Gaining media traction is one of the most challenging aspects of public relations, and arguably, one of the most important. Media coverage is usually a “must get” in any successful PR campaign but earning good coverage requires strategy and persistence. 

Think of the film Boyhood, which was shot over a 12-year period, documenting the growth of a young boy into adulthood. The long-term dedication of the producers, cast, and crew earned them nominations for five Golden Globe Awards and six Oscars. While it doesn’t take 12 years to get a media hit, it does take persistence and know-how to get the coverage you want.

  1. Develop a simple, powerful message. No one will pay any attention to your company or cause if they can’t grasp your message. Start by clearly identifying and understanding your audience; then develop a bold, “plain English” storyline that aligns with their knowledge and biases. Express your key points in short, accessible chunks, backed up by striking facts.
  2. Set realistic targets. Unless your client is a global rock star, you may need to start small and build up. We typically develop a list of all the news outlets that may interested in a client’s story, ranging from the smaller, nichier, more accessible publications (often industry-focused outlets or blogs) to “trophy” placements like the New York Times and Associated Press. We may focus first on the easier targets before reaching out to the better-known publications, gaining credibility with every successive hit.
  3. Spend time building relationships. Reporters are like anyone else: they juggle a lot of competing demands, don’t like for their time to be wasted, and want to be appreciated for their good work. Take time to become familiar with the reporters and editors you are targeting, so that you can display your knowledge of their audiences and the kinds of stories they write. This will dramatically improve your ability to hit the bullseye with your pitch. Contact your targets via email, phone, and social media, and seek them out at events. Be persistent and professional – never pushy – and don’t worry about rejection. Over time, the reporter will learn that you are a useful source of information. 
  4. Be persistent. The long-term commitment of everyone involved in Boyhood led to its eventual success, despite the painfully slow production process. Likewise, it may take weeks or months of reaching out to your targeted reporters before you get a “hit.” Don’t let that deter you; just keep refining and reiterating your pitch, and keep cultivating the reporters who “should” become interested. In time, they will.

I am a firm believer that persistence pays off. For example, we recently succeeded in persuading CBS News to cover a client’s remarkable, life-affirming story, but only after months of incremental outreach and relationship building. It was worth the wait! 

The bottom line is this: Patience is a virtue, especially in public relations. Combined with a powerful message and thorough research, you can secure the media coverage you desire.