Tips for better media relations

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In my last blog I wrote about ways to make the most out of media interview opportunities. Turning such contact with journalists into ongoing relationships is another building block to obtaining useful and informed coverage.

Building relationships with individual journalists seems an obvious and an easy enough approach to undertake, but even the most sophisticated organisations and experienced executives often get it wrong.

Ten top tips for better media relations include:

  • Build relationships not contact. Focus on the journalists important to your organisation and understand their needs by knowing their publication or program and maintaining a schedule that develops ongoing contact into relationships.
  • Consider what interests the reader. Ask the journalists what they are interested in/working on, and what reader feedback they are getting. This not only helps you make a contribution but can also provide good feedback on what your market is concerned about.
  • Remember it’s about issues not products. We spoke about this in our last blog, and we can’t emphasise it enough. Focus on what interests journalists and their readers, not just what’s important to you. Use simple language, not jargon. Be information-based, not product.
  • Be helpful, thoughtful, reliable and knowledgeable. Those who can forget about product promotion, can listen to journalists and can talk about the issues of the day in a knowledgeable way, are the ones who get quoted. Use your time with journalists positively. Be prepared by knowing the issues you are able to talk about, and who the journalist writes for.
  • Don’t contact a journalist only when you want coverage. No-one likes to feel they are being used and yet many people do just that with journalists. Trying to turn every contact into a story every time will only damage relationships. Instead, try to catch up on a regular basis for a chat over a coffee.
  • Realise that not all media contact will result in instant coverage. Sometimes a meeting with a journalist does not eventuate into the journalist writing a story. This does not mean the time has been wasted, as meeting with journalists on a regular basis is as much about relationship building as it is gaining media coverage. If the information is relevant and timely, regular meetings will eventually result in coverage.
  • Be available. Being available at short notice, with minimal fuss, can be the difference between being quoted in a story, and not being quoted. Telling a journalist with a deadline of today, that you can not speak to them until tomorrow, may mean they won’t call you for a comment next time.
  • Don’t waste journalists’ time. Notwithstanding the need to create relationships, don’t overdo the contact. Be aware of journalists’ time pressures when they are on deadline. Don’t try to sell a story when there’s no interest. Don’t offer an exclusive when you’ve already given it to someone else. Deliver on promises, especially when you have been given a deadline and return calls promptly.
  • Focus on journalists interested in you. Spreading yourself too thinly can be a mistake. Focus on the journalists likely to reach your target audience, not the big name radio program everyone else is chasing. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be responsive to queries from other journalists. Most coverage is useful, just don’t let it distract you from the aims of the activity.
  • Consider inviting journalists to company and industry functions. Journalists can be invited to client events and to roadshows and conferences. They often appreciate the opportunity to be presented with the same material you are presenting to your clients, as you are presenting it.