Unlike traditional advertising where you know you’ll get what you pay for, media coverage through public relations is never guaranteed. When you purchase a radio spot, television commercial or print ad, you know exactly when and where you message will appear. You also get to control the message. With public relations, however, it’s not that simple. Below are five steps to help increase the likelihood that your next story will be covered.

1. Focus on the target – Know who you are targeting and narrow your audience to only relevant outlets. Don’t send your press release or pitch a story to someone that never covers that topic. For example, if you manufacture products for the commercial building industry, don’t target outlets that cover only residential markets.

2. Plan ahead – Know what the outlet is covering. If you are targeting a key trade publication, review its editorial calendar first. Most publications release their opportunities a few months before the next calendar year. This is when you will want to review the possibilities and start pitching your idea. Get on the calendar as early as possible to lock in the spot. Remember, the early bird gets the worm.

3. Be unique – Offer up an idea or story that hasn’t been done before. This may require some research into past issues, episodes, webcasts, etc. Instead of talking only about yourself, offer up practical advice or a different perspective that can leave the audience with a valuable takeaway. No one wants to hear a broken record.

4. Be accessible – If you pitch a story and the reporter/editor bites, you had better be ready to move. In the media world, things move at a fast pace. A journalist may call for an impromptu interview with the CEO, and you need to be readily available and flexible.

5. Maintain the relationship – Be a resource for your key media contacts. If you prove to them that you have good content and are consistently reliable, chances are they will come to you for that next interview or story. Like any good relationship, however, it takes time and commitment to build a strong foundation.

While these five steps can help increase the chances of being picked up by the media, coverage is never guaranteed. On the positive side though, third-party coverage usually has more credibility than paid advertising.

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