Media outreach is a part of many institutions’ strategies, describing a range of activities designed to get the attention of media representatives who could be interested in your newsworthy stories and willing to share them with your target audience.
Now this may sound easy, but it definitely isn’t, and it’s something that requires a lot of time and effort as often the bulk of it revolves around creating professional relationships with the right people. For example, here at BlueSky Education, we have spent over a decade working closely with higher education, business, and many other types of journalists globally in order to provide the best service for our clients.
Why is media outreach important?
Since we have spent so much time working to make our media outreach as effective as possible, I will first explain why it is so important!
Quite simply, it is the best way to generate exposure and visibility for your brand, especially in today’s climate where the number of competitive business schools globally is growing – most of which use the media to their advantage.
So, perhaps you’re reading this because you don’t think your media outreach is working as well as you would’ve liked, well you’ve come to the right place. There are several different reasons as to why that might be the case – but there are three common reasons as to why.
You haven’t got a clear plan set out
Having a clear plan laid out which contains your goals, your target audience, and how you plan to achieve success is so important because it keeps you and your team in check. The sole purpose of an outreach plan is to help you stay focused on your objectives, as well as better execute your strategy, and measure the success.
In our case, setting out the goals can be very varied but be careful not to be too generic. Simply saying that you want to have more applicants might not be helpful enough with your outreach, whereas saying you would like more applicants for a particular course or from a certain country will make it much easier for you to select the right media to reach out to.
Having clear goals set out like this helps to measure progress along the way too and therefore allows you to align your efforts much more effectively. You can see if you’re targeting the right publications, with the right target audience, as the target market has been clearly set out.
You’re not targeting the right journalists
Journalists and editors are essential to the success of your media outreach. These are the people that will be publicising your brand, so make sure you’re targeting the right ones!
Once you have set out the goals, this allows you to target the appropriate journalists. For example, if you would like to have more applicants to your MBA, then you definitely need to make sure you’re reaching out to Higher Education and Business journalists – you can be even more specific and directly target certain publications such as QS Top MBA or BusinessBecause.
If you don’t target the correct journalists then all of your hard work pitching will be going to waste. I warn you that you could end up being blocked or sent straight to delete. Journalists are busy people, and are stretched more than ever, so we often hear that their inboxes are bursting. Don’t annoy them further by pitching something to them that has absolutely no relevance to what they write about.
Take the time to research who the correct journalists are to target, most have their beat in their bio, or utilise media databases which specify what journalists write about – trust me, it is a much more effective use of your time than just endless pitching.
Your pitches/subject line are not interesting enough
Following on from the above, as journalists are busy people with inboxes full of pitches from PRs, you need to make sure that yours stands out. The first step is to make sure that your subject line is interesting, think of it like a headline, it needs to grab the reader’s attention straightaway - if it doesn’t, it’s likely to remain unopened or deleted.
Once you’ve got past the difficult stage of them actually opening the email, your pitch needs to engage them straightaway. It needs to be short and snappy. Journalists are often put off by an insanely long email as they haven’t got time to read it. The opening line also needs to be interesting; this is where you put the most important part of your pitch, don’t start off with context etc. just go straight into it – the journalist will be grateful, and hopefully respond to you.
So, those are three key reasons why your outreach might not be working, and how you can improve it. These are simple things that can be easily rectified, but sometimes the support of an external agency who specialises in the area can be incredibly helpful - they’ve built up the network of media contacts required, and have years of experience in crafting effective outreach.