Did you look back on 2017 and realise not all your communication campaigns worked as you wanted them to? With shrinking newsrooms, more demands on journalists than ever before and fewer pages to fill, the challenge of reaching target audiences via traditional media reached new extremes. So, what can you do differently in 2018 to overcome these problems? Here are four New Year resolutions that, if followed, will make a difference.

 

1.Understand and get to know media like never before

A ‘send it and hope’ or mass email of a press release to media organisations rarely works and may well work against you. Journalists routinely receive well over 100 press releases or written pitches in a day and often will not even read your email, especially if you have proven a bit too self-serving in the past. Even if they are conscientious and do finally get to your note, it may be too late.

 

To interest a journalist in writing about your subject you need to present something interesting and newsworthy to his or her audience. To do this successfully and jump to the front of the queue of your competitors trying to do the same thing, it is necessary to know the journalists or bloggers you are targeting. You need to research their areas of professional interest, and become familiar with their stories. It is also prudent to know the deadlines they work to, any bug-bears they might have, and which of your competitors they are connected to on LinkedIn. Armed with this and a wide range of peripheral information, you can fine-tune your pitch to appeal to them, their media outlet and above all their audience.

 

Try to be creative and find ways to pitch beyond the standard news release and stand out from the crowd. Remember that the most engaging form of communication is face-to face and voice. By all means send a written pitch to a journalist, but always make sure you try to speak to him or her to give your pitch added impact and to build relationships for the future. If particular journalists are important to you, make a point of meeting them just to learn more about them, rather than when you need something done.

 

2.Become a journalist yourself

You know newsroom staffing levels are getting dire when journalists prefer to phone in to a news conference or have a phone interview rather than meet. Gone are the days when media organisations largely refused to take contributed content, believing their own talented staff would be able to produce it instead. With fewer editorial staff it is increasingly a matter of necessity for many publications to accept third party content, written by public relations practitioners and others, to fill out pages and sections of news sites. Take advantage of this and use your knowledge of your target media (see point one) to offer ready-to-go content that meets the needs of all stakeholders – the journalist, the media organisation and the viewer.

 

3.Realise it is all about quality content

If you want to offer content to media, it is crucial that it is of the highest quality and is of value to the eventual audience. Depending on your skills, that may involve you learning to become a better writer, or outsourcing. Great content hooks readers in the first sentence and keeps them reading until the end, maintaining interest through the regular delivery of interesting insights and surprises. You also need to write with search engine optimisation (SEO) in mind, aware before you begin that you need to emphasise key words and phrases regularly, but don’t overdo it or you will be penalised by Google. Punchy and persuasive shorter articles are more effective that longer columns – relevance and authority are the key points to remember in relation to SEO.

 

4.Know the power of video

While you may be proud of the beautiful prose in the blog you have submitted to a news website, and like to have others admire the way you pull together messages in a press release, don’t for a moment believe the written format is as powerful and effective as video and infographics (if you can get people to watch). The evidence is throughout the Internet. When it comes to product promotion, videos are 600% more effective than print and direct mail combined (Diode Digital) and consumers are more than 27 times more likely to click on an online video than a standard banner ad (Mediamind). This is because we all have become used to receiving information visually, through television and the internet, and video can combine all forms of communication – spoken, visual, text, infographics and sound. No other medium has this ability. Social video generates 1200% more shares than text and images combined (Brightcover). As a communicator, you just can’t beat video, so make sure you harness its power in your mix of communication mediums.