Monday, July 27, 2009

Local Media Report on Research Resources

By Mary Lower

My experience with the media is a unique one – I began my career working part time my senior year in college at the local affiliate ABC nightly newscast running the soundboard, character generator and the 8-track music cart for the evening news. (3/4 inch video tape was the cutting edge technology of the day- not that I’m aging myself with that fact...)

Being in the newsroom, I understood the immediacy and do or die pressure that a producer feels because when the clock strikes 10 pm, the show starts ready or not. With competitive pressure from other sources and mediums, the media has to supply the best coverage and source information to keep the viewer/listener/reader tuned in and satisfied.
No longer on the media team, rather now pitching stories to editors, reporters, and producers, I know that the need for quality storytelling has not changed. What has changed is how people are researching stories and finding sources.

The public relations industry has changed dramatically over the past 15-20 years….over the past few years social media has been a game changer in its own right…but that’s a whole different blog.

To research information for an upcoming presentation, I spoke to a number of traditional media professionals – TV, radio, newspaper and magazine news coverage decision makers - and polled them on a number of questions regarding press releases, social media and research.

Speaking from strictly a traditional media point of view, the answers I received reinforce the fact that: 1) media begets media. 2) if you’re not establishing yourself as an expert in your field, you’re not going to be tapped as a third party source by the media to contribute to stories that have the potential of having direct reach to your potential customer. 3) If you’re not paying attention to how you’re being found and perceived online then you’re really missing the boat. 4) If you don’t have a relationship with the media you’re not going to be the first source considered to get the interview.

When I asked a dozen local professionals the top three ways he/she researches stories, here is what I learned:

  • Sources, sources, sources. I live and die with my sources / experts in the field/ contacting associations for detailed information/ calling people I know in the industry (12)
  • Online research/ earnings reports/ conference calls/ government sites/ reviewing industry web sites/ journals/ Wikipedia/ Google News search (11)
  • Our news archives/ news clip library/ other producers (6)
  • Through the local news media/find other stories written on the same theme (3)
  • Check web site of the event or person I’m writing about (2)
  • Business-related books

I’ve had clients land radio interviews because of magazine articles I’ve placed and I’ve grown a single TV interview into a series of interviews once the client’s expertise was established. I’ve even landed my business partner paid speaking opportunities targeting ideal clients all from a 3 ½ minute TV interview.

My question to you is simply this – if you’re seeking media attention from mainstream (or social) media – are you proactively or reactively interacting with the media decision makers in a meaningful way that helps them do their job? Are you making it easy to be searched and found? Are you taking advantage of every media opportunity? You never know when a quick expert quote or small mention in a neighborhood paper can lead to front-page coverage.

Mary Lower is President and Chief Storyteller at Sterling Cross Communications offering clients integrated public relations, social media and web development. She can followed on Twitter @PRMoxie.

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