By: Kaitlyn Red Wing (@KaitlynRedWing)
Public relations professionals need journalists just as journalists need PR pros when disseminating information to the public. PRSSA was honored to welcome Beth Dornan, PR Manager at Amway, and Shandra Martinez, former MLive Reporter, to talk about all things media relations and everything they’ve learned over the years. Beth and Shandra shared their top 10 tips for best practices in media relations and being successful in your career.
1. Build a relationship based on mutual respect
The foundation of good PR is built on relationships. Strive for genuine and real relationships with the media by treating journalists with respect and slowly building a relationship that will be mutually beneficial moving forward.
2. Say “thank you”
It’s important to always thank reporters for fairness and accuracy in their coverage of your product, service, or client. Regardless of how you or your client feels about what they said in their coverage, a reporter will not change the story if it is factual. Trying to persuade them to change the story in your favor is not only unethical, but can ruin your relationship with media outlets. You’re in it for the long-haul, so respecting the media and letting them know you appreciate them will go a long way.
3. Provide background information
When pitching to the media, or interviewers, it’s important to provide all the background information and details they’ll need so they don’t have to look for it on their own. Do this for your client as well. If your client is up-to-date and aware of all information regarding the topic of discussion, then they will be more prepared for interviews.
4. Ask for line of questions
When helping prepare your client for an interview, it’s ok to ask the interviewer for a line of questioning. Ask what topics they will be asking about so you can properly prepare your client. This does not mean asking for all of the questions verbatim; no interviewer will be comfortable sharing that information.
5. Do not ask to review a story prior to publishing
This may be a given, but the story is not in your control; it is entirely up to the reporter to write what they’d like to write regarding your product or client. You can, however, let the reporter know that you are available for fact-checking and any questions they may have as they curate the story.
6. Follow-up with inaccuracies
While you shouldn’t follow-up regarding the content you or your client do not like, you should follow-up with any inaccuracies you notice in an article to ensure that the story is factual for the audience.
7. Exclusives don’t matter
A reporter isn’t going to be interested in any exclusive or short-time offer. Their job is to make sure the story is appealing and newsworthy. If the story doesn’t appeal to them, they won’t want to cover it, exclusive or not.
8. Your problem is not their problem
Even if you need something covered because you’re caught in a bind, that is not a valid reason to approach the media with your problems as a means to persuade them in covering your product or client.
9. Your spokesperson may not be the best
Your client’s designated spokesperson isn’t always the best source for an interview. Often, a company will have one spokesperson they use for their communication and marketing campaigns. But that spokesperson may not be the best fit for the particular interview, or who the journalist wants to speak with. The journalist wants to interview the expert or the one who has the most knowledge on the topic. That will lead to higher quality, more genuine media coverage.
10. It’s not the media’s job to “spread the word”
You shouldn’t have to ask a reporter to “spread the word” about your news just because you think it’s necessary. Their job is to deliver newsworthy content that their audience will care about. Make sure you pitch to the journalist that covers topics relevant to your news and whose audience is a match to the group of individuals you are trying to reach.
Remember these tips as you continue your career in public relations. The reality is that media relations is one of the hardest parts about public relations. Writing a blog post or a tweet is easy, but convincing the media to buy, write, or cover your topic requires a lot of hard work. Using these tips to your advantage will help set you apart from the sea of other public relations professionals all trying to get that same journalist to cover, buy, or write about their clients. If nothing else, you’ll gain long-lasting relationships and friendships through the process.
Kaitlyn Red Wing is currently a Senior at Grand Valley State University with a major in Writing and minor in Public Relations & Advertising. She’s currently a PR intern at Lambert and social media manager and journalist for GameSavvy. In her free time you can find her at the local bookstore sipping on hot tea while browsing the shelves.