The "mayor" of Hootville aka media guru Brett de Hoedt knows a thing or two about good communications and media, as an ex-journo across print, radio and TV, now heading a firm specialising in not-for-profits issues.
1. Clarify your expertise
Media is fuelled by experts. What expertise do you have? Reducing homelessness, getting people with autism a job, increasing diversity in local sports clubs? You might have expertise in one culture, locality, industry or technology.
What can you help explain? The NDIS? Selecting the best nursing home? Readying kids for school? Into which aspects of life do you have insights? What solutions do you promote?
List these on a piece of paper. Alongside each expertise, list your spokespeople, key messages, relevant data, case studies and of course; your solutions.
Note, being an expert does not mean that you are the definitive global authority. It means that based on your qualifications and experience, you have genuine smarts on a matter allowing you to hold people to account, suggest solutions, background a journalist, explain the results of a study, or add nuance to a debate.
2. Create a catalyst for coverage
Journalists usually require a catalyst or justification to cover your story. That might be new data, a protest rally, a conference, a visiting V.I.P, an anniversary, or an opening. Why not create a catalyst of your own? I recently did this with the Our City, Our Square campaign which is fighting the proposed Apple Store for Melbourne’s Federation Square. We decided to create a $40 million crowdfunding campaign to “buy back Fed Square.” We launched it at a media conference at Federation Square with some supporters, signs and an extroverted spokesperson (yours truly). Media came running, even though they knew the campaign was purely a PR stunt. We’d created a catalyst for media and got the chance to argue our case.
3. Exploit other people’s hard work and misfortune
Issue materialise every day. Recent example? Foreign lobby groups influencing our elections and the watering down of gun control laws. Can you comment/explain/critique them? Or perhaps it could be that a royal commission is announced, a breakfast TV host makes a controversial comment, or a major event is coming up. You have nothing to do with these issues materialising, but you can still use them to justify contacting media and offering your expertise and insights. Which takes us to number 4.
4. Quick sticks!
The media is a hungry beast. It wants to be fed – NOW! When you see an opportunity to enter the fray – perhaps when you hear a talkback caller ask a question or a new study into your area of expertise, do not wait. Contact the media and offer your insights. You don’t have time to wait for the next board meeting nor for your part-time communications/fundraising/executive assistant to report to work. First in will be best dressed.
5. Forget the media release
Too much time is wasted on media releases. I’d rather you invest your time identifying a good catalyst and appropriate media target in the first place. Then I want you to package your story by which I mean finding good case studies, strong visual elements, bold opinions, confident spokespeople and fresh data. This will mean more to a journalist than a well-crafted media release.