Surefire strategies for capturing media coverage

36|86 Festival
5 min readNov 19, 2020

By Jeff Ketner, CEO, Ketner Group

Ketner Group Communications is no stranger to 36|86 Festival and LaunchTN. Our Nashville office kicked off with a bang at 36|86 last year; Kirsty Goodlett, our Nashville director, was featured on a panel discussion about winning press and influencing customers. That’s why Mariana Fischbach, director of media relations, and I were thrilled to host a session this year to discuss the importance of media relations.

When most people think about PR, they think about getting media coverage, aka, media relations. Not everyone is going to get to the front page of The New York Times or Wall Street Journal, but coverage is coverage. And if you’re launching a new product or service, you’ll want coverage. But how do you get it? Here’s a quick look at how we build media relations for our clients.

Why You Need a Media Relations Program and Where to Start

The biggest reason to have a media relations program is so that you can generate awareness of your organization. It does little good to have a product that no one knows exists. Even more importantly, media coverage acts as validation for your company. Over 92% of consumers trust paid media. It’s one thing to brag about yourself, it’s another entirely for someone else to brag about you.

But how? We’ve broken down the creation of an effective media relations plan into three major steps.

1. Identify your target audience: Top-tier coverage isn’t impossible, but it takes time. To start, aim for the local publications and trade magazines that you’ve identified as your target audience.

2. Identify key conversations: Know what topics you want to own as well as the ones you want to avoid. The worst thing that can happen during an interview is straying away from a topic you want to talk about, and instead talking about something that doesn’t tie back to your organization.

3. Identify top publications and media contacts: Media relations means relationships. You want to create continued relationships with key reporters. To that end, create a list of the top 20 journalists you want to build relationships with that goes beyond just sending story pitches.

How to Create a Meaningful Story

Once you’ve done your research and identified key journalists, it’s time for a reality check. Do you really have a good story? Is it unique? Is it newsworthy? Is it something that a reporter is going to be interested in? You have to take a good, hard look at your story and make sure it fits those criteria.

Make sure your story is relevant to the times. Right now, it’s essential to relate your story and organization to the COVID-19 pandemic. What are you doing that can help other businesses or consumers? Additionally, consider other topical situations, trends and seasonal topics that are relevant to your organization.

Your story, whether its your product or your people, must be compelling for it to generate business. Your organization has a unique viewpoint that no one else has. Utilize that. Bring that unique point of view to the table.

Once you have your unique and compelling story ready, it’s only a matter of time before your media pitches get the attention of a reporter.

You Got the Interview. Now What?

Once you built the relationships and you have the attention of a journalist, they will ask for an interview, but you have to know how to get the most out of it. Firstly, an interview will rarely be a hostile “gotcha” moment, but you do have to prepare.

Start with the research. Dig into what the reporter has written about and determine how to fit your key messages into what they write. Then once you’re talking to the interviewer, provide soundbites that they can latch onto. Interviews are long and memory is short, but good sound bites will stick around. Anecdotes, case studies and data all make for good soundbites.

Above all, be yourself and be transparent. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.”

After the interview, keep in touch with the journalist. Connect with them on social media and comment on articles they write, whether about you or about a topic relevant to your organization. Out of sight, out of mind is the last thing you want to be.

Getting the Most Value for Your Media Coverage

Media coverage is an amazing resource to drive leads. Once an article is live, make sure you share it via your social media (both company channels and employee’s channels), website and newsletter. Then, share it again. Coverage inspires consumer trust and it is a great lead-generation engine.

The question many marketers ask themselves is, “how does media coverage generate leads?” Well, it doesn’t if you can’t leverage it in your marketing strategies. That’s the key. Make sure you do everything to share that earned media with customers and prospects. Doing so will yield major value for your organization.

Now That You Have a Strategy, Adapt it to COVID-19

For the most part, media relations strategies do not change dramatically over the years. However, when the pandemic hit, publications were highly impacted. As advertisers decreased budgets, many reporters were furloughed or laid off, and everyone’s coverage strategies changed.

We have found that the stories that generate the most interest right now are those that comment on the current environment. The most important thing you can do right now is read the room. Find out what information is going to be helpful — if you don’t know what is helpful, don’t be afraid to ask reporters you have relationships with — and do what you can to provide it.

Getting Started With a Media Relations Plan

Many times, when I first meet with someone who has not executed a media relations plan, I find that PR can make them nervous. After all, it relies on you building relationships with reporters, who can sometimes feel like an intimidating breed. But the fact is, people are people, and we all value relationships. Ultimately, a reporter’s job is to tell a great story. If you can help them tell a great story, you’re helping them do a great job.

We’ve worked with many organizations over the years to help them develop and execute communications plans, including LaunchTN, with whom we have had the honor to partner with over the past six months. From Women’s Wear Daily to Retail TouchPoints, I have to say I believe our team worked masterfully to put the spotlight on this year’ 36|86.

If you want to get into the media relations game but don’t know where to start, schedule a free 30-minute consultation with us. We can help get the ball rolling on what is sure to be a worthwhile media relations plan.

As part of the 36|86 Guest Series, Ketner Group Communications helps innovators that are reshaping the world we live in, including high-growth companies in retail, e-commerce, grocery and CPG, advertising and marketing, social media and consumer technology. From media and analyst relations, content development, social media strategy and implementation to digital content marketing, Ketner Group helps companies better build their brand, voice, and story. To get connected, visit



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