Many companies take an “If you build it, they will come” approach to their media relations strategy. As in, if you distribute a press release on a newswire, media will automatically report your news. Unless you’re a well-known brand like Apple or Google, this approach doesn’t work.
The first step to an effective media relations strategy is making sure your “news” is actually news. Did your company win a major industry award? Congratulations, but media isn’t going to write about this. You can distribute a press release about your recognition, but limit it to a local or web-only wire distribution so that it doesn’t drain your marketing budget.
Real news is something that will have a tangible impact on your industry, such as the merger of two leaders in a space or the unveiling of a first-to-market product that will save companies money. It is in these instances that a pre-briefing media strategy should be implemented.
What does it mean to “pre-brief” media?
Say you plan to publicly announce your first-to-market product in April, but want to use a pre-briefing strategy. This means you select a small group of media with whom you’ll share the news in advance, giving them a chance to speak with an executive or subject matter expert about the announcement.
Depending on how big the news is, you should ideally reach out to your select group of media one to two weeks in advance of the target announcement date. Doing so allows time to schedule interviews and gives the reporters plenty of time to write their articles.
Why use a pre-briefing strategy?
There are several advantages to using a pre-briefing strategy, one of which I’ve already mentioned. Any reporter worth their salt wants to be the first to break a story or at least bring a unique perspective to their readers. If they learn about a piece of news through a press release distributed over the wire, then the story is already public knowledge.
Reporters are also becoming increasingly overburdened and asked to write about more topics under tighter deadlines. By the time they get around to writing about your press release, the story will likely be too old to warrant an article. Or they’ll be forced to write something based primarily on the press release, rather than taking time for an interview with the SME.
By giving reporters an advanced look at an announcement, you’re allowing them the time to write a more in-depth article. This, combined with the sense of urgency that it creates, increases the likelihood that they’ll cover the story at all.
How do you implement a pre-briefing strategy?
As with any media relations strategy, the key to success is proper planning. First you have to pick your dates and stick to them—more on that in a bit. Build in the appropriate amount of time for selecting media, conducting outreach and coordinating interviews.
One of the most important decisions you can make when planning a pre-briefing is which media to include. While most media will honor an embargo (the request that they don’t share news until a particular date), it’s important that you have a strong relationship established with the reporters you choose to pre-brief to ensure that the news isn’t leaked ahead of schedule.
Once you have your short list of media, reach out to them per the schedule you prepared and ask if they would be willing to agree to an embargo. Only after you have their consent, should you share the full details of the announcement including the final version of the press release. Then you can schedule interviews, provide any additional materials the reporters request, and prepare to distribute your release as scheduled.
This is where we come back to the importance of sticking to your schedule. Since we’re giving media a specific date and time when the embargo will be lifted, its vital that everyone is in agreement on that date. The last thing you want to do is go back to media and tell them that the timeline has shifted. This undermines your credibility with media and makes them less likely to work with you on an embargoed announcement in the future.
If all goes well, a pre-briefing media strategy should result in increased interest from media and more in-depth coverage of your announcement that publishes in conjunction with your press release distribution. While this approach does require more planning than a typical announcement, it’s well worth the effort.