So, you want your tech story in the mainstream media…

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that one of the most common requests we get at Babel is, ‘How do we get our technology story featured in the mainstream national and international media?’.  In answering that question it’s worth looking at the tests applied by journalists and their editors.

The questions they are asking in assessing a story are all concerned with their audience’s potential interest. This is a fundamental point but one that is often forgotten – it’s THEIR audience’s interest and specifically NOT what necessarily interests the company in question. Those questions typically fall into the following categories:

#1 Has it just happened?

Although there are opportunities for companies large and small in background features, the bulk of mainstream media content – print, online or broadcast – is news. It’s unlikely to be news if it happened some time ago and, depending on the story and the title in question, ‘some time ago’ might be defined as weeks but it’s more likely to be days or even hours.

#2 Is it in the vicinity?

More often than not this is a geographic question. Is this something that is happening in the same region in which that news organisation’s audience reside or work, or have an interest in. You’re paddling upstream if it isn’t.

#3 Do I have to cover it now?

Although you might want the story to be covered right now because it suits your timescales and PR/marketing plan, the journalist is thinking ‘do I need to write this up now or could it wait’. The danger with those ‘could it wait’ stories is that they get left behind, others take priority and they end up falling into category 1.

#4 Can I explain it so that my audience will understand?

This is the eternal problem for the technology sector. You may have an incredibly important story but unless it can be explained simply, it isn’t going anywhere. Journalists want stories that will appeal to a significant proportion of their audience. At Babel we call this the ‘grandparent test’ – can you explain it in such a way that your grandparents would grasp it?

You might, after reading that list, decide to throw your story in the bin but before you do, try asking yourself a question. “Can I change the angle, add (or possibly subtract) content, provide topical data, simplify the language etc. to answer all (or most) of these questions in the affirmative?”

That’s the process we go through at Babel for every piece of potential news we are targeting at the mainstream media and it’s something we have a great deal of success with. If you’re launching version 4.1.7 of your latest software release you can forget about mainstream media attention. However, there are few tech companies that don’t have the potential to feature in some way.

The skill is in finding the bones of a good story, developing it and making it relevant to a mainstream audience. More often than not, that’s easier for an outsider looking in, than an insider looking out and it’s one of the reasons agency support can be so valuable.

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