What is media relations in today’s world? Well, it’s the same basic principles that we’ve been following for decades, with a digital twist. Here are three basic ways to get your or your client’s news covered:
Know what is newsworthy
Prepare your news outlet PR strategy. According to MediaCollege.com, there are five factors to help you decide whether you have a winning story to tell. Usually a newsworthy article hits at least two of them:
- Timing – Topics that are current. Do you have the latest update on a trending headline? If the same thing already happened recently, especially in today’s instant news cycle, it’s no longer interesting.
- Significance – This pertains to the number of people that will be affected by the story. More people equals more coverage.
- Proximity – Is it local? However, this doesn’t have to mean geographical distance. For example, stories from countries in western Europe have more significance to the U.S. due to similarity and common bonds.
- Prominence – Does your story involve a famous person or elected official?
- Human Interest – These are stories that appeal to emotion. Usually funny, quirky or emotional rollercoaster feature stories fit in this category.
Get to know your client’s industry and local media outlets
Once you have a list of potential reporters relevant to your story, gain an understanding of the media you want to encourage to cover your news. If possible, start early. Way before you have information to share. This can take days or at least several hours or more of preparation. Go online and read the news outlet website, watch the local television news, read and listen to the radio stations to which you will be sending information. Follow their social media pages. Journalists are usually especially active on Twitter. LinkedIn is another great way to introduce yourself, especially if you are seeking business or non-profit reporters.
Also attend media briefings. In larger cities, professional associations and newswire services often host “get to know the media” events. For example, in Nashville the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) frequently hosts journalists at luncheons throughout the year.
Perfect your pitch
Now decide whether you need to write a press release or pitch an interview. Email is your best bet. Ideally, if you are sending a press release, include a personal note at the top. Keep it as short and succinct as possible. Have more than one person proofread and provide feedback.
Triple check your facts and spelling – especially the correct spelling of the reporter’s name.
Be sure to send your pitch only to reporters who are familiar with your topic. If you send a pitch for successful business tactics to sports reporters, you likely won’t receive a response, and if you do, it probably won’t be one of interest. Notable media placements require research. Before sending your pitch, take time to tailor your media list to the subject about which you are writing.
An easy way to boost the effectiveness of your pitch is to perform a quick keyword search in a media database like Cision. By doing so, you can find influencers who are using buzzwords related to your article topic. For instance, if your piece relates to healthcare technology, you could search keywords such as “healthcare” and “medicine.” This is a quick method to developing a list of reporters who share an interest in your topic, which can increase the likelihood of coverage for your client.
Once you’ve narrowed your media list to the most relevant influencers, your pitch is ready to go – but remember – if you receive a reply, your work has just begun.
After you hit send, be ready to be helpful, friendly and accessible. Give reporters your cell number. If you get a response, quickly provide answers to any follow-up questions. Have your spokesperson identified and ready with talking points. Reporters are almost always on a deadline and need answers as fast as possible. If applicable, have video links, photo files and other story enhancements digitally ready for them on a site like Dropbox or Youtube.
Although only a portion of what a PR pro does, media relations is extremely important to the public relations function. And reputation, messaging and timing are all factors in getting it right. Always be honest with reporters. It is essential to your credibility – and theirs.