A Media Relations guide for strategy, objectives, tips, and more.
All public relations professionals have to invest time in building relationships with the media, however, media relations is a token of its own. Think about how many opportunities would have been missed if you didn’t form meaningful relationships with any of the journalists you have worked with. Hundreds.
Public relations is a failed cause if you don’t invest a substantial amount of time building up your connections with journalists.
It’s a mutually beneficial relationship and industry.
You have an in with journalists from important industry publications for your brand. You know what these journalists cover. You know what they could be interested in and you have open communication with them (as long as you give these journalists stories they actually WANT to cover. Don’t take advantage of this relationship.)
On the other hand, journalists get easy access to story ideas and sources. Most of their time is spent collecting information and finding sources, so working with public relations professionals helps them to cut down the time it takes them to do this organically.
It’s a win-win for both parties.
According to PR Daily, over 92% of consumers say they trust earned media over promotional content. This clearly justifies the value of Media Relations for companies and the added need to build a solid media relations strategy.
This guide serves as a primer for those professionals who focus on media relations or who want to establish a strong strategy to execute goals and build foundational relationships.
Media Relations v. Public Relations
Media relations has commonly been mistaken for public relations, but these are two distinctly different areas of this industry. Although aspects are similar, public relations focuses on interacting through various forms with the public. Whereas, media relations focuses on the relationships formed with journalists, editors, and publications. It’s important to understand the differences between the two and how they work in tandem within your current PR strategy.
Check out the differences in definitions between these two from Everything-PR:
Media relations is “… described as a company’s interactions with editors, reporters and journalists. The media can be newspapers, radio, television and the internet.”
Public relations is “… the act of connecting and communicating through all the various relationships that a business or organization may have formed with the public.”
Although both have the goal of pushing stories forward, media relations is the foundation to any successful public relations strategy.
Public relations focuses on the relationships formed with the public through various different communication mediums to convey a company’s message. While public relations uses multiple channels to connect with the public, media relations utilizes one: the press.
Public Relations professionals shape the message they want to convey and Media Relations helps to give them the voice and amplification they need to get their story out there.
The takeaway: media relations is the foundation of all public relations. To find success, both have to be built and working simultaneously.
The Three Different Types of Media
As a media relations professional, it is essential to know and understand the several different types of media available.
Although there has been a huge shift to digital, there’s the right type of media avenue for the right type of company or client. Even though Media Relations focuses most of its efforts on building relationships through mostly digital means, it is important to recognize all forms of media and what is best for your brand or client.
This includes newspapers and magazines. The benefit of print includes widespread coverage, reader involvement, and a longer life span. On the other hand, print media has higher competition, takes much longer time to see results, and is much more costly. With digital publications taking precedence, this is also a media form that has gone to the wayside in recent years.
This includes television and radio. The benefit of broadcast includes extremely high visibility, flexibility, and selectivity. The downfall of this includes a high price tag, limited lifespan, and increased competition.
A booming addition to broadcast media has been podcasts. With over half of the US listening to podcasts, there is no question that this channel will continue to grow in the coming years. Aside from being easily accessible and promotable, there’s always a need for industry experts to discuss trends, predictions, or share a variety of tips.
With technology reinventing the public relations industry, there’s no doubt that digital media is the most valuable and sought-after form of media out there today.
Digital media includes all online publications and has also come encompass social media in the past years.
The most important, and noteworthy, benefits of digital media are increased visibility, low cost, and an increased online presence. The combination of traditional digital media efforts with an increased emphasis placed on building a strong social media/online presence has become a foundation for both media relations and public relations.
Earned Media v. Owned Media v. Paid Media
The objective of Media Relations has always remained the same: making strong, valuable connections with journalists who you can then go to for placements that are favorable for your brand (or clients) image.
In the words of O’Dwyers, “In the ‘old days’ – before social media – public relations was aimed, essentially, at one thing; convincing a third party – usually a journalist – to report favorably on your client.”
Although this still reigns true, there are 3 different types of media that need to be taken into consideration.
The first is earned media. This is media that you “earn,” meaning you made a connection with a journalist that turned into a favorable story for your clients. You are building those relationships with the media, you are pitching them your stories, and you are landing coverage. This could also mean that journalists are coming to YOU for sources, comments, and scoops.
The second type of media is owned media. This is media that you create and distribute, such as websites, blogs, social media accounts, and even content for video hosting platforms. This is content that YOU own, control, and have full autonomy over.
The last type of media is paid media. This is media that you pay for and can be summed up in one word: advertising. It allows you to push the content YOU want forward, while also controlling who is seeing it, how much you are spending, and the duration you want it actively running.
It’s important to recognize what type of media is right for your brand (or client) right off the bat.
Being clear with and about intentions is the best way to further build strong connections with journalists and make it a mutually beneficial relationship.
In short, know what direction works best for your brand (or client) and make that top priority. Don’t try to fit a square peg in a round hole.
Know intentions, don’t waste journalists’ time and make it beneficial for all parties.
The Three Main Objectives of Media Relations
There are 3 main objectives you want to strive for within your media relations campaigns. For many seasoned PR pros, these are no brainers, however, for those who are just learning how to do media relations, these are important to remind yourself of. Knowing these will help you clarify your goals and KPIs and measure your campaign successfully.
The core of media relations is relationship building. After all, the root of the word is what this concept is all about. Building relationships is beneficial for many reasons aside from the obvious (hint: securing placements). Whether you have news to share immediately or at a later time, growing your network of journalists will benefit you and your clients in the long run.
The next goal for media relations is to raise awareness about your brand, products or services, and get the message in front of the right audience. 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.”
Think of a placement as a marketing vehicle. Not only are you working with an expert who covers the space but their audience is one that will want to learn more about your brand, products or services, and be more inclined to make a purchase.
As mentioned above, raising awareness for your brand, products or services, helps to inform potential customers and drive leads to your website. For example, think about the last time you read a listicle on BuzzFeed and ended up clicking through to Amazon to buy the product. Chances are you might not have known about the brand or product prior to the article but after reading it and informing yourself, you knew you had to have it. Having a credible source verify or validate your brand, product or service, makes consumers more inclined to purchase. Surprisingly, over 50% of consumers rely on social proof to inform their purchasing decisions, according to Trust Radius.
How to Build an Effective Media Relations Strategy
It’s important to remember there’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes time to execute your media relations campaign. Each journalist is an individual with specific needs and requirements. You want to focus on a few things to ensure you’re prepared and equipped to work with journalists. Implementing simple tactics can also provide long term benefits you wouldn’t think were possible. Below are a few tips, tricks, and industry advice to guide you through how to build an effective media relations strategy.
For starters, know your story, not just your brand. Eliza Bianco recommends asking yourself the 5 W’s to develop your story. A few she recommends include:
- Who is this story about?
- When and where is it taking place?
- What is happening?
- Why is it valuable for people to know about?
Once you know your story, then you must begin to identify the right journalists who would cover your news. This is one of the most difficult parts of media relations and one of the main reasons we created OnePitch for public relations professionals. Read their full articles, not just the headlines, and do this regularly. You’ll gain insight about the types of sources and brands they cover but also how the journalist presents them from the publications’ perspective. It’s equally important to know who the journalists are and not just what they write about. Everything from their title to their location should be considered and for valid reason.
Be relationship-oriented. Think about the different ways you can benefit a journalist with information and resources. A lot of times media relations can seem transactional and rarely does that create a foundation for a long term relationship.
When you’re conducting outreach, it’s important to recognize when to pitch journalists not just how. Many industry resources have notated weekdays and mornings as the most optimal time. Be mindful of when you’re pitching and make sure to limit your “follow-ups” as well. Many of the conversations we’ve had with journalists have told us 1 follow up is plenty.
Make sure to have everything prepared ahead of time for a journalist. Many times journalists are working on strict deadlines and don’t have a lot of time to wait for information. Think about logos, headshots, quotes, even interview times. Being prepared ahead of time ensures the journalists aren’t stuck waiting on you and assures them you’re ready to work together.
Remember journalists are human like you and I. They have personal lives outside of work including friends and families to attend to. They’re only capable of doing so much especially in a larger media publication where the hierarchy is widespread. Often times, reporters and staff writers report to managers and editors who report to the Editor-in-Chief. Here is an article with a graphic of typical news structures.
According to Haje Jan Kamps, 25% of Twitter’s verified user base consists of journalists and media outlets. That’s roughly 37,500 individual profiles. And believe me when I say, you NEED to be using Twitter to connect with journalists. It’s unrealistic to think you can follow everyone especially since Twitter limits how many profiles you can follow. You can use tools like lists to curate feeds based on a specific beat or industry, for example.
In our personal experience, soft intros are a great way to break the ice with a journalist. Be mindful of how you approach this especially since this tactic does not involve pitching journalists. Take a moment to introduce yourself, let them know about your brand, and ask how you can be a resource. Use this as a stepping stone to build a relationship and pitch them once you have valuable news to share.
One more trick to keep in mind is knowing what kind of information to share. There are countless posts talking about this topic and it’s important to keep in mind how valuable the information is.
Media relations is no longer a strategy for public relations professionals. According to PR Week, “Consumers are tuning out ads, both literally and mentally, and instead consuming content that is relevant to them and tells a story.” Because of this the need not only to create content but also to market it is becoming more competitive and the focus is shifting from pay-to-play to earned media.
Dozens of journalists we’ve interviewed on Coffee with a Journalist share their preferences for working with sources and how to pitch them. Some of this feedback includes the same information we’ve noted above along with what THEY want personally for their beat and audience.
Recently on the blog, Ashley Graham from Your Brandista went into detail about why you should approach PR from a people perspective. Here are her 4 pillars to her “people-relations” approach to PR:
No matter what, make sure you provide valuable information each time you contact a journalist. Be a resource for journalists by knowing your story, knowing who they are and what they write about, and being prepared.
As you can see, media relations is the foundation to any successful public relations strategy. This industry is one that is based on giving and taking and you always give if you take. Make sure you are always authentic, relationship-oriented, and know that everyone is human.
To learn more about how to best connect with journalists, check out our podcast, Coffee with a Journalist, where we talk with top-tier tech journalists about building relationships, their personal interests, the best ways to pitch them, and how they compile and write their stories. In the meantime, follow us on Twitter @onepitchsaas to learn more industry tips, tricks, and advice.