Five Golden Rules to Master Media Relations
Developing a productive relationship with the media is tough. I have witnessed both publicists and founders go into a complete meltdown over their efforts. In recent years, it has become more difficult to receive media placements thanks to shrinking newsrooms and overwhelmed journalists. However, when done correctly, a media placement can be more effective than any advertising, social media and marketing efforts combined.
To ensure that your story is told by the media, here are the five golden rules of media relations:
- Build a targeted media list. Building a media list can be extremely time consuming, but it is one of the most important processes in beginning the outreach process. Communications professionals often rely on software to build media lists; however, to really zero in on media relevant to your company, nothing replaces Google News. Search for your competitors to see if journalists found their stories intriguing and pay attention to the coverage they are receiving. Are they releasing data, company culture news or raising funding? These are the journalists you should be targeting as well.
- Research, research, research. Now that you’ve spent hours building a media list, it’s time to research the hell out of these journalists. Not only should you be reading over their most recent articles, but you should also check out their social media profiles and read their bios.
Reading every article a journalist has penned can be extremely time consuming. As a general rule of thumb, read three articles to completion, then peruse their headlines to get a feel for what they cover. When reading the journalists’ work, take note of the tone in which they write. Are they dry and factually driven? Do they write with a sense of humor? You’ll want to use this information and match their tone when you reach out to them.
- Focus on the relationship, not the pitch. The No. 1 mistake people make when pitching the media is treating them like they are robots. Journalists are real people — do not be afraid to have a personality when reaching out to them. Before sending journalists a story idea, reach out and introduce yourself and your business, and ask if they would be interested in receiving updates on the company’s achievements. Also ask if they are in need of any information for pieces they are working on. Always remember that media relations is not the same as advertising. Just like in every other relationship in life, it is give and take.
- Prepare and be prompt
Nothing will put you on a journalist’s shit list faster than not being prepared or timely. As I stated earlier, journalists are extremely busy people with strict deadlines. If they are doing you the courtesy of including your company in an upcoming piece, you need to respond promptly and have all information readily available. What information, you ask? Have ready any quotes, pictures of your work and employees, a media kit and any other information the journalist may need. Also, you should always be available to hop on a call with the journalist. No matter how busy your day may be, making the time for an urgent 15-minute phone call can mean the difference between a syndicated article in Forbes and praying that people read your company news on your blog.
- Be prepared to follow up. Sometimes a media list was perfectly fleshed out, you did great research and you crafted the perfect pitch, but you won’t get a response. Chances are the journalist’s inbox was inundated and they just didn’t see your email. Always follow up after a week of pitching to see if the journalist had a chance to read your email. You’d be surprised how many times I’ve scored a placement after following up with a journalist. Just like you, they can miss emails.
While much of what we read is inherently newsworthy or based on daily events, journalists and reporters also heavily rely on news tips and other information. Having the ability to deliver a good pitch and build strong relationships with the media can go a long way when sharing your news. With these tips in your media relations pocket, you will be better prepared to position your company and form long-lasting relationships with members of the media.