Working with the media can throw up its challenges but the basic premise of the media-relations task is relatively simple.
If your main objective is to achieve favourable editorial coverage, it is your job (or the job of your PR or communications agency) to make sure that you meet the needs of the journalist which you are targeting.
Most companies may think that the above sentence is the wrong way round. After all, shouldn’t a journalist be interested in what you have to say?
There is no simple answer! Sometimes they are, sometimes that are not.
Mention the word PR to a journalist and the common complaint is that they are often bombarded with information that is either irrelevant, inappropriate for their audience/readership or contains little or no factual information.
If you have something to say and believe that using the media is the best way to carry your message, then neglecting to target your message wastes their time and yours.
It isn’t necessary to sit down and have lunch with every single journalist you contact, but it is crucial to understand their needs are and to gradually build up a relationship with them.
There are 4 basic principles which can help and prepare you for dealing with the media. Follow these rules and you’re off to a good start.
Why should a journalist or editor listen to what you have to say? Is it newsworthy? Is it relevant to their readership? Has the subject been covered recently? Just because it’s news to you doesn’t mean that it’s news to them.
When is their deadline? How frequently do they run? Is it a weekly, monthly or quarterly publication? When is the best time to call the journalist? Calling a journalist when they are on a tight deadline will automatically earn you a black mark.
How do they like to receive information? Some prefer email whilst others prefer fax. Find out what methods suits best. It may be time consuming, but targeting a media release with up to date information is more likely to get your product or service noticed.
Respect what they say. Sometimes your article just isn’t considered newsworthy. If this happens it doesn’t mean that you stand no chance in the future, it just means that further study of the publication could be in order. Learn the publication’s language and ‘feel’ and write with their audience in mind, not yours.
Work with and accommodate the needs of the journalists you are trying to reach.
Good relations take time to build, but persistence and knowledge can be the difference.
Stuart Evans is the Director of Vibe Communications