Turn Your Company Into a Media Event

Tips from a media expert on how to build the kind of event that will put you in the spotlight
By Chris Rosica

How many times have you watched the new and seen a small business being featured? Ever wonder how that company got the television cameras to show up at its event? And more to the point, ever wonder how you can be the next business to be featured on that very same news show?

In order to start the process, you need to put on your creative hat. What will the media find interesting about your business? When we propose a media event to a client, we typically look for a compelling angle. Here are the questions we ask our clients at the start:
Are you:
• introducing a new product?
• promoting a new cause relationship?
• bringing awareness to a new location or a new company
leadership?
• announcing a new business partner or venture?
• doing something charitable?

Unless you are announcing the newest breakthrough in medicine or a candidacy for president, you will need a creative idea to pique the media’s interest. To that end, it’s a good idea to watch the news to determine the types of events and venues that the media covers. Then take a good, hard look at your product or service: What are you doing that is truly new or perhaps even controversial? Will what are you doing, even in some small way, set you apart from the competition in a way that you can capitalize on in terms of a media event?

Examples: All the News That’s Fit to Race
• A shopping cart race throughout a supermarket was created to
benefit the Children’s Hunger Alliance. The event was created to position this retailer as a caring member of the community. The race produced an irresistible visual for the cameras – pictures of people racing their supermarket carts down the aisles.
• Nice-Pak Products, Inc., makers of disinfecting wipes for hands and the home, joined together with a local elementary school and staged a “health fair” in the classroom to demonstrate proper hand hygiene during allergy season and, using a special blue light, showed how germs spread on kids’ hands.
• A chainsaw buzzed in the hands of an executive chef and the local mayor as they cut a giant ice-sculpture ribbon to mark the grand opening of Blend, a new dining and entertainment venue in Ridgewood, N.J. In addition, representatives from nearly a dozen local charities, from disease research to women’s and children’s groups and the arts, were in attendance to help promote the restaurant’s pledge to donate a portion of each month’s proceeds to charity.

Give Someone the Title of Media Magnet
Although they are inundated with press releases, pitch letters, e-mails and phone calls from companies and organizations like yours vying for their attention, the media isn’t as elusive as you might think. If your event has all the proper elements to make it newsworthy and you have done your homework with persistent outreach and follow-through, you can get the news media to show up and cover your company.

After you have come up with your idea, assign one person in your organization to serve as your media relations liaison. This person will be responsible for disseminating information, handling media inquiries and coordinating interviews and appearances. All materials distributed to the media should include the name of your media liaison with his or her daytime and evening telephone numbers so reporters can get answers to their questions at any time.

Your media relations liaison will need to:• Develop a list of all broadcast and print media in your area. To
obtain a media list, contact your local chamber of commerce or look in the yellow pages. When you have decided which stations and newspapers to include on your media list, call and confirm contact names.
• Research, identify and contact the appropriate writers, editors and producer. If an editor or producer takes a pass, pitch the event to a different editor or producer at the same media outlet (e.g., if you are a computer products company staging an event to roll out a new version of your software, you’ll want to call the technology editor at the newspaper; if they aren’t interested, move on to the business reporter).
• Contact the media at least two weeks in advance of the event.
• Consider faxing a “media advisory” a few days prior to and on the day of the event. Media advisories are concise “who, what, where, when and why” updates that include information about interview opportunities.

Put a Little Magic into Your Media Event
Here are some considerations for a successful media event:
• Because we are a graphic society and the print and broadcast media outlets use pictures to tell stories, make sure to create a “mediagenic” event that commands attention. Try to imagine what images or sound bites the media will broadcast or publish.
• Aligning your event with a charity or cause is always a good idea because your company will be viewed in a positive light and it “de-commercializes” your news. When choosing a charity, think about the goals of your organization and how they align with those of the organization. For example, if you are a bakery owner launching a new line of healthy breads, you could bring a nutritionist in to talk with patrons of the local food shelter and announce that you will donate your day-old breads on a weekly basis to the organization.

Timing is Everything… When executing a media event, make sure to schedule it in mid-morning. Avoid Mondays and Fridays, since the media is more difficult to reach and less dependable.

Finally, remember to think big: A media event is a public relations tool that can be a powerful way for virtually any small business to get a lot of exposure. Don’t think that holding an event is just for the big guys. Find your angle, and make it newsworthy – and they will come.

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