By Thi Tran
Media relations, as the term suggests, is all about building relationships with the media. Sounds straightforward, but as any PR professional can tell you, it takes more than a well-written email to a reporter with a catchy “hook” to build strong, long-standing, and mutually beneficial relationships with different members of the press. It is a nuanced process that requires an acute awareness of the media landscape, a knack to uncover valuable information, and a deep respect for the profession and its players.
PR professionals view media partners — editors, reporters, journalists, etc. — as an integral part of their business and working relationships. But is the feeling mutual? Do reporters and journalists view us the same way?
In the latest episode of Deep Dive: Powered by Coldwater Communications, we unpack the complicated relationship between the media and PR professionals. Marsha Lederman, an award-winning journalist for The Globe and Mail, gives us insider information that can help fine tune your role as a PR pro. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or new to the PR world, she reminds us that, at the core, we’re all in the business of storytelling.
Reporters are constantly searching for compelling stories to tell and PR professionals have plenty of stories that need telling. This is the intersection at which we work together with the media, and as publicists and communicators, it’s critical that we share the right information with the right people.
Here are some ways Marsha Lederman says a PR professional can build a relationship with the media so stories have a better chance of making it out into the world:
Help reporters tell the truth. On a fundamental and logistical level, the relationship is built on information sharing. Do your due diligence with research and provide valuable facts, figures, details, statistics, sources, and background information in your pitch. Further, have a reliable contact person, or spokesperson, who can also speak to the subject or topic on short notice. In most instances, time is of the essence, so being able to provide the reporter with key information and contacts will give you better chances of getting your story picked up.
Improve your pitches — brevity is key! Get to the point fast and lay out the information so a reporter can see, at first glance, if they’d be interested in covering the story.
But when a pitch appears in a reporter’s inbox, what happens? Determining whether they cover your story will depend on timing, what the reporter’s schedule looks like, and if the story is right for them.
Before you send out a pitch, ask yourself: Is the pitch tailored and timely? Did I suggest distinct angles and story ideas? Did I target the right reporter for this story or idea? Have I researched their previous work? Did I provide high-value information? Did I polish the pitch?
It’s important to remember that reporters and journalists don’t want to present just the PR firm’s point of view; their job is not to promote your event or product. They’re there to serve the readers, the publication, and public interest. They want to tell a good story to an audience that wants information and wants to be entertained.
Offer exclusives if you believe a particular journalist or reporter would be the best person to cover the story. Tell them why you believe they are the right person and give them a reasonable amount of time to accept or decline your offer. By offering them an exclusive story, it tells the reporter that you’ve followed their work and strengthens your case for any future pitches.
Above all, be trustworthy. Reporters, editors, and journalists are human just like us, so being reliable, ethical, and understanding of their work goes a long way in building strong media relationships. Marsha Lederman says, “Take pride in your role. Know what you’re dealing with.” This also means keeping your expectations in check and being professional at all times. Don’t bombard reporters with requests and excessive follow-ups. Having a mutual understanding of the daily challenges reporters face — overwhelming inboxes, tight deadlines, etc. — goes a long way in creating a sustainable professional relationship.
If you want to hear more about what reporters want from PR professionals, identify some of the common pitfalls PR people make, and the role of social media has in today’s media environment, visit our podcast page and listen to Episode 4 of Deep Dive. “Relationship Status: It’s Complicated.”