Change the channel and your thinking


As a public relations agency, we often get interesting requests from companies approaching us with one goal and one goal only: “get me on the six o’clock news.” Before Campbell Live went off the air, getting onto that programme was a request we heard several times a month.

At this point I’m tempted to go into a diatribe to remind you, the reader, of the importance of first defining your goals, determining if your audience is actually watching the six o’clock news, and establishing if media publicity should even be part of your tactics… but I won’t.

Instead, let’s assume you do have a great news story to proclaim through New Zealand media channels. If that’s the case and you haven’t been in the media for awhile, before you jump into the media scene boots and all, you need to do some research.

That’s because the channels, their audiences and the types of stories editors want have completely transformed in recent years – and continue to transform at a rapid pace.

If you automatically assume the six o’clock news – or NZ Herald or Seven Sharp – is your Holy Grail of media coverage you may be sorely mistaken. The worst outcome would be to expend all the effort to get your story on your preferred media channel only to find your audience didn’t see it and you didn’t experience any benefit.

So before you launch into your publicity plan (yes, I can’t help myself, you do need a plan) consider these points first:

Clickbait is king
The day I wrote this article, I checked out the NZ Herald website at 4pm. There were 16 articles in the headlines at the top half of the page. Half were either stories about celebrities or social media content (Kardashians and shark attacks). One-third were about crashes or fatalities and the remainder included weather, sex scandals and rugby. One of the 16 top headlines was an article on how often you should change your sheets (God help me, I clicked on it. Weekly is the answer.)

Check out many of the other mass media online news channels and you’ll find the same: sensational headlines, often not even happening in New Zealand, that tempt us to click. And who is deciding what stories are displayed on the home pages of these online news sites? You… in a roundabout way. As you click on these stories, automatic ‘bots’ use algorithms to ensure the most-clicked stories are on display.

TIP: If it’s a mass audience you need to reach, you can’t ignore these huge online news channels. That means you’ll need a sensational angle to your story. Think: what’s going to get my audience to click?

Don’t ignore social
Sources vary on the exact statistic, but we know that a vast majority – anywhere between 60-75 percent – of the population get news from social media, primarily Facebook and Twitter. That means you can’t afford to ignore social channels when it comes to getting your news out to your audience.

In fact, sometimes it is much more important for your news to be all over social than it is to be in a mass media channel. Again, it comes down to meeting your audience where they are.

TIP: To have impact with a news story on social, ensure your headline and first sentence encourages engagement – likes, shares and comments. And most importantly, great videos and photos are essential.

Communities are golden
We are finding community papers, including specialist publications such as Waikato Business News and industry papers such as Farmers Weekly or Dairy News, are more well-read than ever before. And often, getting your company news story picked up by these publications is the very best way to reach your audience when it’s well defined by either interest or geography.

TIP: If you want to get your news into communities and specialist media, ensure your story has either a ‘local’ or distinctive angle that appeals to the channel’s unique readers.

Intelligentsia can be found
At the risk of sounding like a news snob, you don’t always need to be at the mercy of the clickbait and social scene. If you’ve got a news story that demands more ‘space’ and will create a serious conversation among the well-read, don’t be dismayed. There are still many media channels that reach those who desire investigative journalism, thought-provoking content and a good, long read.

The Listener, North & South and Metro are stalwarts with intelligent and thoughtful content. Plus, there are many high quality online channels such as Newsroom, Business Desk, The Spinoff and The Conversation (which now has New Zealand content).

And don’t forget radio. Kiwis are listening in record numbers and talk shows airing at key drivetimes such as RNZ’s Checkpoint and Newstalk ZB’s Larry Williams Drive or The Country have excellent listener numbers. And remember these listeners are the ones taking your news out of the car, the office, the milking shed and into their social circles throughout the day. Radio is a great, influential channel.

TIP: If you want to get your compelling, engaging story into these channels, the key is having a provocative starting point. If you’ve got more than a one-angle news story which demands a conversation, these channels could possibly be the best to reach your audience and achieve your goals.

In summary, if you haven’t tried to get your company news into the New Zealand media for awhile it’s time to change your thinking. And depending on the audience you want to reach, it’s more than likely time to change the channels you automatically assume will achieve your reach and message goals.


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