Media Coverage: Is it really that important for your business?

I was asked to write a couple of guest blog posts about securing media coverage for digital marketing consultancy Crocus Communications, and thought I’d share them here too. This first post focusses on whether trying to get media coverage is worth it and looks and key advantages and disadvantages; next week’s follow-up will look at questions you can ask yourself to help plan your approach.

Media Coverage: Is it really that important for your business?  

One of the most common things I’ve heard clients and potential clients say to me, both as a freelancer and when I worked in a PR agency, is “We want to appear in the media” or variations of this. On the other hand, in the era of social media and digital communications, there are people who question the need for traditional media coverage at all, when there are so many other ways of communicating with your audiences, often more directly. 

The sort of media coverage I’m talking about is unpaid space, a form of “earned media”: you approach a media outlet with an idea or a news release (or they approach you or cover you without an approach), but you do not pay for the space (as you would do for advertising).

Key advantages of media coverage:

  1. The space is free.
  2. You can reach a large audience.
  3. You can reach a targeted audience, for example:
    • geographically (e.g. Manchester Evening News)
    • by interest (e.g. Gardener’s World)
    • by demographic profiles (e.g. Mums in the Know).
  4. You gain the credibility of being featured positively: g. if your cookware product is featured in BBC Good Food magazine’s ‘What’s Cooking’ page or you are interviewed in the Sunday Times’ ‘How I Made It’ feature this can be seen as an endorsement by a respected media outlet, or at least recognition that you are relevant and of interest to their audience. Showing that you can generate media coverage can also be useful when pitching to investors, to show potential stockists and entice potential employees – as well as customers.

However, there are also disadvantages:

  1. Since you are not paying, you have no control over what is published or aired – it is up to the journalist and editor to decide what they include. Therefore, you really have no right to get angry (although I see this a lot) if they choose not to include something you wanted them to.
  2. It is hard to get a conversation going with your audiences when you are communicating via a third party.
  3. Media is fragmented – there are so many channels now, it is unlikely that coverage in one will meet your objectives, and a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work. Therefore creating relevant and targeted approaches can be very time-consuming.
  4. Journalists are busy, really busy, with some journalists and newsrooms receiving hundreds of news releases per day, and this makes it very hard for yours to stand out.
  5. Evaluation can be difficult – achieving the coverage is one thing, but accurately measuring what that coverage achieved can be hard (e.g. how many people heard about you for the first time thanks to the article? Have people’s opinion about your products changed as a result? Are they more likely to buy? And so on).

My response to the original question, “I want to appear in media” is always “Why?”

I want to get to what lies behind this and what the real objective is. Being covered in the media is really a means to help you achieve your marketing and communications objectives. It can help you reach your target audiences; raise awareness; generate interest; position you or your organisation, products or services in a certain way; drive people to your website or to events, to buy tickets or buy a product or service, etc.

Sometimes of course someone might want to be featured in the media simply because their CEO or boss has said they need to get media coverage; they feel it means they’ve made it; or, dare I say it, because of ego. Typically in those cases it can be harder to determine what the angle is for a story.

So, go back to the drawing board and ask “Why” until you work out what needs to be achieved. Then you can decide whether trying to secure media coverage is the right way to go about it (or part of it), and if so, what the most appropriate channels would be. It is not necessarily the best or only communications channel for everyone (or for the faint-hearted, work-shy or time-poor!) but it can be enormously successful when done well.

Next week’s article will focus on: 7 questions to ask yourself to help you generate media coverage.

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