Marketing Efforts Don’t Always Work

by admin on September 11, 2017


Marketing:“It’s your job to make the story come alive.”

The bottom line of any proactive release is to give the media what they want and need.

“Success With the Media”

I wrote, “Success With the Media, Everything You Need to Survive Reporters and Your Organization” (available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon at because I believe that organizations need to look inward to get better media results.

I use contents from the book for this article.

Some believe that we should not talk to reporters. I maintain that not talking leaves you without influence; you are committing yourself to a negative story. The trick is to know how to talk to the media.


Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr.

Thirty-five years of supervising award-winning media relations, radio and television; over fifty national and regional awards. Interviewed multiple times by every national news outlet. Post-Master’s Certificate of Advanced Study, Johns Hopkins University.


“It’s your job to make the story come alive.”

Up to this point, we’ve focused on media relations strategies that involve reacting to requests or events and personal survival skills. Now it’s time for an entirely different perspective.

In the Introduction, I said, “The most important aspect of taking a long-range view is building relationships. We cannot succeed unless we build meaningful and productive interactions with the media and the public. Everything we are and all we can be must be built on trust.” I tried to convey the need to create relationships throughout my book, but marketing takes public interactions to a different level.

Marketing may be one of the most important things you can do to keep your organization safe and goal-oriented. Constant self-initiated contact with reporters and the larger community sends a message—we’re ready for discussion; we’re ready to engage; we’re not afraid of our issues.

Media interviews work within the context of knowledge and trust. You cannot do a good job responding to media inquiries if the media know little or nothing about you. To do well, you have to market. Many on the receiving end of constant negative media inquiries are the opposite. They never engage. They never invite the public in for a dialogue. They give the impression that they have something to hide. To survive, news organizations need to see you as honorable people doing an honorable job.

To do well, you have to market. Many on the receiving end of constant negative media inquiries are the opposite. They never engage. They never invite the public in for a dialogue. They give the impression that they have something to hide. To survive, news organizations need to see you as honorable people doing an honorable job.

They Don’t Always Work

I just came from an annual event focusing on women offenders. Women caught up in the criminal justice system have higher rates of substance abuse and mental health problems than male offenders. Seventy percent are mothers. They often have horrendous histories of being sexually and physically abused. Yet they do better than men when they receive access to programs to help them when they return from prison. The event calls attention to the plight of women in the criminal justice system and is used to seek the public’s support of our programs and efforts. There’s little news but great human interest.

I sent out press releases, created a radio show/audio podcast to support the endeavor and called every reporter in the market and backed up the call with a personalized e-mail. On top of all of this, I created a multi-page overview of research on women offenders; I practically wrote the story for them. I used this strategy in the past with great success. Today’s efforts failed completely. Not one reporter showed up at the event.

There are times when you use the same formula for promotions and sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. I can supply you with reasons why the event did not succeed, but that’s not the point. Just understand that promotional success is like a relationship where one day they love you, and one day they don’t. There are no guaranteed successes in life, love, or promotions.

Update: I am currently going back to targeted media one by one and promoting the same package and theme. It’s working. I’m getting the publicity I sought, but it’s a slow and tedious process.

The $10,000 Donation

Inviting media into your organization so you can advertise a $10,000 donation to the United Way through employee contributions seems safe enough. You decide to publicize the event but the media declines interest. You take this as proof that all the media cares about is blood and gore and negative news. The organization loses interest in future efforts to bring positive events to the public through the media.

There are a multitude of reasons why efforts to market positive events are unsuccessful. To do it well, the spokespeople will need to be undeterred by a lack of response. They will constantly try, and try again until they find the right formula. Those who successfully market organizations are not deterred by failure. They are determined to find the right formulas.

If you spend any time in a newsroom, you will see that every day brings hundreds of press releases from organizations asking for coverage. The overwhelming majority of these appeals fail for a very simple reason; there’s not enough time on the evening news and there’s not enough print space to cover everybody’s events. Those that are successful understand that it takes far more than an invitation to prompt news coverage.

Let’s take the $10,000 donation as an example. It is rather naive to believe that television crews are going to show up at your door just because your employees are donating a sum of money to a local charity. In major markets, a $10,000 donation is simply not news (the effort will work better in smaller areas). However, there are ways of making the event interesting enough to cover. Therein lies the rub: Most people within the organization believe that the media should show up for such a community-oriented event. They believe that the mere act of civic mindedness is all that is necessary to gain media coverage. They are naive.

If the organization really wants news coverage of the $10,000 donation then there are ways of doing it. The public affairs officer could search for compelling human interest stories among the employees who did the donating or the collecting. Maybe one of them is involved in his 20th campaign to raise money for the United Way and has collected hundreds of thousands of dollars throughout time. This person may have an endless series of stories about how his donations have greatly aided individuals within the community. Let’s also say that this individual has dozens of photographs documenting the positive effect of the organization’s donations throughout the years.

The way to market the donation is not through a press release. The best way to proceed is to call or visit your local newspaper or television station and ask for a very brief chat with the assignment or feature’s editor. You would pitch the idea as a human-interest story, backed up by an array of old photographs. You could also offer a photographer to follow this employee throughout his workday. I am not suggesting that this idea will work every time. All I’m recommending is that there are a variety of ways to skin a cat. Promotions take imagination and creativity.

Too many organizations rely solely upon a media release as their only invitation to news organizations. In a proceeding chapter, we dealt with the process of preparing for the proactive release of negative news. We reviewed the rather intricate process of preparation. It’s no different for the release of positive news. The news release is only one aspect of your efforts.

Giving Them What They Want

The bottom line of any proactive release is to give them what they want and need. Television stations need compelling visuals. Radio stations need sound. Newspapers need news, compelling human interest, or a good visual. They all want good stories. What you pitch to the media needs to have at least one of these elements. Adding several ingredients increases your chances for positive news coverage.

Quite frankly, the $10,000 donation is not the most exciting of events. All media outlets are inundated with this kind of request. Every day, hundreds of poorly conceived media releases flow into newsrooms. A lower-level employee tosses the overwhelming majority of them into the trashcan.

They are poorly written, ill conceived, or do not contain one or several elements articulated above that makes for an interesting story. Community organizations, PTAs, associations, corporations, governments, and many others are all competing for a minuscule amount of news time and space.

Local Media

Even local (smaller market) newspapers that need this event are dismayed by the lack of savvy so many of these authors represent. It’s fairly easy to get community news into a community newspaper. Virtually all smaller newspapers will end up giving the story a paragraph or two. But very few promoters will take the extra step of calling the editor to see how they can advance the story to the front page.

The local hospital may want to publicize the fact that it has 15 volunteers who are celebrating their 10th anniversary of service. Instead of relying on a press release, it’s probably much better to contact the editor and ask for or suggest a more comprehensive approach. “I have a great idea for the front page,” is a gutsy way to start a conversation.

There’s not much “news” in the fact that some of your volunteers have long histories of service. But there’s probably an endless array of interesting stories connected to these individuals. It’s your job to find those interesting stories and pitch them to the local newspaper. It’s your job to establish the best photo opportunities. It’s your job to make the story come alive.

Make It as Easy as Possible

The best way of getting your story placed is to make the reporter’s job as easy as possible. Assignment editors do not like the barrage of requests for coverage, especially when those they receive are boring and do not appeal to their audience. You need to separate yourself from the horde.

Reporters appreciate savvy requestors. They’re always on the lookout for news or dynamite photographs, for compelling human-interest stories or interesting sounds. Reporters and editors are constantly searching for these elements. You need to offer them on a silver platter. Your job is to make it as easy as possible for them to cover the story.

If what you have does not contain the essential elements of an interesting story, then do everyone a favor and do not promote it. If you are satisfied with two paragraphs on page four of your community newspaper, then fine. But if you want television or radio or major newspaper coverage, then you have to give them what they need, not what you think they need.

Next Up

More on Building Relationships and Marketing.

Success With the Media

For more information on good organizational and media relations, see “Success With The Media: Everything You Need To Survive Reporters and Your Organization,” available from Barnes and Noble and Amazon at  Your reviews are appreciated.

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