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How to Succeed at Media Relations, Even Though it’s Harder Than Ever

As we previously explored, media relations is harder than it’s ever been. But even though it’s really, really difficult, it’s still not impossible. There’s still a way to use media relations successfully to amplify stories and generate awareness.



Over the years I’ve developed a four-fold approach to media relations. It keeps working for me, no matter the newsworthiness of my story or what other odds I might be up against. Here it is:

 

1.     Get your media list right. It’s simple yet often overlooked: your odds of media relations success are directly related to, and only as good as, the quality of the contacts/outlets you start with. Take the time to really think through the different pitch angle permutations with your clients/organizations, and then cast a wide net. Do the keyword searches to find the people who have covered a topic recently. Go to outlet websites and fill in any gaps or out-of-date information with your own research. Invest in databases and tools if you have the resources to do so, but don’t over-rely on them or use them as a crutch; your success or failure is ultimately your own responsibility. I spend much more time than the average practitioner building and maintaining lists, but this is a big reason why my/Game Changer’s results consistently outpace the rest of the industry.


2.     Match the right story with the right audience. Of course, this means developing a concise yet comprehensive story pitch with just the right mix of sales, journalism, business knowledge, common sense and news value (timeliness, proximity, human impact/interest, etc.). It also means finding the exact right media contacts and outlets for that exact story, based on the audience they reach. When these elements dovetail well, coverage happens. When they don’t, media pros of any kind will quickly disregard you and resent you for wasting their time.


3.     Deliver that story properly. This is absolutely an art unto itself, and it’s maybe the area of media relations that’s changed the most over the years. When I started my career, I faxed pitches to reporters. Today, we have a sometimes volatile combination of email, social media, phone/text and other channels to consider; every contact likes to receive information a little differently based on their role and work style, and we should deliver on that as best we can. We also have to get the timing right – time of day, day of the week, relationship to other events/items in the news cycle, etc. If you feel like you have a handle on these things but you’re still not getting results, then get in a newsroom and see first-hand how journalists work. You can have the best story of your career, but if you don’t deliver it well…it won’t stick. Simple as that.


4.     Be responsive. If/when someone in media shows interest in your story, and they request something of you to help produce their piece, you have to get it for them as quickly as you possibly can. They’re stressed and on deadline, yet they are putting their trust in you to help them do their job. If you prove unhelpful in any way, they’ll abandon their effort. And they won’t forget it, so you may as well find another contact for future pitches.

 

I have worked in newsrooms, been married to a journalist, had many friends that have been journalists and done media relations work for 25+ years. In all that time and experience, these are exactly the keys I’ve found to earn the trust of someone in the media and build a relationship with them. It truly doesn’t matter how many years you’ve been doing a particular kind of communications, or how well you know a business or an industry – what matters is the quality of your story and how good your service skills are.

 

Media relations is tough. It takes quality, professional work to do it well. All my best to you in your efforts; don’t hesitate to let us know if we can be helpful in any way.

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