Getting media coverage when you haven’t got a news story

I often have businesses, charities and organisations say to me “Steve, I want to get my name out there, we need to be written about in the papers, we want people to know about us, we need to get into the media – but we haven’t got anything to say”.

It’s certainly true that your best opportunity for getting some PR is when you have a news story to talk about. News is, as the word suggests, what’s new. Newsworthiness is also about what’s different or unexpected as well as new.

You don’t always have something new going on in your business, however, so you need to think about what else you can do to get news coverage or to get press coverage.

The classic way is to look to generate something new; for instance have you got a new opinion? Have you got some new expert advice you could offer? For example, I worked for a dermatologist a few years ago who wanted to get coverage over the winter. Dermatologists get lots of coverage in the summer because of sun-bathing and skin cancer stories. In the winter it’s much tougher. So we generated a piece of advice that those visiting the ski slopes should “treat the ski slope like the beach” and slap on the factor 30. We put this out as a press release saying top dermatologist offers important advice to skiers, and it got loads of coverage in national newspapers and he did interviews on the radio because this was unusual, this was different. We had managed to generate a news story when really there wasn’t anything particularly newsworthy happening; it was simply a new piece of advice.

The other classic option for generating something new is to do a survey or some research, i.e. generate some new results or statistics. For this, SurveyMonkey is your friend. You can set up a number of questions that will start to explore areas relevant to you, your business or your sector. One word of warning though: your results need to say something new or different. If a journalist reads your press release and thinks ‘well you would say that, wouldn’t you?’, you’re not going to get published. So think about what are the topics that people are discussing in your sector at the moment. What are the things that people are unsure about? And set out to try and answer some of those questions.

If you’re undertaking a survey, you need to make sure you get a decent sample size – if you’re pitching stories to local papers I’d say your sample size needs to be over 100, but if you’re going into trade magazines or the national press you really need to be aiming for 500+, ideally into the thousands. You can buy an audience to send your research through; there are companies that actually have people who are happy to fill in research, particularly in return for a prize, but this is where things like social media can really help you do it for free.

Make sure you publicise your survey widely. Send out the link to the survey on Twitter, Facebook and all the usual platforms. Send it out to your email newsletter list and send it out to all your clients, past clients, recent clients. Actually it’s a great way to touch base with people you haven’t touched base with in a while and say “I really respect your opinion – please take part in our survey and we’ll send you the results as a thank you for taking part”.

Think about what you can ask that’s going to generate new results: something startling, new statistics, and you’re well on your way to generating a news story and getting yourself coverage in the media.

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Steve BustinAuthor: Steve Bustin (20 Posts)

I'm a media and communications trainer, working under the Vada Media and Medical Media Training brands, based in Brighton but working nationally and internationally.

You can also see my google+ profile here.