Dunn Blog II: What’s the hook?

Public relations takes many forms – social events, blog chatter, and celebrity representation and sponsorship are three – but one of the most effective, least costly routes to positive ink is media relations.

Success rests on the development of a news hook – a focus that is both timely and relevant to hang a story on. For example, in Vancouver right now, what’s timely and relevant is the Winter Olympics. So if you’re selling ski chalets, a news hook to pitch media could be your marketing initiatives to capture visitors’ attention during the Games. Your activities could be a news item for a real estate reporter, or a marketing columnist. The setting up of your glossy presentation centre could even capture the attention of a TV news producer, as part of a wider “B.C. is getting ready to capitalize on the Games” feature.

But it’s not enough to just focus the story. You also need to focus the target.

Simply crafting a media release and pressing the send button to your generic list of 1,235 editors and reporters is not enough to gain coverage. Newsrooms get hundreds of releases every day via email, fax, news wire services and Canada Post, so chances are, you’ll get lost in the din. With shrinking newsrooms, your best bet today is to frame a story to suit a particular publication or reporter.

It’s critical to know who the media are, and how they work. If you’re looking to gain entry into TV or radio, your best bet is to call the assignment editor (the person making the daily news coverage decisions) before 10 a.m. By that time, the majority of stories and reporters are assigned for the day, and editors start heading into production meetings. The only way you’ll get an editor’s attention after 10 a.m. is if you shoot someone, but that’s likely not the kind of coverage you are hoping for.

What's the Hook?
Image: Courtesy of Flickr / obihave

Newspapers have a variety of deadlines, from daily to monthly, depending on the section. Your locally-made chocolate Olympic medals may tempt the Food section editor as the Winter Games draw near, but remember that they publish only once per week and often plan several weeks in advance. If you’re hoping for coverage during the Games, it would be best to send your materials several weeks in advance.

Magazines, on the other hand, prepare stories months before they appear in print so it’s crucial to find out each publication’s lead time as well as what sort of stories they are looking for. As it is for Australians, January is summer for magazine editors in January, and that’s the time to start pitching your waterfront property in the Shuswap.