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How to Get Media for your Organisation Without Hiring a PR Agency

media interview

How to Get Media for your Organisation Without Hiring a PR Agency

This is something I have strong feelings about.

There is a right way to do this and a clumsy, unethical, ugly way. I want to show you the right way. (For the love of God, please do it the right way.)

A bit of background

I come at this from two perspectives. Firstly, from a Communications journalism perspective. At uni, we were taught ethics and moral philosophy. Chequebook journalism is for the shock jocks in talkback radio for the largely non-thinking audience.

These days, journalists have to be multimedia storytellers. They don’t just produce text. They produce text, photography, video, audio, and graphics.

My other perspective is Marketing communications. Marketing is a discipline I love but it is much-maligned. Not unfairly. It’s a creepy and revolting profession in a lot of ways.

But in essence, there are good people like you doing incredible work to make the world a better place, and I love marketing because I want to help. As a multimedia storyteller.  See where I’m going?

I help the media get good stories. I help good organisations get media.

I’m at the intersection between marketing and media.

Now, let me break this to you gently.

The media is not interested in writing an article about you and your service.

That, my friend, is called an Advertisement. An ad, or advertorial, is something you pay for.

In my experience, this is something a lot of people don’t seem to understand.

The media is interested in stories and topics. Usually, they need to be timely to be relevant. But not always. There are plenty of strategies, which I will share with you below, that we can use to be media-friendly and get publicity the right way.

If there is one piece of advice as to how to get media and publicity, it’s this.

This applies whether that’s fourth estate  [mainstream TV, radio, newspapers] or fifth estate [bloggers, freelancers, podcast makers].

Treat the media as one of your markets. Serve them what they need.


Why would you want publicity for your service?

Publicity is worth a lot more than advertising.

How so?

First of all, publicity is free. Secondly, media publicity has more credibility than advertising.

Do you ever watch Media Watch on ABC? Notice how one bad report will run on multiple major news outlets and across newspapers and TV stations?

Yes, it’s disturbing. But the fact is,  the media feeds itself. If a story runs in one place, it can be easier for it to multiply across a range of media. Plus there is concentrated media in places like Australia and few owners. No, that is not a good thing, but that’s the game today.

Media outlets want to run the same or similar content. No one likes to be scooped.

If you or your service is looking for some media and publicity, here is how to go about it.

Blog letters on newspaper pile

Getting Ready

Part of getting ready is getting the ducks in a row. What ducks? Your target ducks.



Who is your target audience? What, therefore, is the target media that they consume?

Think about the key publications that would be favourable to run something about you. What is your dream coverage? What’s your A list?

Also, keep in mind a B list because any coverage has value. What I mean is this. Your A list might be mainstream media and the B list might be a blogger or podcaster. They have value too. That value might lie in the Google indexed page. That, in turn, might help a major reporter with content or research.

Sector partners might not result in media headlines, but they are valuable communication recipients. They can spread the word through email to their contact list. They’ll have loyal readers and you probably share values and higher-order goals.

Bloggers and podcasters are certainly worth considering. Blogs and podcast episodes stick around for a long time. They’re searchable, discoverable long after the newspaper has been composted.

Got Publicity Hooks?

Hooks are the media-genic angles that we can hang our hat on, so to speak. There are hooks that are timely. There are hooks that are evergreen.

At the time of writing this, the world is experiencing a coronavirus pandemic. Are you in any way related to that? Do you have an angle on this?

Let’s say your organisation addresses an issue. Homelessness? Domestic violence?

How has isolation contributed to levels of domestic violence in your area?

How do homeless people isolate when they have no home?

If there is no timely relevance, no problem. Your hooks might be evergreen and always newsworthy.

hat hanging on a hook

Got pictures?

Do you have quality high-resolution photos available? Are they on your website?

The photos could be headshots of you, they could be action-shots of you in a situation performing the service.

Ever notice that when there’s an interest rate change, all newsrooms on television show footage of the RBA building? It’s not very interesting but it’s better than nothing. Some of the newspaper angles are pretty good, I think. Decode them.

The nice shaft of sunlight on the building. Optimism. Or fading sunlight. Gloom. A jagged edge for hard times ahead.  A reflection of a cloud on the brushed steel lettering. Uncertainty?


Got a video?

Do you have a talking-head video on your website?

Start crafting some memorable soundbites. These are short and snappy or visual ways pf describing the problem. Good visual language will help you stand out.

Remember, it’s not the best politicians who win elections. It’s the ones people remember. Help people remember you and your service with clear, visual language.


Build a Media List

person writing a list

How do you build a Media List?

Well, the first point is that you can buy a list. You can hire a PR agency and they will have access to resources such as Cision, Meltwater, or the old AAP Medianet list.

Or you can build your own. I would definitely recommend building your own because it is better when it comes from you, not an agency.

Think about the target publications you would ideally like coverage in. What about the journalists and reporters for those publications. Who are they?

These days, journalists want you to find them and pitch them something relevant. As long as it’s relevant to their area of reporting, you are helping them do their job.


Good sources for names and contact details

For the names and contacts of reporters, go to the publication itself. Often there will be an email address, an editor’s name.

Start making a spreadsheet in Google Sheets or whatever you use to keep a note of people.

Many reports and journos are also on Twitter. Twitter is an excellent place to find reporters, bloggers and freelance writers on your topic. Use the hashtags to see what is out there.

You can also see their follower numbers and ascertain how much influence they have.

LinkedIn is another choice place for contact details o9f specific writers and reporters.

And the elephant in the proverbial, Google.

There is an online service called

This website allows you to enter the name of the company and it will find you the email addresses for people who work there. I know, insane.


Specific Pitches to Your List

There will likely be specific people you will want to write about you. They are journalists/producers/reporters/bloggers who specialise in your area. They may also have a loyal following.

Personal approaches need to be thoughtful.

Take the time to read what they write and make sure it is relevant to them.

This formula to get media will work for any service organisation or sole trader who provides a service.

Here is my recipe:

Give the headline a great hook, using a tailored publicity hook

Offer them one clear paragraph introduction

Refer to other articles they have written on the topic and show you understand the niche. Remember, this is not an ad about how great you are, but about a subject you have some insight into.

Make yourself easy to contact for an interview

Offer photos, video

If you can meet face-to-face, a personal meeting is always better remembered than an email, but an email or Twitter DM if it is thoughtful will be a shining light in a necrosis of irrelevant, boring media releases that are actually ads.

Evergreen Strategies to Get Your Pitch to Stand Out and Be Less ‘Adsy’

Like I mentioned earlier, some people never get this straight in their heads. The media doesn’t run ads. Sure, your objective may be to get publicity and media attention, but that doesn’t mean the pitch will not be newsworthy. The story is not about you, it’s about a topic.

Steve Harrison shares his thoughts about a few evergreen publicity hooks for landing media.


Hook Strategies

tiger#1 Apply your advice to a specific situation.

#2 Bust a Myth – is there something commonly misunderstood you could explain.

#3 Top Ten List

#4 Danger of… Is there a crouching tiger, a hidden dragon, a silent killer, a sleeping assassin about? These items are mediagenic and simple storytelling devices. Is there a villain in the house?

#5 Your origin story

# 6 Your research – find some research or you may be in a position to do your own.

Here is a Hook example

An Audiologist, Lisa, positions her services on healthy hearing. She writes a pitch based on both #1 (applying her knowledge to a specific situation) and #2 and breaks the myth that people should use cotton buds to clean their ears.

By using any of the large amounts of publicly available research, she concludes that a cotton bud does a lot more potential damage to the ear and is best avoided. She recommended a few other ways of cleaning the ear instead.

“At least once a week I see a person for hearing test who has stabbed themselves in the eardrum with a cotton bud,” says Lisa Comack, an audiologist. “Something innocuous-seeming like a cotton bud can cause permanent devastation to hearing.”

Feel the drama? The tension?

Her contact details and storefront are available for filming and she puts in a shot of her looking in someone’s ear, and another shot of a piece of mega fluff that she once pulled out of an ear hole.

Maybe that screaming danger headline: MORE BATHROOM STABBINGS and that photo of mega fluff is gold to some publication. (I’m sure you have a lot more taste and better ideas than that example. But you see what I mean?) You could certainly downplay the sensationalism of this example for a more conservative publication. This dreadful example is simply to illustrate. (It would work for A Current Affair, however.)

The publication to a large degree will dictate what kind of strategy will work best. You can use all different strategies for different publications on the same topic.

In that media release you can embed your diamond-sharp healthy hearing message.


Media Releases and Making a General Pitch

There are times when you want to send a media release to a group. In this case, you’ll probably want to send a media release.

My best tip is this: label it media release at the top. But proceed to write a publishable, high-quality article. The article should have quotes, a balance of research and sources, and your contact details and notes about other images, audio, video or graphics you might have available.


Formatting a Media Release

Media Release at the top

Date, location, for immediate, release, contact details on the left. Stack them like an address on letterhead.

Headline Hook:

Hearing Devastated by this Common Misconception 

SubHeading (if you wish).

The humble cotton bud shoots holes in 20 eardrums a day.

A strong opening paragraph that addresses the subject. 

Bad hearing is a problem for 37,000 people in Exaho. But up to 90 percent of those people may have caused it themselves — and not even know about it.

Your media release should have no adjectives (unless they are in quotes). Strong quotes are recommended.

State your case upfront, but get a quote in as early as possible.

The use of research toward the beginning can often help. It sets the stage and shows the scope of the problem or the wide overview shot.

“Fifty thousand Australians a year suffer cotton-bud-inflicted permanent hearing loss, according to a new report by XYZ.”

You can include information about your service as long as it addresses the subject/story/topic. Let the story weave into the solution and then you show up as the Hero or the Guide.

“Audiologists like Lisa Comick show how to carefully clean ears without the dangers of those prickly little white tips. Never stick anything in your ear that’s smaller than your elbow, says Lisa.”

journalist scrolling through messages on phone

Send the Release

Great! You’ve drafted it. It’s good. Most importantly it’s clear. You haven’t used any jargon, right? Good. Confusion is death.

A 12-year-old would understand it? Excellent. It’s crystal-clear.

How do you send it? Well, you can always fax. (Kids, a ‘fax’ is short for ‘facsimile’ and is an old-fashioned scanner/printer machine-thing that spits noisy morse-code-like paper to… oh, don’t worry.)

Send it by email.

Or by an online media release distribution service.

Final Words

When we embark on getting media or publicity, we are really trying to sell our service to another market. The writers and reporters in the media are that market.

To get their interest, we have to help solve their problem. Their problem is the need for newsworthy contact to write about. Like I said, journalists often need to produce not only text, but photography, video, audio, and graphics. And they have deadlines. At times, the best approach is to pitch the whole article. Write it for them. Newspapers and magazines don’t have the resources many people expect they do. There aren’t reporters to cover everything. They rely on you to give them the story and help craft it.

There are times when articles I have written have made front-page news. Not only that, not one word had changed. Not. One. Word.

If we can keep this in mind and make sure that:

A. Our contacts are targeted and relevant

B. We put some effort into the subject

C. We make their job easier by giving sample questions and answers, for example, or by using links to graphics they could use like charts about the industry or problem.

We can help tell our story in a mediagenic way. Most stories have a Hero, Villain, Victim and Guide. Your organisation is likely the Hero or the Guide.

Get a victim and a villain and you have a story.

That way we are serving them.

When we are delivering value (fresh content to run) to that market.

And we will receive value (media attention) in return.

If you need help with media and publicity, or you see the value in using your story to reach customers, clients, and stakeholders directly, please get in touch


Danielle Spinks-Earl

Author & Manager, My Virtual Marketing Manager. MMktg | BACS