Do’s and Don’ts of Media Relations

By: Becca Zook @BeccaZook

phoneIf you ask the average person whether they know the difference between Public Relations and Media Relations, chances are they don’t. However, if you ask any communications professional they will tell you that media relations cannot be used interchangeably with public relations.

Public relations involves connecting and creating a relationship between various publics and your organization/business. This means managing communication between consumers, charities, investors, industries, as well as the media.

Media relations is a specialized part of public relations, that focuses on getting as much positive coverage for your organization/business as possible. This involves creating a working relationship with all types of media outlets: broadcast, print and online.

Creating a relationship with media outlets can be difficult. This means making journalists, you’re friends. Which everyone knows journalism and public relations don’t exactly see eye-to-eye. Journalists want a good story, while public relations professionals want good news. If you’re just starting out in media relations, calling up a local news channel or the editor of a large paper can be intimidating, but here are a few Do’s and Don’ts of Media Relations to make it a little easier.

DO: Make Connections on Social Media

Social media is more than just a fun way to connect with your friends. In today’s communication world, it’s a tool. Use it. Connect with different news outlets (from a professional account, of course, Channel 6 really doesn’t care that you made ‘totes delicious’ cookies yesterday #yum). If you have a published story about how an Ohio University Alumni made an impact in your organization, go ahead and tweet/share it with WOUB, the Athens News and The Post.

DON’T: Be Pushy.

No journalist enjoys getting 30 calls/emails a day from anyone, let alone from a media relations specialist. Do not badger them. The more you irritate them, they less likely they are to work with you in the future. Be nice to the reporter.

DON’T: Be a Pushover.

Just because you shouldn’t be pushy, doesn’t mean you should let people walk all over you. If you are trying to get media coverage of an event, don’t let them blow you off. If they can’t speak right now, ask when is a better time to call back and set up a time.

DO: Make Follow-up Calls

If you send out an email news release and don’t receive a response within a day or two, call. I can’t count the number of times I’ve made a follow up call and discovered that the release got lost in a sea of emails. Calling makes them take notice of the release and increases your chances of getting it published.

Hint: The best follow-up calls are not direct and instead offer assistance.

“Hello, this is Awesome Media Relations Expert with Significant Organization calling about the press release that I sent you on Tuesday. I was just calling to see if you had any questions regarding Extremely News Worthy/Relevant Event…”

DO: Know Whom You Are Pitching To.

Every media outlet has their own audience, and it’s your job to package your news in a way that appeals to that audience. Do you’re best to explain to them why this story is important and news worthy. The media is not going to publish a story promoting your business; that is not their job. You have to find an angle that sparks their interest.

DO: Be Friendly and Unique.

No one wants to talk to someone who is rude or boring. Being professional does not mean losing all personality! The more people like you, the more likely they will listen to you when you talk. This is what will make or break you in any communications field. Feel free to establish a good relationship with editors – it will help you, I promise.

DON’T: Be Intimidated. (Well, At Least Don’t Show It If You Are Intimidated.)

This is your job; it’s what media relations professionals do. Media outlets are not going to take you seriously if you act shy or nervous. Be confident; if you believe in your organization and show it when you talk to the media, they’ll believe in it too. And before you know it you’ll start to see coverage all over the Internet, press, television and radio!



How to be Nice to Reporters

By: Kate Schroeder @kschroeds7

reportprIt’s not a secret that journalists and public relations professionals tend to have a rocky relationship. Historically, both sides have held some preconceived stereotypes. One side believes those pesky PR people are trying to manipulate the news story and hide the facts. On the other side, those righteous journalists are always seeking a dramatic headline. One is the cat and the other is the dog. Each party is always trying to have the upper hand.

However, both need each other to be successful. Media relations is so important to a successful public relations firm – as public relations professionals we rely on our journalist counterparts to get our clients story out to the public.

So here lies the question on every budding media relations professional – how do you be nice to journalists? What are the ways to foster a rewarding relationship between you and your news counterparts? Coming from a news writing background myself, I have located some key tips that will bring some much needed love back into the PR and journalist dynamic.

1. Do your job and do it well

There is a reason that journalists get frustrated and short-fused with PR’s. According to an article by Forbes, the ratio of PR people to “pitchable” journalists is now estimated at 4 to 1. That means four times the amount of press releases filling up their mailboxes everyday.

One of the most important things in writing a press release is going straight to the point. Journalists are not looking for a novel to read. It is important to keep the most relevant information (including your contact information) right at the top of the press release. If the journalists cannot get an understanding of what you are pitching in the first couple sentences, they aren’t going to read further.

2. Research your contact

As public relations professionals, we have a vast amount of resources available to get media contacts. Even though you could send out a press release to every reporter in town does not mean you should. Make sure you research the reporter you are sending your press release to. Make sure what you are pitching correlates to what they typically write about.

3. Respect their time

Reporters are busy, busy, busy these days! It’s old news that journalism is not the same as it used to be. Today, journalists are required to produce more stories across many different specializations and mediums. This limits their time and puts them under immense pressure. Making it super important to respect their deadlines. News is always changing so journalist’s deadlines are not flexible. Make sure you stay to the point when speaking with them on the phone. If they are busy make sure you are open to reschedule a time to speak.

4. Be polite

This is the no brainer of my four steps of being nice to reporters. It may sound easy, but sometimes you might have to work with someone who might not respect you as a public relations professional. The only way to get through that is to be accommodating and polite. Before you make a call to a reporter make sure you have their first and last name memorized. Come up with a friendly opening remark and begin with a light and short conversation. One way to build your relationship with a reporter is to ask them what kind of future stories they would be interested in writing. This lets them know you are looking out for them and are a good resource for the future.

Now you are ready to cold call that reporter to market your pitch! Even though you won’t develop the perfect PR to journalist relationship every time, remember, you both rely on each other to get your jobs done.




Five steps to the perfect pitch

pitchWhether it is an internal request or cold calling, pitching can be a nerve-wracking and difficult task. Basically, you have to convince someone to add something to their to-do list, or take out his or her wallets and donate to a cause. However, it has been done, and done successfully. Here are five steps to nail the perfect pitch:

Do your research. Find ways to integrate your pitch into the person or company’s culture or lifestyle. Bringing up past connections is always helpful, along with a positive reminder of that experience. The ties that bring them closer to your pitch will help you get a meeting with them or get them initially interested.

Be friendly. Once you get a chance to talk or meet, be sure you have a friendly and positive attitude about the interaction. When asking someone to take time out of his or her day for you, it is polite and makes the conversation enjoyable and easygoing.

Prepare. Anticipating possible questions, having details ready to go and knowing your pitch inside and out can make the meeting successful and smooth. Think of yourself as an ambassador for your company or organization, in that you need to know important details and how to answer questions. If you are leaving your meeting with a bunch of unanswered questions or unclear details, your contact will be unsatisfied and probably not follow through.

Be clear. Have your key message points ready to go. Tell the person why this is important, the relevance to them and their company, the benefits it can provide and how they can participate. These are all points your contact will want to know, and will make them feel secure with the partnership. Leave something tangible behind so the contact can look over your materials, and think about your pitch thoroughly.

Follow-up. No matter the outcome of the pitch meeting, be sure to follow-up with your contact. A thank you if they accepted, along with an inquiry insuring success. A follow-up is obviously required if your contact is still pondering the decision to offer any more insight or answer any questions. If the contact rejects the pitch right away, follow-up to keep the conversation going in order to help with future pitches.

Though no pitch can be completely predicted or broken down to an exact science, the research, personality, planning, clarity and follow-up can make all the difference when making your perfect pitch.

Allison Evans is a junior studying Strategic Communications. You can follow her on Twitter @Allison_Evans.

Selling Yourself: Pitching Yourself Instead of a Product

otterhugIn any number of my journalism classes I’ve learned how to write press releases, media pitches, package audio and video and just about everything needed to sell an idea. What my classes didn’t quite prepare me for was how to sell myself. During the interview process for my current internship at a waste and recycling company, I was asked to prepare a five-minute presentation about what I could add to their communications team.

My first thought was, “how do I do this without bragging?” However, I quickly realized bragging was exactly what I needed to do. Just like with any other pitch, if you don’t believe in the concept, why should anyone else?

Rather than providing a broad summary of my previous experience, which they could easily see from my resume, I chose to focus on spotlighting individual successes. On the ImPRessions networking trip to New York City earlier this year, we all learned that it is often more important to give people a reason to listen to you instead of just yelling and hoping to be heard.

I did my research on the company, and tailored my presentation to speak to their needs. On the company blog there were a handful of personal pieces about company employees. Working for a client with ImPRessions, spotlight pieces were a regular occurrence for me. I chose to focus on this and included screenshots of some of my most popular posts.

Before ending my presentation, I added an element that was inherently my own. A number of my close friends know that one of my main interests is otters, the furry sea creature. I included a short anecdote about how I created a post on Buzzfeed regarding my love for otters and it managed to get a large response on social media. The topic was a little off key but the reaction was impressive, and it definitely gave them something to remember.

Pitching yourself for a job isn’t so different than pitching a story for a client, when you boil it all down. The same strategies apply and as long as you believe in what you’re selling, it’s likely your audience will follow.

-Darby Fledderjohn is a senior strategic communications major with specializations in business and sociology.