50 ideas for grabbing the media’s attention: Get creative! [PART 6]

This is part six of a seven-part series on earning the media’s attention and winning the coverage you want. Here are parts one, two, three, four and five in case you missed them.

Virtually every piece of career advice I read for PR pros says that creativity is an essential part of the job. Given the volume of less-than-creative news releases and pitches that go out everyday, sometimes I wonder how many of my colleagues are really exercising their creative muscles.

Creativity is key to getting media coverage (quite please - creativity in progress)

Photo by {link url=”http://www.sxc.hu/profile/marganz”}Marganz{/link}

But the career advice is correct: Creativity is an essential part of public relations. And by being creative with the way you approach the media, you can land positive coverage for your company, yourself or your cause. Read on for a dozen ideas.

1. Tie in to the pop culture news of the day. For example, if a celebrity life receives a lot of coverage for something — bankruptcy, illness, the birth of a new child — ask yourself if you can add a local news angle to that. Financial advisors and accounts could say what advice they would offer to the celebrity with financial problems. Doctors, mid-wives and even a baby retailer can find angles to capitalize on a celebrity birth. The possibilities are endless if you’re alert and creative.

2. Do something charitable. Volunteer: Head up a fund drive for a worthy cause or take on a worthy cause as your own. Then seek publicity for the cause. You’ll benefit by association. One local law firm I know of got glowing coverage in part because the partners told a reporter about how they took six weeks off to travel to India and help in recovery efforts after the devastating 2004 tsunami. True, your charitable activities ought to reflect authentic beliefs and values. But if you or your company is already doing this work you should consider spreading the word. Remember this kind of coverage could also helps support the charitable cause.

3. Find out what your employees are doing that’s charitable and pitch those activities and individuals to the media. To ensure your company gets in the story (and make those employees even happier) you could even support those activities by matching their personal donations or making at least a portion of their volunteer time paid leave. Remember, lots of companies participate in the United Way, so it’ll take a bit more creativity than simply announcing you’ve achieved your annual goal. But often you’ll find an individual, cause or activity that is interesting and different enough to attract media coverage. Even if your company isn’t mentioned, such coverage is often encouraging and empowering for employees, helping them feel good about their company and motivating them.

4. Do something interesting or entertaining. Have an interesting or unusual hobby? Have you traveled somewhere exotic recently? Pitch stories about that. While the resulting coverage probably won’t focus on your business, you and your company could get some attention and exposure out of it. I know one local businessman who is passionate about Civil War re-enactments. That could be leveraged for positive media coverage.

5. Respond to competitors’ announcements. Many companies are reluctant to react to other companies business moves, especially those of competitors. But the rarity of such responses makes them a draw for reporters. If you’re the industry leader, you may not want to do this, but it could be a good tactic for other companies, especially upstarts looking to upset an industry’s status quo. Here’s an example of how one CEO did this, taken from David Meerman Scott’s excellent book Newsjacking (which, by the way, has all sorts of creative ideas for winning news coverage).

6. Run a contest or promotion with a charitable angle. Maybe you’re offering a percentage of sales to a local charity for a period? Let the media know.

7. Head up a civic initiative. If you’re involved with a local civic group or public-private board and that group is advancing a major initiative, be visible in that effort. Talk about it with the media — and with other influencers. You’re likely to land at least a little coverage (often in a positive context), and you might even get a reporter interested in a profile focused on you.

8. Hold an event for the community. Can you put on a carnival, fair or some kind of event for the local community? Do that and you’ve got a good chance of getting local media to show up and, in the process, get some coverage. (And the event itself will give you opportunities to market directly to potential customers.)

9. Create a photo opp. Sometimes the best stories are told in pictures — unusual events, rare happenings, or simply something that’s fun and out of the ordinary. Notify TV stations and the photo editor of the local paper that there’s a good visual to be had.

10. Create case studies and customer stories. Maybe the real story is not about you, but about a customer and (not so incidentally) how your company/product/service helped that customer in some interesting, important way. Write those up, get buy-in from the customer and then publish them online and use them as news pitch topics. If you’re using any of the techniques I mentioned in “Part 4 — Create your own media,” this will also fit in nicely with that. If your customer is willing (and many will be), you could offer them to reporters as sources/interviews.

11. Instead of pitching what your business sells, pitch how your business operates. Most companies default to seeking media coverage about their products and services. However, reporters are often interested in stories about different or unusual ways that companies operate. If you have many telecommuters, funky and creative office space or have implemented of ROWE, pitch those angles. Anything that’s different about how your company operates could be a hook for a positive story. Note that these differences must be clear and concrete to outsiders. Saying you have corporate values that differentiate you from competitors is probably not going to impress a reporter; telling reporters that your company offers unlimited vacation time (as Netflix does) probably will.

12. Offer reporters a behind-the-scenes look. Provide tours of manufacturing areas or an insider’s tour as construction is being finished on a new building where many people will work. Instead of waiting for the day when everything is final, give journalists a sneak peek. This kind of look behind the curtain can also help you build positive relationships with reporters that will result in better coverage down the road.

What creative tactics have you used, or seen others use, to get media coverage? Please share your ideas in the comments below.

Coming next: Harness traditional media relations tools. Sign up for my email list to make sure you don’t miss any of the posts in this seven-part series.

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