One of the most important aspects of PR is media relations: how we communicate and interact with members of the news media. Approaching members of the media can seem quite intimidating and overwhelming at first. But if you have a few basic understandings, it doesn't have to be that way.
Here are three things to remember when you begin interacting with the news media:
1. Talk to the News Media as Though They're Real People, Because They Are
Your person-to-person relationships with members of the news media are what will get you the kind of coverage you want.
After you've learned as much as you can about them, their publications, and their writings, try to get to know them as people. Sometimes we place the media on such a high pedestal that we forget they're real people just like us.
Show an interest in their goals, audiences, and expectations. Spend more time asking them questions about their work and less time telling them about yours. What types of stories are they interested in: technical, business, or human interest? Do they like researching their stories themselves, or would they appreciate having a reliable source to do the research for them?
The best way to get what you want from members of the news media is to focus not on what you want, but on what they want. Foster relationships with them by being a valuable, reliable, and honest source of information.
2. Respect Their Time, Because They Don't Have Much
The news media are very busy people with limited time and strict deadlines. They receive hundreds of press releases each day. Their telephones ring practically nonstop. They can't keep up with their incoming e-mail. You will be doing them a favor by only sending out newsworthy press releases and only calling them when it is in their best interest, not yours.
Request copies of their editorial calendars, so you will know what they're writing about, what they want to hear about, and when their stories are due.
Give them the information they want, the way they want it. If they prefer to receive information via e-mail, then don't send it snail mail.
When you do call to pitch significant stories, be aware of their deadlines, and always ask if it is a good time to talk. While on the telephone, be concise, know your stuff, and keep it short. If you recognize disinterest in the tone of voice, get off the telephone.
3. Don't Try to Sell to Them, Because They Aren't Buying
Remember that you're not trying to get the media to buy from you; rather, you're trying to get them interested enough in you and your company to want to share your stories with their readers.
Don't be like a carpet cleaning salesperson, hawking wares by telephone. What you should be doing is creating relationships. Let them know who you are and what your company is about. This way, when you do send that newsworthy release, they know who you are, where you're from, and what you're about.
Position yourself and others in your organization as experts in your field. Let the media know you are able to provide knowledgeable background, explanation, and comments on specific products and services, or on your industry as a whole. That way, you'll become a reliable source rather than a pest that has to be managed.
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