I have demonstrated success in increasing media coverage and achieving media relations goals for clients. It is not rocket science, I just look at media relations differently than some. My philosophy (and one that is often supported by journalists) is that in PR, the SEND button is to be used with discretion. Just because we have the tools to mass email a message to millions with the touch of a button does not mean that we should. Every pitch needs to be targeted, personal and relevant, ensuring that my name, and more importantly, my client’s name, stands in good stead with reporters.

When many organizations are flexing their PR muscles with media lists seemingly on steroids, I take a more organic approach, which has yielded great results.

Although the golden rule applies (you remember: Do Unto Others…), there’s more to it. Below are my Jules’ Rules for building better media relationships.

Always Warm Up

Journalists like to be contacted in various ways, so it is the job of the professional to ensure that they have researched and confirmed interest in communication. Vast data bases that you buy cannot do this for you. A brief, polite email with a brief line about your client / topic and asking if they are interested in further information works wonders. You’ll shed pounds off your list by keeping only targets that say yes. (No response means no.)

Be An MVP (Most Valued Professional)

We would like to imagine journalists sitting around at their desk doodling and wondering what the heck they are going to write about, but, reality is completely opposite. Journalists do not need more ideas. They are creative people, who have plenty of neat ideas. What they need are meaty resources – and fast. They have deadlines, too many stories to write, not enough time to sift through the junk, plus a bunch of PR people sending them junky, sugary sweet pitches. Give them what they need: access, data, images, and real people and angles that add context to their topic. Spin is out. Healthy collaboration is in.

Fortify Trust

By asking for and receiving permission to engage (send pitches, materials, etc.) you have helped your journalist trust that you will manage this relationship respectfully and responsibly. But for those warm, fuzzy feelings to continue, you have to deliver on any promises. Therefore, tell them exactly what you can deliver (an interview with the CEO or a customer who used your product) and make sure that you do. If you can’t get it, don’t offer it.

Work It Out As A Team

You have been given permission to enter. You have provided needed resources and information. You have proven to be professional and responsible. The journalist has every reason to feature your group, product or person in their next piece. Now you are on the same team. Unfortunately, things change: deadlines move, breaking news happens, editors change course, stories die. When (not if) that happens, deal with it and take one for the team. When the story does take shape and you are included in that process, make sure you monitor your contributions to ensure that you are delivering as promised. Confirm numbers, contacts and dates, then step out of the way and let the reporter do their job. If they need you, they know where to find you.

Do Not Skip The Cooldown

Once the piece is completed, journalists appreciate their articles being shared just as much as anyone else. Keep up to date with the journalist by continuing to read their work, monitor their professional activities (such as job switches) and what stories they are developing. This is where lurking becomes a positive: keep yourself informed and updated so you remain a solid resource, but do not send “just touching base” emails or tweets. Lurk, don’t spam.

I might not be the brawniest, but by follow these tips I’ve trimmed the fat and have lean, healthy media lists.

8 thoughts on “Building Better Media Relationships

  1. You’ve highlighted an interesting conundrum, Jules. While developing and monitoring access is key to nurturing, growing and sustaining mutually beneficial media relationships, what’s increasingly problematic is the fractured state of audience attention as they grow increasingly granularized (that’s a nonsense word but it illustrates what I’m getting at).

    As media members are squeezed, publications (especially print) struggle to remain relevant and editors look to get eyes in front of their products, PR practitioners and their contacts in the media are both scrambling for audience mindshare.

    I’m interested to know if your clients are concerned about their increasingly fractured audiences and how you set their minds at ease about reaching the broadest possible cross-section of potential publics.

    This is a great post. Next time I’ll come up with something different to say about these great posts. Perhaps you should stop writing great posts.

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    1. Thanks. Funny. I’ll work on some really non-great posts just for you when you start posting non-great replies. ;-).

      Ok, here’s what I think: It is a conundrum. The fractured state of audience attention has grown increasingly granularized (nice word.) Journalists and communications pros have eased (or been dragged) into this new world where content is king and everyone has access to whatever specific (granular) information they want.

      What I have found though, is that clients (mine, potential, others) are responding with an increased level of interest in media coverage, minus the understanding of how that process or industry has changed. It is as if the frenzied, fractured new world has made people cling to the idea that great press coverage will help them break though. Just yesterday, I got another Oprah suggestion. With my clients (or potentials) it is only after many conversations that we move toward a narrower ideal for media outreach, which to me is real stories, not enterprise promotion pieces.

      What do you think?
      ~ Jules

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  2. You have clients that assume you know what you’re talking about, which has you well ahead of the curve already. Often PR folks don’t get the benefit of the doubt. Your reputation precedes you.

    The education component of PR (professionals providing guidance for neophytes) is incredibly important. This is something that’s often missed (even by folks in the game), I think. I’ll be interested to see what the C-suiters have to say when the PR Road Show publishes its findings, but I’ve learned that some company heads aren’t accustomed to asking questions of folks about something like PR. It’s partly an incomplete understanding of what we do and also some hubris, but one of the outgrowths of the parsing underway on the Web and in other media is the importance of getting folks on board with some sense of the scope of the landscape and working with professionals to establish and update a map that shifts from moment to moment.

    The narrowed focus to which you’ve alluded here makes sense ideologically and practically. Why spend precious dollars at a “throw it at the wall and see what sticks” philosophy when detailed demographic data partnered with a practiced PR eye can help ensure the most effective deployment of resources?

    Finally, one of the things clients can miss is folks in the media are caught in the same fractured wave as the audiences to whom they deliver content. They need guidance, too. What you’ve written here about the lack of understanding clients display regarding the fluidity of unceasing news cycles is exactly right. Do people know, for example, that there are entire swaths of the buying public for whom Oprah is not a key communicator? Media outreach is (or should be), as you’ve made clear, but one peg of a multi-pronged long-term strategy.

    Rock on, Jules.

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  3. I feel like I learn so much every time I read one of your blogs. Like I’ve said before you are so full of good information to help anyone in almost any business situation. I like the rules you’ve posted to help build better media relationships. Thanks Jules!

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    1. You are very welcome! The Jules Rules section is fun and it gives everyone an abbreviated version of my bossiness.

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