending through a media release. You’ll need to know what news the media outlet covers, which geographic areas it covers and what its target audience is.
If you manage to fit all these factors with your story you will have a greater chance of success.
10. Get the inside word
Media training doesn’t have to be formal or expensive – it can be as easy as an approach to a journalist for advice on how your group can become better at attracting coverage.
Approach a journalist with a request for a drink and a chat about attracting coverage, and be sure to mention you’re a not-for-profit group. Be respectful of their time.