Developing and Maintaining Meaningful Media Relations

As the face of the media changes, so must be the ways in which we go about practicing successful media relations. During these times, when reporters and editors are facing increased workloads due to shrinking staffs, it is especially important to consider how we’re managing our media relationships. The key to fostering meaningful relationships with the media is to be empathetic and understanding not only of what their journalistic needs are, but also to be considerate of the pressures they face—and to do so in the most efficient manner.  While there is no foolproof plan to follow when initiating a media relations strategy, there are several common aspects to keep in mind.  Below are a few guidelines I use to establish and maintain solid relationships with the media:

*Embrace Social Media

The influential presence of social media in today’s culture is undeniable.  While adapting to new communication tools can be time-consuming, it is equally as important to learn about how and why these tools are influencing media relations.

One of the key ways I’ve begun using social media in my PR activities is by incorporating Twitter as a news distribution tool. While some are eager to use Twitter to quickly blast out pitches, I take a different approach. Rather than bombarding the media with tweets, I have found success using Twitter to post links to recent client hits or news updates for the media to scoop up if they so choose. This is a great way to keep the media informed of what’s going on in your clients’ worlds and to spur discussion that can lead to more coverage. 

Social media, like any new media, is not a “one size fits all” garment. When working with bloggers, this means doing your research and checking out the “how to pitch me” sections on the blogs you choose to target.  The bottom line when it comes to communicating with your target media is to always be sensitive to their needs and preferences.  Just as all PR professionals have their own way of communicating information, all members of the media have particular ways by which they’d like to receive this information.

*Know What’s News

Many reporters – in both traditional and new media – are burned out and do not have time for irrelevant pitches. When sending a pitch, remember to ask yourself, “Is this really news?”  And if not, how can it tie into what really is news?

One way to increase the odds that your pitch gets noticed is to present it to the media on particularly slow news days. Every news outlet has its slow days and doing a little bit of research will allow you to target the media on these days when they might have a little more attention to give you or a little less news to fill up the paper, magazine or Web site.  Not only will this give you a better chance of getting that hit, it will also let the media know that you are paying attention and being sensitive to their schedules.

*Make Exclusive Info Accessible

Providing your target media with exclusive information before it is available to the general public is a great way to encourage coverage of a new announcement. Non-disclosure agreements, embargoed news, and exclusive interviews are all ways to accomplish this. It’s also imperative to make your news easily accessible by including a link to high-resolution images within your press release and sending the information via e-mail without large attachments. With today’s changing news cycle, characterized by the immediacy of the internet, non-disclosure agreements are especially useful. Having members of the media sign a non-disclosure agreement prior to your event or product-release, allows them to compile news stories that can be released immediately after, or even during the event.

*Create a Connection

Organize mini networking events—cocktail parties or editorial dinners—that provide a meeting place for your clients and the media you wish to reach. Use these get-togethers to create a relaxed atmosphere in which reporters can interact with executives, thought-leaders and other influential figures. This allows journalists to discover a story with an edge, rather than reporting on the same news everyone else is. Informal get-togethers will also help to humanize the PR agency in the eyes of the media while allowing for a sincere and professional connection.  Informal gatherings are also a great way for PR practitioners to truly get an idea of where each member of the media is coming from and develop habits that ultimately benefit both sides of the relationship.

This article was written by Jason Ledder, media relations director of R & J Public Relations.