This week may have seen the beginning of a new future for the UK media, as the three main political parties finally came to some agreement about press regulation.
There will be a new self regulator with stronger powers to protect the public and deliver punishments to those news organisations that break the new standards code. Many people are already speaking out, on both sides, saying that the plans don’t go far enough or that they are over the top but it’s clear that if this goes through the media will have to evolve as a result.
The media, in the UK and abroad is now very different, most organisations have seen circulation numbers drop massively, some publications have disappeared completely or had to sacrifice their print versions, this has all led to a big drop in staff. At the same time, we now have many different platforms that have to be filled, mainly online and, again partly thanks to the web; there’s a vastly wider pool of news sources (recent research suggests that journalists now get a large number of stories from twitter and other social networks). This means that journalists are under more pressure than ever to write good, relevant stories, and the ones that can’t are soon shown the door. This pressure can however work to the media spokesperson’s advantage – if you can make life a little easier for the journalist then you can build a relationship and hugely increase the chances of getting your story into the press.
So how can you do this?
1. You have to make sure you really have something to say. Apply the “so what” test to your story – is it really new and interesting? Does it matter? Will it be something that the specific audience want to know? If it fails this test then the journalist or their editor will dismiss it immediately.
2. Is it clear? If the journalist, or the editor they sell it to, can’t really understand the story then it won’t make it through the media machine. Speak to your colleagues and work with the press office – cut out the jargon and boil down the story to its essence – this is the ‘headline’ you want the journalist to leave your interview remembering.
3. Examples and evidence are vital to back up your messages and stop your interview just sounding like a company brochure – if you want the media to print your marketing copy then you’ll have to call their advertising department.
4. Package it up. By giving all the elements to ‘stand your story up’ – providing some punchy quotes and making it clear and complete – you will keep control of the story, making it much less likely for other angles or your competitors’ spokespeople to hijack what you want to communicate.
5. Finally, get some media training to make sure you can do it right in the real interview – but then we’re bound to say that aren’t we!
Written by Will Edwards – www.bluewoodtraining.co.uk – March 2013