5 ways to master media relations

Pitching and working with journalists is fairly straightforward, but it’s not easy to build a successful relationship. Use these power tips to ensure your news—and client—gets covered.

When I was in college, I had a part-time job as a restaurant server.

Though it was my first time working as a server, I enjoyed it and felt that I had the knack for it. The job itself was simple: Greet diners, tell them your name and that you’re here to help take their orders and record what they would like to eat and drink.

Customer service was—and always will be—the name of the game in the food-service industry to ensure customers are happy and satisfied with the experience.

Fortunately, the philosophy also applies to media relations. How do we ensure that reporters and other members of the media get what they want and are happy with the experience?

Wikipedia defines media relations as “working with media for the purpose of informing the public of an organization’s mission, policies and practices in a positive, consistent and credible manner.”

It sounds straightforward because it is. This element of what PR pros do is not rocket science—but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. However, if be done well, media relations can have a tremendous impact on your business.

If you’re looking to generate good PR coverage for yourself or your organization, here are five ways to ensure media relations success:

1. Do your homework.

You only have one chance to make a good first impression. Don’t blow it by sending a pitch that is outside of the reporter’s coverage area.

The time that you can devote to reading up on a reporter’s beat and the stories that he or she is interested in is well worth the investment. You’ll can be ahead of the game and lay the groundwork for a good relationship.

2. Think like a reporter.

Before you send your pitch, stop for a moment and think about what you’re offering to the reporter.

You want to create a narrative that isn’t blatantly self-serving, but gives the reporter an angle, perspective and trend that they might realistically be interested in covering.

Think of all the assets that a reporter requires, including images, video, data and access to spokespeople.

3. Respond in a timely manner.

In today’s 24/7 social-media-driven news cycle, speed is paramount. Don’t let a timely news hook go to waste and don’t let a reporter’s inbound inquiry for sources go unanswered.

At the very least, acknowledge within the first half hour of receiving the email whether you intend to be a source or not. The key to providing a good experience is being responsive either way.

Think about how breaking news fits into your business, industry or landscape and offer a unique POV that the reporter can incorporate into their coverage of the news. This goes a long way in terms of relationship building.

4. Become a valuable resource.

Offer yourself or other people from your network as sources that can help the reporter do his or her job.

For example, a reporter asked me if I knew of any sources who could comment on a story around cyber security. I didn’t have any clients in the industry at the time, but I had a former client who was an expert. The reporter spoke with the former client and included him in the story.

Be a resource and spread the love.

5. Meet them in person.

As much as we all rely on social media to stay connected, there’s nothing that will ever replace in-person human interaction.

Particularly if you’re trying to build a relationship, meeting face to face and getting to know one another is crucial. I personally like it because it helps put a face to the voice or emails that are typically exchanged.

In-person meetings humanize relationships, moving them past just pitching. It’s also a great opportunity to find out about what other interests and hobbies journalists have, as well as stories they are working on.

When it comes to media relations, PR pros should keep service and experience in the front of their minds and truly help our journalists friends do the best job that they can.

Doing so will pay dividends in the months and years to come.

What suggestions that I haven’t offered up do you think should be included in this list?

John McCartney currently serves as the West Coast managing director at Wise Public Relations. Follow John on Twitter (@johnny_mac) and learn more media relations insights from his appearance on #RaganChat.

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Topics: PR

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