Media Relations DOES Make a Difference
I’ve been working in and speaking about media relations for over 20 years. In an age of social media and digital communications I’m often asked if media relations still makes a difference. The short answer is YES!!
When I started my career as a newspaper editor, the local paper didn’t just deliver news but also connected the community. The stories we featured were about a garden project at the school, a recap of the Council meeting, an interview with a new business owner and coverage of local sports.
As a local newspaper we highlighted the people who made up the fabric of our community.
With the shift to more online communications, how media shares stories has evolved but the power of their work hasn’t changed.
I was recently reminded of the power of the media as I looked to renew interest in my book, Your Child’s Voice, a year after it was released. Being a book about how to advocate for kids with special needs, I issued a press release a week before the new school year began entitled Back to School = Back to Advocacy for Parents of Kids with Special Needs.
The press release featured tips on how parents can advocate to get their kids the support they need at school. I also shared my personal experience as a mother of a child with special needs.
Instead of talking about my book (which was no longer new), I focused on what was hot in the media — back to school — and tips for parents. I looked for ways to connect my book what the media was talking about versus trying to get the media interested in what I had to say.
And this made all the difference.
I issued the press release and waited. After a few days, CBC called me. For us Canadians, this is a big deal! CBC is our national public broadcaster where many Canucks go for their news.
I had hit the mother ship! Was it pure luck? No. I had waited, oh so patiently, for the right opportunity to talk about the advice in my book.
I had embarked on the book launch media tour a year earlier and had some good success. In the initial media relations, I focused on what I had learned as a mom of a child with special needs (making me relatable), the insights I had gained from others (through my interviews and research) and how important advocacy is in going beyond your child being a diagnosis and being seen as a person.
This initial media relations helped gain awareness and spark discussion about my book. But as any author will tell you, you need ongoing interest to ensure people not only know about your book, but also so it remains in print.
Turning the tide
What started as a radio interview on the morning show of my regional CBC station quickly turned into a phone interview for the provincial page of CBC News’ online edition. By speaking as a mom and offering practical advice, instead of talking about my book or trying to come off as an expert, people connected to what I was saying.
And the results? Overnight my book went from obscurity on Amazon to being the #1 Bestseller in the caregivers category. Considering there are hundreds of thousands of books on Amazon, this is a pretty big deal.
In the course of one morning, through my media relations work, I was able to shine the spotlight on the challenges facing parents and caregivers of kids with special needs.
Yes I’d love to sell thousands of books. But my ultimate goal is to help families navigate a complex and frustrating system. If I can help just one family, my book will be a success.
Before anyone is temped to whip off a press release to sell widgets, the key to effective media relations is authenticity. It’s about telling a story that connects with people. Go beyond your products and services and find the personal connection.
As for me, I will continue to look for ways to work with the media to shine a spotlight on advocating for kids with special needs. And the lessons and relationships I make along the way will strengthen the media relations work I do with my clients.
For those of you who have worked with the media in the past, what stories resonated (got picked up) and what ones fell flat? How do you integrate media relations into your overall communications strategy? And finally, why do you think media relations is relevant (or not) to your organization?
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This article also appeared as a blog post on How to Communications.