Grabbing media attention can be an expensive exercise – but it needn’t be. While the media love to cover grand gestures and publicity stunts, it’s not for every brand.
If you’ve ever seen the nightly news end with a feel-good story about the successful birth of a baby panda at a local zoo or a colourful piece about a café’s attempt at the Guinness World Record for the most espresso drinkers in one place, then you might be tempted to make a splash in a similar way to secure such excellent coverage.
When it comes to media coverage, however, you should first understand there is a difference between hype and stories that will actually result in positive and measurable outcomes for your business. Sometimes hype can boost your business, but more often than not it’s an expensive exercise that makes for a colourful but eventually forgotten story. So how do you secure beneficial media coverage without breaking the bank?
Choose your media targets wisely
Understand why you’re seeking media coverage and make sure your activities, and the media you’re targeting, align with your ultimate goal.
Why waste time and your PR spend on media coverage that fills your media coverage report but isn’t relevant or influential? If the coverage gets a run after the nightly news, seen by hundreds of thousands of people, but your ideal customer doesn’t notice it, what was the point? If thousands of readers click on the story but it doesn’t help your SEO or bring more customers to you, why do it?
Many businesses also make the mistake of having a big media target that they spend all their budget trying to court, only for that opportunity to fall through. Instead, consider aiming for several smaller pieces of coverage to increase the chance of something being picked up.
Pitch newsworthy angles rather than generating hype
Working on good angles will generally cost less than starting up the hype machine and is usually more effective.
What makes an angle newsworthy? A strong media angle is not: ‘why this business is good’. Instead, put the audience first: what are they interested in? Why would what you have to say be important to them? Offer advice, case studies with measurable ‘before and after’s, emotive photos, or find the unique, controversial, timely, new perspectives, or strong comments in what you do.
Avoid hype for hype’s sake
For a hype campaign to be effective in leading people to become a customer or supporter, it needs to link buzz with other marketing that is more likely to convert interest into action. It isn’t enough on its own.
It’s certainly possible to have buzz-generating campaigns based on hype, and these can be effective in getting people talking, making them curious, or – if done well – getting people to try your product or service for the first time. This might include installations and experiential marketing, stunts, mass market deliveries, or interesting unique activities that get people’s attention, such as cute puppies visiting office buildings in the city. But these activities are usually costly and labour-intensive. And if you are on a tight budget, then you need more than just talk – you need people to actually act.
Sometimes there are magic moments where a creative idea can reach many with relatively small effort, but these are rare.
Good timing can make media coverage cost effective
It’s true that some businesses are here for a good time, not a long time, but it is always most effective to try for both: a good time that carries on for a long time.
This strategy works for a number of reasons: initially, it is likely to take a while for media coverage to appear, or for a journalist to be ready to accept a pitch.
Secondly, over time you can build momentum and contribute multiple nudges to attract your ideal customer to guide them into your sales funnel or motivate them to act. An old rule of marketing is that it takes seven mentions of your brand or product before a customer remembers you, which means it’s often more effective to have several pieces of coverage over time instead of one big bang.
Generally, the less interesting the business, the more that needs to be spent on marketing and PR to compensate and create interest and appeal. However, the lower the budget, the greater the effort needed to come up with something creative that will secure the media coverage and business outcomes that you’re after.
If you’re on a tight budget, it’s therefore important to clearly articulate a unique selling point for your organisation and invest time and effort in forming interesting media angles to achieve cut-through. Securing media coverage on a budget is possible if you’re smart about your targets an