Videojournalist

How to Build Strong Media Relations

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.

World Vision

World Vision: A PR Blunder

World Vision, a popular Christian charity organization, has announced today that it will reverse its decision to hire individuals who are in same sex unions. The decision comes barely two-days after the organization received a myriad of complaints according to the Associated Press.  Despite its best intentions World Vision created a communication crisis.

In examining the response to the complaints, it appears as though the organization employed a vocal commiseration strategy. This strategy included  releasing an apology letter from the World Vision U.S. board of directors. The letter addressed that the board regretted its decision, acknowledged it made a mistake, and asked for forgiveness.

This strategy does have its advantages, admitting regret and issuing an apology can help temper “public hostility”.  In a crisis management situation, the goal of any response is to repair the organization’s image and reputation.

However, simply issuing an apology does not automatically repair the damage. It is often not possible to completely repair an organization’s image with all its publics or stakeholders. World Vision will have to identify all the relevant publics and decide which publics are the most important.

Additionally, World Vision will have to decide if they will pursue any corrective action. This action might be implementing policy that will prevent this situation from occurring in the future. Corrective action reinforces the organizations commitment to its values and mission.

It remains unclear as to why an organization with such a large evangelical public would establish such a controversial policy. This calls into question the organization’s familiarity with its publics. Public relations is built around establishing and maintaining positive relations. Perhaps World Vision will remember this fundamental principle in the future.