5 critical tips to succeed in media relations
I love media relations, and I count myself lucky to have had the pleasure of building relationships with many fascinating, funny reporters over the years, both as a journalist and as a communications pro.
Media relations is fast-paced and fun, and I got a great education in how to treat journalists when I was a reporter and editor at daily newspapers. This experience informs my tips on how NOT to treat journalists.
Think before you pitch
Please don’t send the same news release to every department at a media outlet. At one paper, I had to remake a page on deadline because Features was running a story based on the same news release that I received. I was not happy. Not at all.
Target your pitches by doing your due diligence. Don’t ask a reporter who covers higher education to write about your grade-school Chinese program. It may be a good story, but you’ve just illustrated you don’t care enough to do your research. Read/view/listen to journalists’ previous stories, read their bios and LinkedIn pages, and follow them on social media.
Take it to the next level
Now that you’ve read a reporter’s work, interact with him or her. Like their stories on Twitter or send a complimentary email. Do you know how many criticisms journalists receive every day? Getting a kind word makes you stand out. Warning: Pay a compliment only if you really mean it, since reporters can smell fake sincerity a mile away.
Understand how news works
Journalists are facing ever-growing demands for more news, more posts, more photos, more video, more everything, while staffs continue to shrink. If you can make their job easier by offering a timely pitch that is newsworthy, has a great angle and visuals, you will be appreciated.
Don’t blame a reporter if your story gets bumped. News happens. If a four-alarm fire breaks out, do you really think your ribbon cutting is going to make the cut? (And please avoid ribbon cuttings at all costs – surely there is a more inventive, newsworthy angle you can develop that will please both your client and reporters.)
Be respectful, and ask for respect in return
While you want to foster a positive relationship with media, that doesn’t mean you can’t ask a news outlet to correct an error. I don’t know any journalist who enjoys making mistakes. Just make sure you contact the reporter first. Going over his or her head to their editor is disrespectful and tantamount to the nuclear option.
I’ve read enough stilted pitches from PR people to know that injecting a human note into your communications goes a long way. That’s why I write pitches infused with my own personality – straightforward, honest and sometimes funny. I may not get a placement every time, but it’s often the first step in building a long-term relationship. And that’s what media relations is all about.
For more on media relations success, see my post on “7 things to ask before a media interview” https://piermancommunications.com/538-2/