For many of you, making contact with the media can be a daunting prospect – especially given the negative coverage the aged care industry gets in some of the national media.

But positive media through public relations efforts is an excellent cost-efficient way to help raise awareness of some of great things you’re doing.

Media coverage as genuine news or editorial in your local newspaper, radio or television news is also considered more authentic by consumers than paid-for advertising, and is great for building brand reputation.

If you’re asked to pay for an article to appear in your local media it isn’t news, it’s advertorial and you have every right to say no.

That said, if you choose to run a paid advertisement you can always ask to talk to the editorial team too and see if they’re interested in your story as a news article.

Which media outlet to contact, how to contact them, and exactly what you should say and do are all important features of ensuring positive media coverage for your organisation and your cause.

It’s often said the media is not interested in good news – but that’s not always the case, especially with suburban or local media. If you can articulate the positive impact of a new approach, a new facility or some recent funding, you may have a story.

Here are 10 tips on how to get your story covered:

1) Channel your inner news hound

The media is interested in stories and issues that have an IMPACT on their audience and the wider community. Be clear on your angle… What is the IMPACT of what you are saying? Will it lead to higher fees, improved standards of care, safety risks, etc.

News hooks that local journalists love include: celebrations (eg. 100th birthdays or other milestones), stories about your residents and interesting things they’ve done throughout their lives, refurbishments or new developments, local staffing changes at management/ executive level, new services or activities you’re offering, research programs your facility may be involved in, study tours you may have participated in, any new technology or innovative products you’re using either to enhance care or service, or reduce costs (eg. green initiatives), and partnerships with other local businesses that are benefiting the whole community.

2) Enlist the support of a local celebrity or MP

Inviting a local celebrity or MP to unveil or announce something at your facility will help to attract media interest. You can also ask your guest to send a press release of their own to help get more coverage.

Don’t lose heart if the local media don’t want to come to an event you put on – like every business journalists are having to do more with less these days so sending a press release out with some photos that are 2MB resolution or video of the event can still get you some coverage.

3) Plan your contact

Before making contact with a journalist, be clear about what you want media coverage to achieve. Who is the target audience for your message? Are you appealing to politicians to change policy? Do you want members of the public to take some sort of action? Do you want to raise awareness of a new program or service for clients to attract new clients?

Many people make the mistake of telling the media they want to “highlight” something. But that’s not enough. Journalists are always asking “So what?” when deciding on whether to write a story or interview someone, so make sure you spell out why it’s unique / important / newsworthy.

4) Prepare media friendly messages.

Media friendly messages are short, clear and make a strong point. For TV/radio news the average “sound bite” is around 8-12 seconds. For radio talk interviews, you’ll have around 3-4 minutes to make your point and tell your story. For newspapers /online print, short punchy statements get the most cut through. Keep your language free of jargon. Using everyday language that everyone can understand will increase your chances of being quoted.

5) Prepare for the unknown

A journalist’s job is to ask lots of questions so think about what questions you may be asked and how you will respond. Think about the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, HOW and WHY of your story.

It’s fine to not answer every question you are asked, but you’ll need to give the journalist a good reason why you are not answering ie “that’s not an area that I am involved with so I can’t help you with that.” And you are not bound by the exact question asked – you decide how you want to respond.

For example, if you are asked “So has the Minister got it wrong?” rather than replying yes or no, you can say something like “Well from our experience we know that approach hasn’t worked in the past so we would hope the Government reconsiders its decision.”

Don’t feel trapped by the questions but rather see them as an opportunity to say what you want to say about the issue being asked.

6) Be ready for the unexpected

Journalists are not bound to ask you only about the topic you want to discuss. They may also ask about other aged care issues that are topical at the time. Know what else is being reported in the media about aged care and be ready to respond.

7) Prepare a short brief/media release

To ensure the journalist gets the facts right, it’s useful to prepare something in writing for them. What background facts do they need to know? What are some key statistics relating to your issue? Are there any recent reports or studies that support your position? But keep it brief. One page is ideal.

8) Visuals

TV, print and digital media want visuals. Do you have any photographs that you are able and permitted to share with them? TV news is about putting words to moving images….people in action that SHOW the story you are wanting to tell.

If you invite a television news crew to your facility or a home visit, be aware that everything they see is on show.

It’s worth having an agreement in place about what and where they can and can’t film and make sure you have written permission (release form) from your clients beforehand that allows them to be filmed.

9) Timing is everything

The media has constant fast moving deadlines. If you contact a journalist, make sure you are available to speak with them, remembering that journalists do not always keep business hours.

Radio may want to contact you early in the morning (ie. 5.30am) and newspapers often later in the evening. Be sure your phone is turned on and that you have approval to speak with them if required.

10) Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse!

Don’t wait until the cameras are rolling or you are live to air before articulating our loud your message and your responses to tricky questions you think you may be asked.

Doing a practice interview with a colleague, or even talking to the mirror will go a long way to ensuring you deliver your message the right way.

Sonia Zavesky is a former journalist and a highly experienced media and crisis skills trainer, working with clients in the corporate, government, business and community sectors. She is the founder of Zavesky Consulting – www.zaveskyconsulting.com