How to earn media coverage over your competitors

by | Nov 16, 2023

Woman being interviewed

Five reasons your competitors may be getting more media attention and what to do about it


There is nothing quite as annoying as seeing a peer/competitor get a feature-length story in a top-tier outlet and wondering why they were picked to get the coveted coverage over your organization. Sometimes the reason is clear – they’re announcing a major innovation, service to a new community, or they’ve hit a significant milestone. Perhaps they offered a more relevant source for the story. However, the reason they are getting the coverage may be less obvious. Here are five reasons why a peer organization might be getting the spotlight and what you can do about it.


1. You are the new kid on the block


If your organization is young and green, you most likely haven’t had time to build your reputation in the industry yet. It could be that your external channels – your website, social media, newsletters, etc. – lack polish or content. Perhaps your CEO hasn’t had the opportunity to put themselves out there yet and share their expertise. Maybe the services your organization provides are only available to a small, regional group of constituents whereas some of your peer organizations serve a national audience. There is nothing wrong with being green! The important thing is to understand where your organization needs to grow to be considered in the same league as those that are getting the media’s attention.

What to do about it: Perform a communications audit on your organization’s website, social media channels, and other outward-facing channels. Do a SWOT analysis and compare your strengths and weaknesses with peer organizations. Where can you grow? Maybe your website needs improvement or perhaps your blog lacks content. Maybe your executive director needs to put more time into developing thought leadership content or looking for speaking opportunities. Find the holes and start filling them. If a reporter were to look into your owned media content and channels, ensure it’s clear where your organization or executive director shines.


2. You’ve just started putting resources towards PR


PR is a long game, so if you just started putting time and effort into your PR strategy a couple of months ago, then most likely your media wins will be limited. It takes time and effort to build relationships with reporters. Not every pitch will be timely for a reporter. Maybe they’re working on a different story, maybe their focus is elsewhere that month. The more substantive pitches you can send the better, at some point the stars will align and your pitch will hit the right reporter at the right moment. But this often takes months and months of quality content and pitching, relationship building, and good storytelling.


What to do about it: 

It is important to maintain a constant drumbeat of communications with your target reporters. If you don’t have any PR wins under your belt, start with your local press and industry press. Pitch good stories that are timely and relevant to their audiences. Often one press hit will beget another and another. Once a top-tier reporter can search for your organization and find other articles on you, they’ll start to see that you may be worth their time and attention. Having a third-party endorsement from another media source provides credibility, so don’t neglect the low-hanging fruit when it comes to media. 


3. Your executive hasn’t focused on thought leadership


You can pitch reporters about your executive and their expertise all you want, but if the reporter can’t easily find that executive’s thought leadership on similar topics, then your pitches probably won’t yield much result. A reporter needs to know that they aren’t going to waste their time on an expert resource or interview. They will do their vetting of the source you are pitching and if they can’t find evidence that the executive has a unique voice or perspective, they’ll move on. 


What to do about it: Make sure you are boosting your executive’s thought leadership and visibility. Encourage them to be active and engaged on LinkedIn, Twitter, and other relevant social media channels. Have them follow, like, and comment on posts from other industry leaders and media who are writing about topics that pertain to your organization’s work. Work with your executive to write blogs, op-eds, and contribute articles that showcase their expertise or unique points of view. Have them sign up to speak or serve on panels at industry conferences and events. Do anything and everything you can to amplify their voice and message.


4. Your media pitches aren’t landing 


Pitching is an art form in and of itself. If your pitches aren’t getting any response, it could be due to one of the reasons listed above, OR, it could be that you are sending bad pitches. Pitches should always be timely, relevant, and newsworthy for the reporter and their audience. They should include some detail, but not too much. Pitches should convey the message, but not be too verbose. They should have a distinct call to action or clearly explain timeliness. If you are missing the key elements, your pitch probably won’t be successful.


What to do about it: Learn what elements make a successful pitch. Audit your pitches and ask yourself why they may not have yielded any results. Be critical and think about how a reporter will view the news you are sending. The news may feel monumental to you and your organization, but will it feel that way to the publication’s audience? Do they need to know the information that you are sharing right now? If the answer is no, then you’ll know that your pitch isn’t very strong and adjustments need to be made. 


5. Your PR etiquette is lacking


Reporters are very busy people. They get hundreds of emails a day and often are working on tight deadlines to get stories submitted and published. If you’re doing PR, your job is to make the reporter’s life easy. That means bending over backward to accommodate every request and having all your ducks in a row. If you receive an interview request for a story, but don’t respond right away, then you’ll almost certainly end up on their blacklist. If they ask you for photo assets or video, and you have nothing lined up and ready to go, then you will appear disorganized and difficult to work with. 


What to do about it: Don’t make reporters mad! Be responsive, quick, supportive, useful, and ready. Schedule interviews promptly. Have your spokesperson prepared with talking points, stats, or relevant background information. Provide imagery and video even if they aren’t requested. Help the reporter look good and help them do their job efficiently. By being a good partner, you’re helping to solidify that media relationship. When a reporter finds someone who is easy to work with and is an informative source, they will likely come back to you again and again. 


Sometimes earned media coverage comes with a stroke of good luck. You certainly can’t read a reporter’s mind or telepathically will them to cover your organization over your peers. But you can control some of the variables that may be excluding you from earned media coverage. Always put your best foot forward and prepare yourself and your organization before you begin pitching. Be a good partner to the media once you do get their attention. And, most importantly, make sure you have a good and worthy story to tell. 



Photo by Greta Hoffman

Rhiannon Hendrickson

About the Author: Rhiannon Hendrickson

Rhiannon Hendrickson is the founder and CEO of Orapin, which helps purpose-driven organizations transform their random acts of PR into a strategic, consistent approach that generates greater awareness and impact. She has worked with organizations of all sizes across myriad industries and causes to develop earned media and thought leadership programs that generate awareness, engagement, and, ultimately, support for those that are making a meaningful impact.