Whether or not your story idea results in media coverage depends on many factors: timing, talent, exclusivity, topicality and many others besides.
This bizarre form on the left, a creation by Australian artist Paula Piccinini at the behest of Victoria’s Transport Accident Commission reminded us once again of the power of strong visuals when seeking media coverage.
One determining factor that cannot be understated when seeking media coverage is vision. Striking vision. Visual appeal is the prime reason that the TAC scored media coverage here and overseas for what we see as a fairly indulgent initiative.
Graham represents what the human form would have to look like to withstand a high speed crash. Our resistance to Graham is based the fact that this is a fairly silly premise.
Our resistance is is also based on our assumption that relatively small numbers of the drivers who are so over-represented in the road toll may not be fans Piccinini’s work nor viewers of 6 o’clock news services.
Will this bizarre creature change driving habits? Not as effectively as a booze bus or speed camera. To us, Graham comes across as the sort of project that an organisation rich in resources would indulge in. But what do we know? TAC tells us that the value of the media coverage gained by Graham has more than justified his budget.
Headspace – another organisation with more resources than most – recently gained mainstream media hits when it erected this pod on the streets of Melbourne which aimed to help tackle the stigma around mental illness for young people.
Whether it meets a subjective will be hard to gauge but once again the media came coming they cannot resist a compelling image and high concept.
So what does this mean for those of us without hundreds of thousands of dollars at our disposal to spend on domes and demi-humands?
Hootville was proudly supporting the Way Out Rural Youth Group some years back. Way Out – a same-sex attracted support group – was taking the Christian Brethren to court after the Brethren refused to allow them to rent its commercial campground for a weekend retreat.
We thought we had a great story pitch the Channel 9 news – good guys, bad guys, gay youth, a court case, multiple spokespeople and a controversial group of Christians.
Surely they would say yes to a pitch. But then came Chief of Staff Michael Venus’ question: “What’s the vision?”
We thought we had it covered but multiple spokespeople, Way Out members with nose rings and colourful hair hanging out just wasn’t gonna cut it.
Without more compelling vision we were going to lose a story on the Sunday night bulletin which is the most watched bulletin of the week – a big, fat, mainstream media hit if ever there was one.
Someone had the bright idea of supplying amateur video that members of the group had shot at the retreat held the previous year. The fact that the vision had been shot by amateurs on camera phones and handheld video cameras was actually a plus to the reporter who felt that it added some visual variety and showed the kids in their natural habitat.
That scrounged vision plus a helicopter shot of the campsite on Phillip Island got us over the line with ABC and Channel 9. It was a very happy Sunday night at Hootville.
That extra vision didn’t cost us anything but time and effort. At other times we’ve arranged balloon releases, staged our media event in front of the big mouth of Luna Park and once, a long time ago, staged a political launch at a tabletop dancing venue but that’s another story for another time.
The lesson is create something visually compelling whether it be as extravagant as a work of art or a three-dimensional sculpture or as simple as archival footage.
And no matter how compelling your story idea remember that it will be more compelling when accompanied by some great vision.
Lesson in summary:
Vision – the ability to offer media outlets and interesting, intriguing, colourful, dynamic imagery associated with your story – can often be the difference between getting a Yes! as opposed to a: “We’ll think about it.”
This is why we see so many, cakes sliced and balloons released at media events it gives the camera operators and photographers some thing more interesting to display than your spokespeople and pie graphs.
Here’s an incomplete list of ways you can add visual appeal to your next story pitch:
Archival imagery – still and moving.
Amateur vision taken in any format on any device
Staging your launch somewhere visually intriguing such as the steps of Parliament house
Gathering en masse is the staff at the Royal children’s Hospital in Melbourne did in this photo opportunity.
Wearing something unusual particularly en masse.
Releasing balloons, cutting cakes.
Entertainment such as children’s choir or musical act.
Concocting an entirely visually driven stunt such as Greenpeace protesters climbing the Sydney Opera House.
Supplying high quality video footage to allow cameras to essentially travel to inconvenient places whether that be your wildlife reserve in Western Australia or the inside of a particle accelerator.
Puppets and street theatre though this stuff always makes you look like a bunch of old-fashioned lefties.
Making a big entrance Trump-style
Creating and supplying infographics or animations as is the case for so many medical and scientific stories.
Going nude. (You know you want to.)