Understanding the media agenda

Posted under PR

stack of newspapers

PR people are often lampooned in the specialist media press for adopting a tired and amateurish approach to ‘selling in’ stories for their clients.

You know the kind of thing – sending out a mass press release distribution and then following up every media outlet with the call to find out whether they are interested or plan on covering the story.  Or even worse, just sending out a mass e-mailing of a release and then ‘hoping’ for coverage.

And yet I do wonder whether those same PR people have given any thought at all to what the media agenda is?  They know what the client wants to achieve but have absolutely no idea what the media wants.

In reality, it doesn’t matter how happy the client is with a PR agency press release.  It’s ultimately not them who determine coverage!

That is why researching the news agenda in both consumer and specialist media is so important to get in tune with the topical issues they are focusing on.  Then, and only then, can you genuinely start to understand how your client could be relevant to their agenda.

Creative PR agencies can of course help to drive the agenda by finding topical subject matter that has wider appeal – and they then need to engage with targeted journalists working in the right media outlets to talk through the story idea before simply writing a release and hoping for the best!

I have always maintained that understanding the media is more important than understanding the client.  Far too many agencies ‘delight’ clients with nicely prepared releases that sound wonderful – but in reality have little or no chance of ever appearing in print or online.

I have lost count of the number of times a client has asked us to write a release on a particular thing – only for us to say ‘no’ – because it has no relevance to the current media agenda.

It’s important to develop strategies based on the client’s objectives but also taking into account media priorities and developing a content plan is a critical part of this process.

Peter Corder

A former journalist, Peter founded Media Matters back in 1994, having worked for a number of newspaper publishing groups across East Anglia and the East Midlands in senior editorial roles.

He began the business from converted outbuildings next to his home near Stamford before moving to offices in Lynch Wood back in 2007 to cope with increasing client workloads.

Peter has now stepped back from the coal-face of the business but still provides support to the Media Matters’ team and to some clients.