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3 Tips for Securing Top Media Coverage

By Kenneth Hitchner, Public Relations & Social Media Director

Businesses need a sound public relations strategy, when it comes to getting media placements. Public relations is earned media, while advertising is paid. When I talk about earned or free media coverage, I’m referring to the art of getting the attention of a journalist, so they will report on your story. The news that you submit can either be featured alone, in an article, or mentioned with other businesses. This may seem like an impossible feat and you do need to earn it. Journalists are generally not inclined to report on a business, simply because you provided them with information.

Therefore, here are some tips to help you think like a journalist to increase the chances of getting top media coverage for your business:

1. Write a pertinent press release

How you write the press release is as important as the content, when it comes to getting media attention. The ‘who, what, when, where and why’ should all be explained in the first two sentences or lead. Don’t forget the critically important question, What’s In it for Me? The “me” is the journalist. You need to provide news that will be important to the media outlet’s target audiences and coverage area, along with the journalist’s beat. Failure to answer these questions will significantly increase the chance of your release ending up in the trash. You’ll want to include your most important key messages, as well as a quote from someone in your business who is an authority and knowledgeable. That individual also will act as your company spokesperson, if needed. In addition, the press release should include a call to action, contact information (although some media outlets won’t run it) and a boilerplate at the end of the release, which is a brief paragraph with significant background about your business, products and services.

2. Build a media list with an eye on detail

Compiling a media list is two-fold. First, research the type of media outlets you want to reach by considering the type of news you want to share. If you want to announce a new hire or a promotion, local and hyperlocal media outlets will probably be your best bet. If you’re an organization with a staff expert on a subject that’s become a topic of national debate, that news has the potential to lure a much wider audience. Are you looking to attract Fortune 500 companies throughout the United States? Or, is your target east coast businesses with annual revenues of $50-$100 million? Every company will have a different target audience. Now consider which media outlets will reach your target market — think about newspapers, magazines, online, TV and radio. Remember also to consider trade publications that focus on the markets you’re trying to reach.

Once you have that part of the list completed, look for journalists that will be most appropriate to target at those media outlets. We’ve all heard about the cutbacks in the news business, but this can work to your advantage. Between 1994 and 2014, newsrooms have shed more than 20,000 jobs, representing a 39 percent decline. Fewer journalists mean those who remain are stretched thin and usually grateful for news that’s germane to their beat. You may want to create a few different lists and write different versions of each press release, to appeal to different journalists. Tailoring your key messages will only increase your chances of media pickup.

According to the Cision State of the Media Report:

  • 58 percent of influencers and journalists said displaying knowledge of past work, interests and beats is what drove them to pursue a story.
  • 82 percent of journalists say PR professionals can improve by researching and understanding their media outlet.
  • 72 percent of journalists say PR professionals can improve by tailoring the pitch to suit their beats/coverage.

3. Pitch the story

After you distribute the press release, it’s important to follow up with journalists, to “pitch” and further “sell your story” in a non-pushy way. Some journalists get hundreds of emails a day. Thus, to keep your news top-of-mind, send a follow-up pitch approximately two or three days after you distribute the press release.

The pitch should include the following:

  • Highlight your most important key points.
  • Tailor it for each journalist.
  • Reinforce why it’s relevant (for example, if you’re planning to pitch a local newspaper, provide a local, human interest angle).
  • Offer an interview opportunity with your spokesperson, who can provide deeper perspective on the subject.
  • Include your contact information.

In terms of the best vehicle to communicate with journalists, they continue to prefer email as the primary means of contact, with more than 90 percent indicating it as the best way to directly pitch a story idea. When a journalist responds and is not interested, don’t be discouraged. Instead, use it as an opportunity to learn about what you can do differently next time. Also, follow them on social media, comment on their articles and share leads that you think they’ll find interesting.

There are thousands of businesses vying for free coverage, so you need to consider your strategy. Think about what makes your news different or special. Take an objective look at the message you’re trying to put out there. Try to highlight what’s new or unusual. Differentiate yourself. Finally, build relationships over time with key journalists who can share your stories with their (and in turn your) target audiences. This is a time-consuming process that doesn’t happen overnight and requires expertise.

At Creative Marketing Alliance (CMA), we strive to share news that will catch media attention. CMA’s recent big announcement was about our new client partnership with Princeton-Mercer Convention & Visitors Bureau (PMCVB). We are assisting PMCVB in creating additional visibility and drawing more attention to the Princeton-Mercer Region, through digital advertising and networking opportunities with the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce (PRCC). In addition to obtaining local media coverage on the news, CMA secured a feature story that ran in the print and digital editions of ROI-NJ, the go-to source for business information in New Jersey.

How is your business getting media coverage? Do you have a public relations plan in place or a media strategy that has worked? Do you have an interesting story to tell on this topic? We’d love to hear from you. Please share it in the comments below.


Kenneth Hitchner is the Public Relations and Social Media Director at CMA, an award-winning, full service marketing agency that builds reputation, relationships and return on investment. To ensure that you are successfully promoting your brand, it would benefit you to work with professionals who are experts in public relations. CMA can help! Contact us at 800-852-4269 or email us at