Did you know that media bias can stop you from getting in the press?
No, we don’t mean the bias at Fox, CNN, and The New York Times. That’s related to politics, and it’s the easiest kind of bias to recognize and circumvent. You just have to aim for an outlet with your political, cultural, or religious point of view.
A more challenging form of media bias comes in how outlets structure their processes and standards. For example, an outlet might prefer thought leadership writing no longer than 800 words – but you prefer to write 2,000-word essays. Or the news producer at a TV station might be sick and tired of covering inflation…just as you have a great angle to discuss.
Overcoming these biases takes more than just knowing how to write or speak. It requires a forward-thinking strategy and building long-term relationships with the right gatekeepers.
Below are some common biases which can stop your message from reaching and influencing your target audiences, and ways to overcome them.
From style to saturation
You are an industry leader with deep knowledge about complex subjects. However, that makes it impossible to meet an outlet’s 800-word limit for thought leadership op-eds.
An alternative to op-ed thought leadership is interviews. You may want to invite the news editor, a reporter, or a podcast host at the same outlet to sit down for a one-on-one interview. This will allow you the same deep-dive into your topic, and it may provide future opportunities to provide your expertise to the outlet.
A pet store owner is opening a second location. The local business reporter has been assigned to cover the story – but he or she has adopted three dogs from a shelter, and thinks breeding and selling dogs is unethical.
This type of bias is tough to get around because the reporter will write the story, but only grudgingly. That means the pet store’s narrative won’t come through as strongly.
One way to circumvent the bias is to have a shelter partner for the event. This will probably defuse some of the reporter’s hesitations, shift his or her perspective on the store, and open the opportunity for a long-term relationship beyond the immediate event.
A financial advisor has a truly unique and valuable take on the stock market decline. But the TV host is tired of covering the stock market.
Timing is critical to getting media coverage. If you’ve missed it, you’re in trouble. One way to get around this is what we call bank-shot media coverage. Rather than address the direct topic at hand – the stock market’s decline – you can use a narrow focus on investments that will perform better or worse during the decline.
Another option is to highlight how the stock decline will benefit or hurt the people in the region which the outlet covers.
A national advocacy organization wants a Senator or Congressman to support new legislation. However, the top media outlet in the region only covers local and regional news like school board meetings.
This is a great opportunity to localize the topic. Increasingly, local and regional media are ignoring national news because other outlets cover those topics. Take advantage of the opportunity to recruit local activists and community leaders who can act as spokespeople and thought leaders.
You’re a great writer, but an awkward speaker. Unfortunately, the outlets most trusted by your target audiences are TV, radio, and podcasts.
This is a hard one. You may want to hire a media trainer, or go to other outlets. It’s better to get into media that’s slightly less trusted than to fall flat on your face at a trusted outlet.
Media bias is complex
Each of these situations requires more than a black-and-white approach to navigating media bias. To earn the coverage, you must take into account personalities, tone, the best medium for your message, and much more.
That’s why we work closely with clients to determine which outlets and gatekeepers will give their unique message the best consideration. We recommend outlets which balance gettability (yes, we made it up) with reachability (we think that’s a word). Then, we determine how to best get into those outlets, and work with you to develop a message that resonates.
We can’t guarantee that you’ll get in the press. Another war, pandemic, or Supreme Court decision could upend the entire news cycle. But we do guarantee that we’ll eliminate every barrier and every bias we can which stands between you and your target markets.