In class this week, we were talking about where we’d send a PSA and media kit as part of a campaign to increase voter registration in our local community (Eugene, Oregon). It was a pretty casual discussion, but it brought up an important topic:
Regardless of your “market,” you must be an avid media consumer. You must know and understand how the media work. You must consume local media, the key national media and relevant trade and consumer media. You must be able to name, off the top of your head, the media that matter to you and your work.
There are two points I’d like to make about this.
The first is that even if you don’t enjoy reading the local paper or catching the evening news or (gasp!) listening to NPR – it’s your job in PR to know that the media’s agenda is and how your client or organization fits. This is a vague requirement, but an important one. You may have heard recently that Ms. Palin has been ridiculed for not being able to name a single media outlet from which she gets information. While you’re not likely to have the opportunity to fumble an interview with Katie Couric, it should be just as embarrassing for you if you can’t answer this basic question.
The second point is more directly related to your future work in PR and specifically, media relations. I would estimate in those campaigns that I’ve worked on with a media relations component, the top tier list of media was no more than about 10 or 15 outlets. These were the media that we focused on as being the most important strategically.
You must know these media inside and out, backwards and forwards. Pitching your top tier media takes research (and more research!) and preparation and you should be working to build long term relationships. This means that you really get to know these outlets and yes, even be able to name them off the top of your head.
Test yourself with an easy question: Can you name every local media outlet in your city?