How to Attract the Media in Economic Hard Times

(Originally posted October 10, 2008)

It’s “scary” out there. Turn on the TV and all you hear about, aside from the upcoming Presidential election, is how bad the economy is. Having weathered many economic cycles in my lifetime, I’ve grown accustomed to the ups and downs of the markets and how the media infuses psychological trauma to the masses feeding the economic frenzy with never ending poor economy stories. I have seen this happen time and time again in economic downturns, so this isn’t new to me. History repeats itself and there is nothing new under the sun.

Without going into the story behind the story of the current economy crisis, I will acknowledge that this is one of the worst, but understand that things do turn around. The market is making a huge correction as it never could have sustained the illusionary gains for the long term (just as in the “dot com” downturn). There are good times and there are bad times — it’s part of the economy and part of life.

Several things you need to know about a bad economy. Even in bad economies people are making money and will continue to make money. Also, the trillions of dollars that “disappeared” from the stock market was just simply transferred into someone’s bank account. While millions of people have been losing their retirements and their “shirts,” that money has gone somewhere – it didn’t evaporate — someone just got rich. Finally, what does this info have to do with a media blog?

Now, let’s talk turkey. The economy has everything to do with broadcast public relations. Clients are seeing budgets cut, even jobs cut. The world seems to be in a panic. Why would the media want to listen to your story when there are such serious issues at hand? But what do smart people do in situations like we’re seeing unfold before our eyes? They make money and make a killing in these markets. They respond to how the world is changing by changing their strategy and approach to business. The world is not ending, just the world as we know it for now. Several years from this day, you’ll be back to a new normal. In the meantime, you have a job to do which is to get your story on the air and in the news, so what do you need to know?

Number One: The News is Focused on the Economy so Spin Your Story Accordingly.
We just produced a Co-Op SMT at the end of the September on Insider Travel Secrets which was about creative ways to travel and save money. We featured a hotel rewards program and a destination that has great deals in the fall shoulder season of travel. Knowing that we couldn’t do a traditional “Insider Travel Secrets” pitch as the media would have perceived the story as frivolous and that their viewers cannot afford to travel during our current economy, we pitched this story to the media as “Tough Times are Great Times for Travel Bargains.” By the day of the tour, we had booked 26 interviews (16 TV, 9 Radio, 1 IPTV) including many Top 25 markets. Our SMT actually hit during the news of the $700 billion bailout story so our angle struck a chord with the stations.

So look at your current clients and existing campaigns. Keep in mind that you may need to go back to the drawing board and scratch current plans rather than forging ahead with a plan that won’t work in today’s media environment. Look at ways to spin your client or service as a solution. If you represent a luxury item and think all is lost, think again. Spin your product or service in this way, “While it seems like most Americans are cutting back, some are feeling very confident.”

Number Two: What You Focus on Expands.
Without sounding like a self-help guru, you need to focus on the positive and stop focusing on the negative as the negative will ruin you and your ability to be productive. The Law of Attraction states, “what you focus on expands,” so if you focus on creative ways to get media in the current economy instead of how hard it is to get media in any economy, you have the first key to standing out during this economic season.

Focus on how you’re going to revise current campaigns to respond to the current media climate.

Number Three: Panic is Not Your Friend – So Don’t Panic.
I produce a lot of live television events and the key to being successful as a producer of live television is don’t panic. When I was producing gavel-to-gavel coverage of the O.J. Simpson criminal trial, we had a production assistant on staff who was very good at infusing panic on the set and had a knack for making every situation somehow turn into some emergency. I had a choice to either buy into her panic or NOT to buy into panic. Now she was good, so a few times she “got” me, but she taught me a very valuable lesson that I use to this day on the set. No matter what is happening, I do NOT panic because panic does not help the situation. If the station cannot tune in a satellite, don’t panic. Calmly work with the engineer until you succeed in solving the issue. If an IFB goes down, don’t panic. Calmly find a quick solution. If a spokesperson hasn’t mentioned a client and the station is wrapping, don’t panic. Calmly use the IFB to speak into their ear to get the mention in. Getting excited and buying into panic generally has one outcome — you don’t succeed with your mission and you’ve made the entire crew feel helpless and hopeless in the process.

Professionals don’t panic. Professionals respond calmly with solutions when “the sky is falling.”

Number Four: Prediction – Stations will Come Back to Using More Corporate Provided Programming (VNRs, B-Roll Packages, SMTs).
We all know the ups and downs that broadcast public relations has experienced in the past couple of years due to a certain “watchdog group” and the challenges that has caused in our industry. It’s helpful to look at a little history on this and how history will repeat itself. One of the reasons VNRs, B-Roll packages, and SMTs were so prominently used by stations in the past is budget — stations just didn’t have them. In addition, stations didn’t have the personnel to cover consumer news so the corporate provided b-roll was a win win situation when the story was newsworthy and/or unique and fun. News stations will see budget cuts in the very near future. Ad revenues for stations will be down and so news directors will have to respond by cutting staff. When that happens, their resources will be stretched and I predict that there will be a gradual and systematic return to corporate provided programming (with newsworthy topics). History repeats itself and there’s nothing new under the sun.

What We’re Doing During the Economic Downturn:
We are following our own advice during this challenging economic season. We’re currently creating great opportunities for our clients with Co-Op Satellite Media Tours that will resonate with news stations. For example, we’re producing “Christmas on a Budget: Great Gifts Under $20” and other topics that are responding to the current media focus. We sincerely hope that our clients will see how to use these TV tools to generate great broadcast P.R. for their products, brand or service.

If you need to be “talked off the ledge,” or need help revising current campaigns, email me at mschwab@cmpmediacafe.com and we’ll set up a complimentary consultation.

Posted by Marianne Schwab, Executive Producer, CMP Media Cafe

Copyright (c) 2008. CMP Media Cafe. All Rights Reserved.

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