How to Build News Media Relationships

As you know, positive news media relationships can be invaluable to any organization. A college student reached out to me with a question recently, and it occurred to me that my reply to her included some insights our blog readers might find valuable. The question was:

“What are three key things to focus on when starting to build relationships with the news media?”

Have a Great Story

First, no matter how good your relationship is, your story has to be relevant to the audience. Likewise, if you have no relationship but present a great story, you’ll get the placement. It is important to understand the reporter/editor/media outlet/audience you are targeting and what makes a win for them.

Get to the Right Person

It has never been easier to inundate the newsroom with electronic press releases, and unfortunately, newsrooms are more understaffed than ever. Subscribing to a good database such as Cision will help you identify the right contact. Keep in mind that they may be overwhelmed and on deadline. Make it easy for them to immediately understand your story and imagine themselves telling it.

Be Patient, Consistent and Responsive

Media relationships are earned over time. Sometimes you need to place a story, and sometimes they need a source. When you become known to them as someone who understands their needs and responds immediately, journalists will begin to contact you when they need something–and be more receptive to the stories you have to offer. Also, note that awareness with reporters and editors builds over time just like it does with consumers. If they don’t respond to your first press release, don’t give up. Keep sending quality stories their way and they will notice.

A few quick bonus PR tips:

Be a perfectionist. Follow AP Style and triple check your releases and correspondence.

Be honest. Tell a lie once and you’ll be a liar forever.

Be creative. The stories are out there.

Be voracious. A voracious reader, viewer, listener, student of culture, etc. Make sure you understand the context of the media outlet you are trying to reach.

Be organized. Some outlets have long lead times. Plan accordingly.

Be digital. Many journalists prefer to receive story ideas by email or Twitter, rather than an interruptive phone call.

Be a promoter. Once you have a story placed, share it with the world by posting links on your website and social media. Don’t forget to share it with your internal audiences, too. Your boss will thank you and your colleagues in other departments will take pride in the recognition the organization has received.

Be sensible. Understand that the newsroom exists to share valuable stories, not to promote your product. If you want guaranteed visibility, buy an ad.

Be concise. Everything you send and everything you say should immediately explain the benefit. Imagine a finger hovering over the delete button as your email subject line is being read. You have seconds to get your story across. If the journalist can’t immediately see the value of your story and imagine themselves being the one to tell it, game over.

Investing in Public Relations—particularly news media relations—is one of the best ways to build a brand and “Outsmart, Not Outspend™.” We’re here to help if you need us.

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Rich Odato

Rich Odato

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