9 Ways to Gain Media Coverage


Last updated 2/20/2024 at 9:32am

“How do I get featured in the media?” It’s a question I hear a lot. Business owners, nonprofits, event producers, entrepreneurs, artists: they all ask.

The answers reflect my experience as a freelance writer and editor for approximately four zillion years. I’ve been Senior Editor for a branding and interactive agency in New York; I’ve written restaurant reviews for alternative weeklies. Music and performance critic, horoscope columnist, early Internet content creator, you name it, I’ve probably written it.

The Nugget may be especially dear to my heart, but I’m not on its staff. I also work frequently with Plazm, a branding, design, and creative content firm in Sisters and Portland. I’m their consulting editorial director, again not on staff. This is all to say that my opinions here are my own — not Plazm’s, not The Nugget’s.

So. How does one get media attention? You probably know you’re supposed to buy ads, send out press releases (PR), do social media, place public service announcements. Or something.

In a larger organization, on-staff professionals will create a communications plan and oversee its execution. In-house pros frequently request that outside firms and freelancers bring in their wider perspectives and expertise. That’s why humongous corporations like Nike, rock stars like Sting, and cable channels like SyFy don’t even blink at paying me and my colleagues to help.

But at heart, I’m rooting for the little guy—family businesses and useful nonprofits. It’s frustrating to see how the big guys can afford outside help where smaller orgs can’t. The big guys also have the institutional history, knowledge, and experience to understand the value of outside helpers, and the long-term return on investment on marketing and communications expenditures.

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Can your little organization afford what a global corporation can? Probably not. But you can save up, understanding that — especially if your organization grows— you may need professionals later.

In the meantime, you can show discernment in your outreach efforts. Figure out what’s worth focusing on, experimenting with, or committing to (even if it means ending your sentence with the occasional preposition).

Most companies do not need a robust, time-consuming presence on every social and search platform, for example. In fact, good coverage in traditional media such as newspapers, TV, magazines, and radio can drive social and get shared.

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Let’s say you decide to focus on local media coverage. Today we’ll use the example of co-housing, a cool way of approaching housing, community, and property ownership. When an international co-housing advocacy group had trouble attracting media interest for their local co-housing communities, I advised them along these lines:

1. Be timely. Frame your story to highlight something that’s happening right now. “People enjoy co-housing” is not a story the journalist can sell to her editor. However, “Baby Boomer retirees seek community housing in record numbers” is a story. “We are having another co-housing conference” is barely a story. “Taylor Swift just posted from a co-housing space in Copenhagen; learn more at our annual conference” is a story.

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2. Creatively contextualize the role of your event or community in the larger culture. Ride on current trends. The Boomer retirement issue is a long trend that will need new coverage angles for years. Tiny houses, Airstream trailers, loneliness among senior citizens, reducing carbon footprints, and reducing houselessness are subjects of great interest. Is there an angle on one of these, relative to your co-housing community?

3. The media likes good visuals. Your co-housing community will have a booth at the street fair? OK, yawn. How about: your community’s booth is sponsoring free face-painting for all kids. Hire a good makeup artist. Invest in excellent photography of cute kids in wild face paint, in your co-housing courtyard. Now we have a story! You can use these photos for years to come.

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4. Integrate your PR efforts with all your outreach and events. Make sure they are on-brand and in keeping with your strategy and mission. Smaller orgs and companies often squander their time and money on scattershot efforts.

5. Target your journalists and media outlets. Do your research. Most of the PR I’ve received in my kazillion-year career has been irrelevant to my coverage, a waste of my time. Show that you care enough about your story, and the journalist or publication, to pitch something relevant to them.

Sending a press release to AARP? Quote Joan Baez in it, use statistics relevant to retirees. Sending PR about that same event to an urban alt-weekly? Open with a snarky paragraph and quote a hip DJ or chef.

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6. Over time, build relationships with your media-folk; we’ll talk more about that in an upcoming column.

7. Format things the way each media outlet likes them to look. Always include the essential who, what, where, when, how, and why within the first two paragraphs.

8. Triple-check your facts: time, address, spelling of the photographer credit, etc. Don’t make your journalist sweat to find quality information! Make your PR easy to turn into a real story.

9. Hire a professional. Some folks build their own houses; most of us hire a contractor. A lot more people attempt to do their own marketing, communications, and PR…but they’re about as qualified to do the job as I am to build you a house.

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Hope these items are useful! Reach me at [email protected].


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