Why isn’t the media publishing my story?
Getting onto G-Cloud is only the beginning. Think about the next steps! Here are five things to consider when placing public sector stories, written by Toby Gavin from MantisPR
How can we ensure we get our stories published? We’ve all been there…sent what we thought was an amazing public sector story or G-Cloud press release to a journalist and not had any luck with getting it published. So what’s going wrong?
Before sharing some hints and tips it’s worth remembering generally that the public sector technology media landscape is a highly competitive space – thousands of suppliers all want the media to showcase their latest, greatest solution or deployment. But, it’s not a case of ‘who shouts loudest gets heard’ nor who spends the most on advertising or the annual awards ceremony. Whilst media coverage is not guaranteed with every successful technology deployment, suppliers can improve their chances of success by asking themselves some straightforward questions.
1 – Know your media and make the content relevant
Journalists hate nothing more than a story sent to them that is irrelevant to the area they are responsible for covering or if it’s of little relevance to their readership. A story that talks about how a central government department has used e-auctions to procure its latest round of stationary and is targeted at the news reporter for ‘ERP in the cloud’ won’t cut it. In fact, it will likely encourage resistance from the writer and outlet to consider you for future media coverage. This isn’t arrogance on the part of the journalist, but the net effect of receiving hundreds of ill-targeted calls and emails every day.
Take time to research writers and outlets, and who their readers are. Remember they hear from hundreds of suppliers weekly and it’s important to note that journalists will favour organisations and individuals they have built a mutual rapport with. Organisations that understand their focus, their readers and can present content in a way that means they need to make very few amends to make it publishable will be regarded far more highly that those that send non-targeted or self-serving content.
2 – Is your story newsworthy?
News by definition means something is new, that it’s different, informative and worth sharing for best practice. Just because you might have sold a new electronic form solution to help citizens pay council tax online, or report a missed bin or enable citizens to self-serve online, the chances are your competitor and a neighbouring authority has done something similar recently.
You need to be creative and try to ensure your story differentiates itself. Fundamental to differentiation is ensuring you have a testimony from your customer – a story from a vendor that states how wonderful its technology is, is not editorial, it’s advertising. A story that includes an endorsement from a customer will be far more compelling than a story that does not. A story that includes research, is linked to a particular policy or addresses a major issue will have more legs than a story that has little substance to support it. You need to find that news hook.
A journalist will unlikely blindly copy word for word a news announcement. The journalist will often require input from the customer. This might well take the form of a written Q&A or a quick call. In the latter scenario, be sure you have prepped the customer as much in advance and, as comprehensively, as possible. Oh, and make sure you have the press office buy-in.
A public sector press officer has lots of considerations; a news story about the latest tech will unlikely to be a priority to them. Think about your local NHS Trust’s press team – they will likely be thinking about the winter crisis at this time of year; making sure patients, the local community and their own staff are informed and kept updated on the status. It’s your job to demonstrate the significance of your story, how it will impact patient care, how its money well spent, how it represents best practice and how well received it will be by the Trust’s own peer community.
Any call that your customers participate in, make sure you/your agency host the call. Not only will it provide reassurance to your customer that they are supported it will give you the opportunity to get your own story across to the journalist. Also, don’t lose sight of the fact that a customer will often give more detail on the project that your initial news announcement included; they will speak about other projects they are involved in and how your solution supports or is linked to other changes the organisation is making. Not only does this give you good intel, it also provides you with an opportunity to look for other content generation areas.
3 – What if your story is not news, is all lost?
Don’t just think about news as your only way of generating media coverage. Recently, a new client of Mantis PR, a PR agency specialising in Public Sector and our new partner, wanted to draft a news announcement around new product development. In Mantis PR’s view, it wasn’t newsworthy and would be potentially wasted effort. So, rather than spending time drafting and pitching a news announcement, Mantis worked with a select and niche group of targeted media to develop bespoke, exclusive content ideas – opinion articles and Q&A articles for example – in collaboration with those targeted journalists.
By thinking beyond news and, working in collaboration with journalists that trust Mantis PR, the ‘non-news’ item resulted in:
- A customer Q&A piece with a key public sector title
- A feature piece involving a key government stakeholder and influencer in a one of the UK’s most widely read technology news and opinion sites
- A feature piece whereby Mantis PR collaborated with its client’s partners, technology end users and government departments for publication in THE most respected public sector technology title
- An interview alongside the government department responsible for healthcare technology strategy to be featured in the UK’s longest serving technology title
- A 1200-word opinion article in a key public sector technology title
- The basis of a roundtable for their client to debate further a key healthcare technology theme with the media, partners, customers and prospects and government departments
And the point? A piece of content deemed non-newsworthy can be your gateway to a whole host of alternative opportunities. If your comms’ team is clever enough, knows what buyers of tech in the public sector want to read about and is driven and tenacious enough not to stop, then you will still get results, pretty good results.
4 – You didn’t write your public sector or G-Cloud story as a journalist would
The ideal story can be opened and copy/pasted into the media website. No edits. Can you imagine how much time that saves the journalist! This isn’t a likely scenario though. More often than not journalists will dissect your story, using and editing the bits they want. And, they’ll call you if they need more information. But for them to even consider publishing, you need to at least attempt to write in the style that a journalist would. They don’t want to spend hours editing your story, and they probably won’t even read it if the format is completely wrong.
In journalism one of the main aids for writing a story is the inverted pyramid. Your main news/the hook needs to go in the first paragraph. The rest of the story needs to be structured in order of diminishing importance. The bit about your company should come at the end!
This is particularly important in the digital age. The average attention span is 7 seconds. That’s shorter than a gold fishes. A journalist will open up your story and if they don’t find that hook in the first sentence or two they won’t read the rest.
5 – Your public sector story is self-indulgent and salesy
The need to promote your product or service is an understandable one. After all, your goal is to drive leads and sales. Your goal is the important thing to remember here. For the journalist, their goal is to publish a good story that will engage their readership. If your story is filled with paragraphs about how awesome your product is and how you are the best company for xyz, chances are it won’t get published.
There should be no selling in a story you are trying to get coverage for. The focus should be on the public sector. Yes, you should include a statement from your Director but you should also include one from someone from the public sector. Actually, that statement should go first.
These days journalists are inundated with emails. It comes as no surprise that often suppliers do not get that coveted coverage from the leading opinion maker. Sometimes this is due to just bad luck. If you planned and sent a brilliant media campaign, and on the same day your story went out Carillion filed for bankruptcy, your chances of being published are close to none. But before you jump to conclusions and blame external unexpected circumstances, make sure that your G-Cloud story didn’t flop because of these five basic errors. Like I said, re-examine, tailor and try again.