“The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller. The storyteller defines the vision, values and program of an entire generation to come. -Steve Jobs (1994)
In today’s fast-paced, information-driven world, managing your story and sharing it effectively with the media is more important than ever. Media relations play a crucial role in getting your name in front of new audiences and shaping how they perceive you.
At the recent E-Scrap and E-Reuse conferences, I participated in a panel discussion on this topic and thought I’d recap the key points on why it’s important to share your story with the media and how you can do it effectively.
What is media relations?
Media relations is often equated with marketing and sometimes confused with advertising, but they are fundamentally different. While publicity is what you say about yourself, media relations is what others say about you. This involves getting others, like the media and your community, to buy into and repeat your story. This independent validation adds credibility and has a broader and deeper impact than what you say yourself.
The Value of Media Relations
Gaining media coverage is more important than ever in today’s information-overloaded world. This brings credibility, improves your business reputation and increases your reach and visibility. By speaking to the media, you can reach a wider audience who might not have found you through your own marketing efforts. Additionally, being cited and covered in the media positions you as an expert in your field, differentiating you from your competitors. Additionally, media coverage has a long-term impact, helping to expand your digital footprint through SEO, sharing on social media and on your own website, it provides multiple opportunities for visibility.
Understanding the media
The “media” is not a single group. Not all media is the same. It is important to consider the ultimate audience of the media you are approaching. There are different types of media, ranging from local and community news, to industry trade and trade publications, to national and technology media. Everyone has their own audience and their own goal. While they may differ in who they reach and what they cover, all media outlets are looking for a good story – something interesting, timely, and connected to current issues or trends.
Where to start
Contacting the media can be overwhelming and intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. The best way to start is to start small and local and make a conscious effort to communicate externally. Use blogs, your website and email to make external communication an integral part of your process.
By getting your story out there – on your own channels and those you control, you can start to get a good idea of what kind of information the media might be interested in. A good idea is to find ways to educate the outside public about what your business is all about and why it’s important. When communicating with the media, remember that they will not know your daily world. Your job is to help them understand by explaining what you do clearly and to the point. Seek to educate and provide a new or unique perspective on industry trends and issues.
Ways to tell your story
News is the lifeblood of most media, but it covers more than just important news. Journalists are always open to new and interesting stories that help their readers, viewers or listeners. You can engage with media outlets by discussing topics they already cover or by repurposing your own content (like blogs and case studies) as articles or viewpoints, as long as you add perspective or a unique touch.
Members of the media love visuals and data. If you have a lot of data to share with the media, try to make it more understandable by putting it in a chart or linking it to something else.
One thing that gets talked about a lot in this industry is electronic waste. E-waste is often expressed in tonnes, but this is not always a clear concept. If we say, “Fifty-three million tons of e-waste were generated globally in 2019,” do you have a clear idea of what that looks like? Where possible, it’s good to translate this type of information into something that everyone can relate to. So in this example, if we’re trying to convey what 53 tons actually looks like, we can convert it into something that everyone can visualize – the Statue of Liberty, for example. The Statue of Liberty is estimated to weigh 225 tonnes – so 53 million tonnes could equal 235,556 Statues of Liberty. This is a visual that can have an impact. Being visual and creative can capture attention and make your story more memorable.
One thing to remember about media relations is that it is a process, not an event. Your timing and a little luck are just as important as having a good story! Making a conscious effort to engage with the media – dedicating time, attention and a little resources – can have huge and significant benefits. The value gained by companies with a positive media profile is invaluable. Just think of any large companies that come to mind, and most, if not all, have invested in media relations to help build their reputation. Building relationships with the media takes time and effort. However, by effectively sharing your story through media relations, you can inspire and influence how the public thinks of you and ultimately shape the vision, values and agenda of future generations.
Toni Sottak is the managing director of Wired Island International, a public relations firm based in Charleston, South Carolina. She has been running the business for almost 26 years.
The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not imply endorsement by Resource Recycling, Inc. If you have a topic you would like to address in an opinion piece, please send a short proposal to (email protected) for exam.