Developing a productive relationship with media can be challenging, especially when media requirements conflict with client instructions. At the same time, however, they are a crucial skill set for many PR professionals. With that in mind, here are six simple tips to improve your media relations.
1. Start with the relations bit
Media relations are, unsurprisingly, all about relationships — mutual trust, respect and occasionally even genuine friendship. So why do so many PR folk still think an email — or even worse an group email — is enough? Think about how many emails you get in a day. Times that by ten, or even twenty, and you are close to the number of emails a busy journalist needs to sift through in a typical day. To be blunt, if you have yet to meet the person you are just about to send a release to, unless it is news of earth shattering importance don’t press send. Chances are that if they don’t know you, they won’t care too much about you (or your client).
Given the geographic spread in the Asia Pacific region, a face-to-face meeting is not always possible, but at the very minimum you should be picking up the phone and introducing yourself. Having a relationship — and a real relationship needs to be genuine and reciprocal — won’t guarantee your clients any kind of priority but it will at least ensure that they get considered. And by developing a relationship, you can avoid falling foul of the second piece of advice…
2. Know your media
It may seem obvious but it needs saying: know who you are pitching to. Understand what kind of topics they cover (trade, lifestyle, business, general news), the kind of formats they prefer (news releases, opinion pieces, features, reviews) and which journalist within the publication cover which beats. Be relevant or be ignored.
3. Use your communications skills
Standard, template press releases tend to get standard treatment in newsrooms — and sadly that can often mean hitting the delete button. If you find putting together your release to be an uninspiring process, how do you think a journalist feels when reading? Sometimes it is about innovating how you communicate, as this video shows, but more often than not it simply means writing compelling copy that tells your story in a clear, accessible and interesting manner and gets the story hook in as soon as early as possible. You are hired as a communicator, so time to show your skills.
4. Find an exclusive angle
For many journalists exclusivity is still the best way to pull in readers and keep editors happy. However, exclusives can at times conflict with the client’s wish to generate the widest possible media coverage, so compromises will inevitably need to be made. If your client wants a general release, then explain this to your media contacts — most will understand (that relationship thing again) — but also think of ways to offer more value to the release: access to additional data/analysis, a follow-up call with the client or a video interview. Journalists need fresh angles, so help them out.
5. Deliver, because excuses don’t wash
This one is simple: never promise what you can’t deliver. If there is even a small doubt in your mind that you will be able to deliver within the publication’s deadline, take it back, apologise and look to make amends next time. Nothing frustrates and angers a journalist more than being left empty handed with a deadline looming, or, just as bad, being told that the exclusive you promised is being sent out to all media.
6. Be ready to follow up
Also referred to as “know your client’s business’. If, for instance, you are pitching a tech client you should have a good understanding of the tech sector in general and your client’s busienss in particular. The journalist you are pitching to will know this only too well and the credibility of you, your agency and your client will be damaged if you are unable to answer follow-up questions. If you are new on an account or new to a certain practice and really don’t know — and if so you should not be facing the media — then have an agency or client spokesperson on hand and available for comment.
Michael O’Neill is digital managing editor, Asia Pacific, at Weber Shandwick