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Why Do You Want Media Coverage Anyway?

By Mark Montini

Reprinted with permission - July-23-07

It's a simple question. But most people struggle to come up with a single, succinct answer.

Truth is that most campaigns (organizations and businesses, too), if they were honest, would have to answer that question with something like "to gain exposure" or "to get coverage". Therein lies one of the first issues I have with the so-called "media bias" excuse you hear so often from conservatives.

If your objective is to simply get coverage, then I don't think it's fair to complain about the coverage you get. To me, it's kind of like a starving man who begs for food complaining about the food he gets.

Coverage is overrated anyway - especially for local campaigns. Most people quickly forget what they read in the papers, hear on the radio, or see on television. And even if they remember the coverage, the most certainly forget the names of the people who were part of the coverage. Think about it. Can you remember the names of the guests who appeared on the last prime time talk show you watched? Probably not. You might remember what they said (generally), but you don't remember their names.

So, what's the lesson here?

Campaigns, organizations, and businesses can avoid most of the so-called "media bias" if they would take time to decide why they want media coverage in the first place. In other words, you need to have a clear strategic objective for your media relations BEFORE you start getting coverage.

Your campaign, organization, caucus, or business should have a clear strategic plan that directs all your decisions - media included.

How can media help you implement that plan? This one, simple, question will do more to change your perspective on "media bias" than just about anything else. Here are a few examples:

**Let's say you're a conservative candidate who decides that you're going to use media coverage for fundraising. Does a "biased" article attacking you in the local liberal newspaper really hurt you? I would argue that it doesn't. After all, the people who are most likely to donate to your campaign would probably question your conservative credentials if the liberal newspaper was saying good things about you.

Turn the coverage into a fundraising letter. Use it as an example of how you stand up for your principles and how the establishment is working to stop you. Then, tell the donors how they can join your fight for your principles by helping you fight the establishment.

**On that same note, if you "recycle" that "biased" piece to get more coverage from friendly-media outlets that reach your donors, it could actually help your campaign even more.

**Let's say you find yourself in a campaign where the issues being discussed aren't the ones you want discussed. You could use the media to begin to change the focus of the campaign. Even if the coverage you get is bad, it's still good for you because it's changing the focus of the campaign.

These are just three quick examples. There are many, many others. The point is that you really need to put some thought into how the media can help your campaign rather than focusing your time on how to simply get coverage.

Getting coverage is the easy part. Making sure that coverage is helpful strategically is the tough part.

Ask yourself two key questions:

1. How can media help my campaign?
2. What type of media/coverage is best suited to accomplish #1?

Bottom line: If the only reason you're in the media is to get coverage, you shouldn't complain about the coverage you get.

About the author

--Mark Montini is widely recognized as one of America’s leading political communication consultants and trainers.

Known for his “outside-the-box” approach, Mark has worked with CEO’s, Members of Congress, Members of Parliament and leaders from four continents.


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