After many years as a media expert on the front lines with reporters every day and as someone who still seeks the thrill of the placement, I realized my best work almost always takes place outside the polished media strategy.
That became more evident over the last year in the drastically altered media landscape. The news cycle is now moving faster. Reporters are switching beats more frequently and brands are battling to capture their attention. Media experts must embrace that sweet spot between persistence and patience. This is where going rogue proved to yield greater success than following strategy to a tee.
Don’t get me wrong, media strategy is important. Aligning the business and communications objectives, and tactical elements like key messaging and timing is imperative. Think of the strategy document as a roadmap, but fully plan to conduct some off-roading on your journey. That’s where the magic happens.
Recently, I landed a segment and online coverage on a popular morning show by going rogue on my media strategy. After the show announced a themed series, I quickly reached out to the producers. I had looked for outside opportunities and was unafraid to “soft pitch” something without full client approval. If I stuck to just the strategy, these placements would have never happened.
Going rogue isn’t reckless if executed correctly. It’s “a fearless pursuit of the unexpected.” It’s thinking of a new creative way in, digging deeper, thinking bigger, expanding the media list, re-writing the pitch, picking up the phone, setting your alarm at 4 a.m. to reach the morning producer. It’s technique coupled with an aggressive attitude to do everything possible until the story is published.
Fear of going rogue usually stems from fear of client disapproval. After years of taking this approach, I can confidently say that no client has ever been upset with securing a great piece of coverage.
Three ways to go rogue:
Act more like a news person and less like a PR professional
As a former Good Morning America producer, I’m lucky to have first-hand newsroom experience. PR professionals often pitch stories with language that reporters don’t use. Lose the long-winded brand messaging. Wake up early to pitch reporters when they have more mind space. Understand how the publication makes editorial decisions. Move quickly and nimbly, like a journalist chasing a story.
Pick up the phone and pitch your story with passion
Ask to talk to reporters and producers for just five minutes and speak with enthusiasm. Your job is to make them feel the excitement of the story. Bring it to life, so they can imagine it as a headline.
Hide the peas in the mashed potatoes
Reporters don’t want brand promotions. They want human interest, clever, first-of-a-kind stories. As one of my mentors stated, “Our brand news is the peas, and the trend, pop culture and overarching story are the mashed potatoes.” You need to subtly hide your brand news in the larger story, to get the audience to eat it up.
Katie Cwayna is EVP of media strategy at Zeno Group.