For many entrepreneurs, it is frustrating to see the competition capture the media spotlight.

For whatever reason, a rival attracted media coverage while you, who may have a better product or a more compelling story, sits unnoticed the sidelines.

Truth be told, entrepreneurs are fascinated with the idea of media coverage. They see it as a silver bullet. If they can convince a reporter or blogger to write about their company, leads, sales, and investment dollars will miraculously appear.

mediaThe reality, however, is that media coverage is extremely difficult to attract.

There’s lots of competition so companies that get media coverage are either lucky or doing something amazingly well or really different.

Reporters and bloggers are looking for stories that are new, unique and intriguing, something that stands out from the crowd. If you are telling a story with no curb appeal, media coverage is a challenge.

What do you do if you can’t get the spotlight but want it?

The first thing is not to complain about it. Do not send a report an email saying, “You wrote a story about this company and we do the same thing so you should write about us as well”.

An email like that is a death sentence because you’re whining. No one wants to be a whiner.

A better approach is to position yourself as a value-added resource for reporters and bloggers.

Smart entrepreneurs realize that media coverage is a long-term game. It will not materialize overnight. It doesn’t work that way. I know from being a newspaper reporter for more than 15 years.

Many stories are a result of relationships. As an entrepreneur, you want to get to know reporters and it’s going to happen digitally or in the real world.

For example, it makes sense to ask a reporter or blogger to meet for coffee. They like coffee and there’s a high probability they will agree to meet if you suggest come to their neck of the woods. In other words, make it as easy as possible for them.

As well, Make a point to find and meet them at a conference. When the opportunity arises, introduce yourself and tell your story. From there, anything is possible.

Build relationships digitally by following reporters and bloggers on social media, commenting on their blog posts, and sharing their content on different platforms.

The goal: establish yourself an advocate for their content because bloggers and reporters are like anybody else, they like to have their egos stroked. If you’re seen as someone who promotes their content, it gives you an edge over other entrepreneurs.

Armed with a big enough marketing budget, another approach to media coverage is hiring a PR agency.

For many companies, I suggest taking a cautious approach because even if you hire a PR agency, there’s no guarantee of success. They can promise the world and boast about their track records but they still have to sell your story. And there’s no guarantee they can sell it given the competitive landscape.

If you have a budget and believe you have a good story and enough traction, hire a PR agency but be very clear about the terms of engagement.

A PR agency needs guidance so it knows your story, target audiences, and expectations. And you have to make sure it follows directions and it is connecting with the right people.

Many companies, however, hire a PR agency only to let it go off and do its thing. There’s no back and forth communication so when media coverage fails to happen, it is an unpleasant surprise.

Instead, establish a partnership. You’re in it together. It’s important to move in lockstep so everyone knows the end goal and how you’re going to get there.

Bottom line: there are different ways to get media coverage. You can do it yourself. You can build relationships. You can hire a PR agency.

But here’s the most important thing: media coverage is not the end game. It is not a silver bullet or magical. It’s not going to quickly impact your prospects overnight.

In some cases, media coverage drives a spike in attention, which is exciting. But then that traffic disappear.

In the bigger picture, the most thing is building a product that people want to buy. (Hopefully, that doesn’t come across as too Business 101). Be clear about the value that your product delivers, and develop marketing and sales collateral that’s customer-centric. It’s about them, not about you.

Media coverage is a cherry on top of the sundae. If you attract it, great. If not, carry on and find other ways to attract the spotlight. End of story.

In my new book, Marketing Spark, I look at the different ways that fast-growing companies can tell their stories, including the use of PR agencies.