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Don’t Assume the Media Can Read Your Utility’s Mind

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A bunch of calls came flooding in to my newspaper day job earlier this week from a religious organization angry that we hadn’t covered a program it did in conjunction with a religious organization of another faith.

The callers were upset because we had just covered a similar program run by two different religious organizations. They contended that their program had been going on for far longer than the one we wrote about and was certainly worthy of coverage.

And maybe it was, but there’s a big difference: The organization we covered told us about it.

Yes, it’s the job of the media to find out things, but how do you think that mostly occurs? It’s from people and organizations telling us about it. Sure, it’s not difficult to learn about a major fire when smoke fills the sky or to learn government news at a press conference, but most news stories are the results of tips that came from somewhere.

Or, as my boss told the callers, “How are we supposed to read your mind?”

The point of all this is that you can’t expect coverage just to happen. Your utility’s public relations department needs to prime the pump with a regular program of contacting the media through press releases and event  announcements, as well as a regularly updated website and an active social media presence.

Of course, it’s important to pick and choose what you’re going to promote. If you repeatedly push minor events unlikely to receive coverage, it’s akin to the “boy crying wolf.” I get press releases from some organizations on such a frequent basis that I pay little attention to all of them. That ultimately may hurt them when I overlook something that marginally might have been worth covering.

Many PR people wind up with bad reputations by not knowing about the publication they’re pitching. Before you make a pitch, be familiar with the outlet and its content. If you’ve never seen a story remotely comparable to what you’re pitching, think again.

Also be certain to never assume that the media will understand the ins and outs of your utility (trade press excepted). A few major newspapers may have a dedicated utilities reporter, but most of them will not, which means take nothing for granted in your pitching, Avoid industry jargon and explain in clear, concise terms why what you’re pitching is important to them and, more importantly, their audience.

Andy Gotlieb's picture

Thank Andy for the Post!

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