According to the Universal Accreditation Board (UAB) the goal of media relations is, “to establish and maintain solid and ethical relationships with media for accurate, balanced, timely information release.”
While there are many objectives you can focus on depending on your campaign goals, here are 3 main objectives of media relations we recommend. Some of these are no brainers, however, for new public relations professionals and startup teams who are learning how to do media relations, these are important to know. These 3 objectives include building relationships, raising awareness, and ultimately growing sales as a result. Let’s dive into each of these and learn more about how you can implement them to successfully launch a media relations campaign.
The core of media relations is relationship building as identified above. This doesn’t mean pitching journalists your news but rather approaching them as a resource, as someone who can provide them with valuable information at the right time.
Building relationships isn’t easy and this process can take weeks, months, even years to masters depending on how much time and effort you put forth. I hear a lot from our customers who tell me their client wants to be placed in The New York Times. The first thing I tell them, “don’t expect this to happen for another 8-12 months.” This is 100% true and I’ve read numerous articles from industry professionals who share their experiences about reaching journalists from the publication and starting the relationship process.
So, how do you start this process? Does it begin with an email or phone call, a follow on social media? The answer is, it’s a combination of all 3 of these, however, I wouldn’t lead with a phone call if you don’t have a warm relationship yet. With that in mind, let’s focus on emails and social media as your starting point.
When it comes to email, I have personally implemented a few key tactics that have proven to work really well when reaching out to reporters and editors. A very simple introduction of who you are, who you represent, and how you can be a resource in times of need is HIGHLY recommended. You don’t need to ask for anything nor do you need to share a plethora of information. This allows you to be honest, genuine, and personal from the start and alleviates any wonder about, “what the hell do I say to this person?!” Be yourself and approach journalists as though they’re a new friend or acquaintance.
The second approach you want to take is following journalists and their work via social media. While there are many platforms out there, the one I recommend is Twitter. According to PR Daily, 83% of journalists use Twitter and nearly 80% of them said they like it when contacts follow them on social media. The reasons behind this include the option to connect with readers, the opportunity to share their stories in a public place, and the fact they go to Twitter to seek our sources. The tweet below is an example of this, and you can follow the hashtag #journorequest to keep an eye on source requests in real-time.
— Simon Doherty (@oldspeak1) August 18, 2020
It’s also important to interact and engage with journalists after you click the follow button. Like there tweets, retweet articles you read and find interesting, and comment on posts with genuine feedback or insight. Make sure you do this sparingly, though. Journalists can easily sniff out BS and it’s obvious when you favorite the last 10 tweets within 30 seconds you have certain “intentions” you’re after.
The next most important goal for media relations is to raise awareness about your brand, products or services, executives, company news, and get the message in front of the right audience. This is a common goal within public relations as well and it’s just as important for your media relations strategy. In a blog post about media relations best practices, Walker Sands mentions:
“With placements and strong media relationships, companies can increase visibility among key audiences and position the organization as a thought leader and go-to resource for industry-related information.”
For those who know PR, you know what a placement means and you know the term “thought leader.” For those that don’t, a placement literally means an article placed in a news outlet that references your company, product or service, and the news you’re sharing. There are a number of placement types including feature articles, funding announcements, product launches, comments and quotes, and roundups. The goal of these is all the same: to drive awareness about who you [the company] are and why the public needs to know about you and your news.
For marketing and SEO professionals, a placement can also translate into a backlink although this is not guaranteed. Side note: NEVER ASK A JOURNALIST TO INCLUDE A LINK TO YOUR WEBSITE IN THEIR ARTICLE. Backlinks provide SEO value, especially when coming from a reputable source. Backlinks help improve your site rankings because of search engines like Google that place value on domains that have high authority and who link back to your website.
Raising awareness can take many forms and one way is to share your news via pitch with journalists. As mentioned above, an introduction is always recommended before proceeding to this step. Once you’ve made the initial connection this is the logical next step once you have valuable and relevant news to share with journalists.
It’s important to recognize that some journalists are not a fit for your news and doing your research about who to contact is vital. This is a tedious process but it provides a lot of dividends if you do your homework and focus on the most relevant journalists who write about the news you want to share.
The third and final objective of media relations is to grow your sales through placements and backlinks. Think about the last time you read an article on BuzzFeed and ended up on Amazon ready to buy the product being promoted. Chances are you might not have known about the brand or product prior to the article but after reading more about it you knew you had to have it.
For large organizations, the mindset is all about dollars and cents, “what are we spending and what’s the return on our investment (ROI)?” For smaller organizations, it might be similar except working with a limited budget and a small team means there’s less money to spend on advertising and paid campaigns. A shift to earned media can assist sales and marketing teams and ultimately drive more quality leads to your website.
While this might seem like an outcome of media relations, by focusing on this objective and crafting narratives around what readers are interested in along with what journalists cover, you can achieve this while making sure the public is informed about who your company is and what it does.
As mentioned above, the goal of media relations is, “to establish and maintain solid and ethical relationships with media for accurate, balanced, timely information release.” If you can also think about the latter 2 objectives outlined above, then you will be on your way to building a successful campaign and achieving goals and KPIs you’ve set forth.
To learn more about the types of media and how to connect with them, or to understand the difference between media relations and publication relations, click on the links above and formulate your understanding of media relations before you get started.