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10 do’s and don’ts for effective media relations

Today, the media is a different animal than ever before.

While traditional print journalism is by no means dead, these reporters and editors are now joined by a host of other media influencers including:

  • 24/7 TV reporters and news directors
  • Radio personalities
  • Magazine editors
  • Trade journal editors
  • Web content editors
  • Bloggers
  • Social media influencers

Just as the media themselves are juggling more than ever in an ever-evolving, 24/7 digital environment, it takes skill and finesse to juggle the ins and outs of media relations well.

Follow these do’s and don’ts to build strong media relationships and hopefully earn trust and increase your chances of news coverage along the way.

YES – DO follow these best practices

  1. Engage – Say hello and make conversation with reporters or editors at events. If they’re on social media with a work account, reply to their posts and share their articles on your own pages.
  2. Communicate – Are they a texting-only professional? Do they much prefer phone calls but hate voicemails? Cater to each individual’s communication preference.
  3. Support – Even if a news topic isn’t directly about your company, send the idea to them anyway if its relevant to their beat or audience. Being supportive will go a long way to building a relationship.
  4. Deliver – Always have “art” (i.e. photos, graphics, visuals, etc.) to go with your pitches or press releases. This makes your piece more likely to get coverage and demonstrates you’re doing everything you can to support them. Make sure the photos are high-quality, at least 300 dpi, and provide a few options if you can.
  5. Respond – No matter how they check in with you, get back to them immediately letting them know you got the message and are working on it. Find out their deadline and stick to it. Ask what the best way is to get back in touch with them. Media tend to have much quicker turnarounds than corporate America and waiting a few days until you get approval for an interview means you’ll most likely miss out on being a source. Remember, not being responsive enough this time means the media may not contact you the next time an opportunity arises.

NO – DON’T follow these practices

  1. Waste their time – Make sure your pitches, story ideas and press releases are short and to-the-point. They must be relevant to that publication’s audience and follow its policies (i.e. letter to the editor sticking to the maximum word count). Don’t send a member of the media a press release for something that doesn’t fall in their coverage area or they have a policy not to include.
  2. Complain – Unless the media made a factual error, don’t call to complain that they didn’t use the quote you wanted or didn’t quote you first or solely. They may have requirements you don’t know about or are telling the story differently than you would have. Complaining will only hurt your relationship. If they did make a factual error, gently ask that it be corrected.
  3. Lack follow through – Don’t say you’ll respond and then not do so before their deadline. This is a sure way to be put on their “not good to work with” list.
  4. Use superlatives – The media work almost exclusively in facts. If you’re communicating a project or accomplishment was the largest, best, safest, etc., you need to have factual data to back it up. Otherwise, leave it out.
  5. Sell at all costs – Avoid acting like a stereotypical salesman who only cares about the result, not about the people they’re interacting with. The media have just as much pressure, deadlines, and complexity in their life as you do, and working with them, not at them, will impact your effectiveness.

Building relationships with news reporters is an ongoing process that takes commitment and time. As reporters move outlets or you’re working with different types of media influencers, you’ll find these tips will help strengthen your relationships for the long term.

If your company is looking to make an impact in the world of earned media coverage, we can help. Contact us or call 717-885-0014 to learn more!