In our current climate, media is seen by both sides of the aisle as the enemy. We're now encouraged to question everything we hear, see or read. This isn't necessarily a bad thing; you should never just accept information at face value. However, it's also fostering an unfair view of the industry as untrustworthy.
I'm here to tell you that's not true. As someone who has worked in media relations and with media relations specialists, I can say that you really can't get anywhere today without media. Unless you're Beyoncé, which unfortunately, seven billion of us are not.
So how should you approach your relationship with the media? You don't have to grovel at their feet (they hate that), but you should also understand that the relationship is meant to be symbiotic. Yes, you can help them, but ultimately you need their help, and there are right and wrong ways to go about getting that help. These are some of my best tips for fostering media relationships, even if you don't have a fancy PR team to help you.
1. Forget about what's in it for you.
You know how when you're writing a cover letter, you're supposed to emphasize how you can help the company, not what the job will do for you? If you don't know, now you know, and you should apply this to your media relationships, as well.
When you're reaching out to a reporter, don't write about what you need from them or what media coverage could do for your business. Show them why the story is important to their readers--and thus, should be important to them.
2. Be genuine.
We all want something from someone. Our friends, our family, our romantic partners--everyone has something to offer us. But we don't base our relationships around those benefits.
Instead of cold pitching reporters about your hot new product, start with an invite for coffee or a drink. Hopefully, you've actually read the reporter's work and know about their beat and their style; make that known in your e-mail, and offer a little bit of info about yourself and your company.
They'll appreciate that you see them as a person, not a one-way ticket to the front page, and in all likelihood will be willing to meet up and see how you can work together.
3. Don't be a bullshitter.
Sadly, some people can't see through bullshit. You know who can? Reporters.
If your story isn't worth telling, chances are, you know it, and you're wasting your time and a reporter's if you try to convince them otherwise. No one has a perfect pitch at the ready all the time; you need a key moment in your company's business to truly stand out.
We have a blog at Kiip, but we limit our posts to important announcements or innovations that we know are noteworthy. That's also what reporters do, so make sure you've really got a scoop before you fire off that e-mail.
4. Don't expect a puff piece.
If you're looking for someone to talk about how great you are, buy an ad. Despite what some people would like you to believe, media is an industry whose main value is integrity. Without integrity, the work of journalists is meaningless. That means puff pieces are a no-no, so don't expect them.
I like to put myself in the reporter's shoes. The trick is to remember that the reporter isn't thinking like themselves; they're actually thinking like the reader. With me so far?
Readers want objective answers to their questions. Who runs the company? Are they good people? Have they been in any trouble? Does their product do what they say it does? The reporter's goal is to answer those questions, in order to best serve the reader, not you.
5. Dangle the bait.
The best time to reach out to reporters is about something that hasn't happened yet; everyone wants to be the first to know something. So before you send out that three paragraph pitch to the 150 reporters in your media list, try letting your most trusted contacts in on a sneak peek.
When I was pitching Kiip, I reached out to my own trusted contacts with a simple, but intriguing line: "I've got a new form of advertising that's not intrusive, that people actually want." Advertising that's not annoying is newsworthy--although it shouldn't be!
6. Remember: They're the expert.
You might know everything there is to know about owning a startup or designing an app, but reporters know how to get people to actually care about those things. So when they tell you they're not interested, or that you need a different angle, put your ego aside and trust them. Rejection hurts, but media humiliation hurts more.
You can prepare for this, too: Workshop your pitch a little bit, and come up with multiple pitches that could be geared toward different audiences. Your idea doesn't have to die with a rejected pitch; plus, having different stories ready is always a good idea, in case multiple outlets want exclusives.