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.
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.