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April 2009 - Meeting the Media: What it Takes to get Media Coverage

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John Kline, PhD, inspirational and motivational keynote and after-dinner speaker and corporate trainer.

April 2009

Meeting the Media: What it Takes to get Media Coverage

This is the sixth column in the series on Meeting the Media.

Recently, I was asked to visit a major university for the purpose of listening to and evaluating presentations by students on public affairs service learning projects.  I listened as students in each group mentioned the difficulty of getting the media coverage they had wanted.  I empathized with them and told them something I learned years ago. While the media generally wants to be helpful, they are only willing to report on what captures the attention of their audiences. Here are eight things audiences want to hear.

  • Immediacy—If it is old, it’s not news.  The media wants to report on something that just happened or is about to happen.
  • Proximity—The closer to home, the better; audiences are more interested in things that affect them or their community.
  • Prominence—People want to hear about public figures, elected officials and famous persons.  They will be interested if the President is ill, buys a dog for his children or commits a gaffe or makes a faux pas in public; they will not be interested if a relatively unknown person does the same things.
  • Oddity—Most of us are interested in a bizarre, unusual or unexpected event.  As journalists often say, “if a dog bites a man, that’s not news; but if a man bites a dog that’s a different matter.”  An event is more newsworthy if there is something different about it.
  • Conflict—Arguments, debates, or situations where there is a winner or loser capture an audience’s attention.  Consider all the attention given to elections, sports events, contests or competitions.
  • Suspense—As with conflict, people’s interest is piqued when the outcome is unsure.  Will a company weather a financial crisis?  Will the hikers lost in the mountains be found and rescued? 
  • Emotions—Situations that stir up sympathy, anger or other emotions gain and keep audience interest.  Appeals to the emotions sell newspapers and attract viewers.  Appeals to the emotions generally gain larger audiences than appeals to logic or reason.
  • Bad News—The worse or more scandalous the news, the more attention it garners.  Whereas you want to use the first seven items in this list to make your story more attractive, you want to avoid bad news or scandal, for it brings the kind of attention you generally want to avoid.

Keep these things in mind the next time you seek media coverage.

John Kline
Montgomery, Alabama

December 2006 - Motivating Others: Communicate Clearly
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