Every good public relations professional recognizes the importance of fostering relationships with bloggers and reporters who cover your organization. Developing these relationships takes hard work and mutual understanding. Below are some key tips and suggestions inspired by Carol Howard and Wilma Mathews authors of the best selling book, On Deadline: Managing Media Relations.
Understand the Industry
A journalist’s life is often dictated by fast deadlines. In the 24hr news cycle there are publication schedules that must be met. Deadlines are set by editors for both print and online formats. These deadlines must be met on schedule. To assist journalists, you must be able to meet their deadlines. Meeting deadlines often means responding within the same day, sometimes within a few hours. For example, there are many same day requests that appear on the publicity tool, Help a Reporter Out (HARO).
Part of understanding the industry is learning the deadlines for media outlets who routinely cover your clients. If you are pitching to a new media contact, a help desk worker will be more than happy to tell you the deadlines for specific beats and editions. After learning the deadlines, make sure to record your findings and keep an updated file with this information. Although you can rely on paid services such as CisionPoint, having an offline local file will guarantee quick access and ensure you never miss a deadline again.
Start with the Media Release
Beyond deadlines, many PR novices think a media release is the only tactic necessary to secure media coverage and foster good relationships. Start thinking of a media release as an invitation. It invites the journalist to conduct follow-up research about the topic, contact third-parties, ask you questions and then rewrite the media release to meet the demands of an editor.
After submitting your media release don’t be afraid to follow-up with the journalist. If you submitted your materials before a deadline and haven’t heard back send an email. Keep the email brief and to the point. If you do not receive an immediate response, it doesn’t mean the journalist isn’t interested. Believe it or not they are working on more than just your story.
It takes time to develop a story, even from a well written media release. Knowing deadlines and timing the distribution of media releases will go a long way in helping foster those media relationships.
Be Accessible, Be Informed
Communication is key in public relations. You should not hesitate to give journalists your mobile number. Encourage journalists to call, and anticipate follow-up conversations.
“When I get a pitch about a new product, I will check to see if it’s available locally. If I can’t find out the info from the website, I’ll respond with that question (or with other questions about the product) and about half the time, the email goes unanswered,” said Lesley Lassiter, blogger for lesleyeats.com.
If you are working with on a team project, remind your fellow colleagues that media outlets will often call to request more information. Ensure that everyone is on the same page by providing talking points, lists of anticipated questions, and agreed upon points of contact.
Prepare for the Aftermath
A final consideration involves how to handle errors in a published story. Although it is human nature to play the blame game, firing off a letter to the editor can quickly destroy even the most steadfast relationship with a journalist. Before you contact the party responsible (never jump rank and start with the Editor in Chief), make sure you evaluative the severity of the error. If the error is minor it will probably be overlooked by the majority of consumers. If the error does require correcting, it is your job to courteously inform the reporter and explain problem.
A quick email or call to the reporter clearly stating the error(s) and correction(s), can in most cases fix the problem. On rare occasions you might have to write a letter to an editor or ask for a printed correction. These occasions are subjective and require a thorough analysis of the situation.
No media event or press kit can replace years of work in developing good media relations. With a bit of hard work and dedication you can apply these helpful tips and be on your way in improving communication with your own media contacts. If you can think of another helpful suggestion please comment below.