Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Media Relations 101 - But Definitely Not For Beginners

I'm in the PR and Media Relations business and I work mostly a combination of contract and fee-for-service (freelance) projects. This is not always an ideal arrangement, but given the rapid turnover and short shelf-life of PR practitioners, it has given me the opportunity to be part of many different industries and sectors. Through it all, I have learned a number of important lessons. Call it Media Relations 101, the list below describes some basic truisms about the PR and Media Relations world.

Lesson #1 - Journalists, media outlets and bloggers do not work for me.

  • You'd think this would be self-evident, but frequently it isn't. Sometimes my clients are unhappy that a news release or story pitch either didn't get covered or worse - was covered poorly, with factual errors and contradictory and/or negative messages. Like it or not, journalists are responsible to their editors or to their audiences, but they certainly aren't accountable to me. Sometimes and in a perfect world, journalists give my clients excellent and accurate coverage, but only when it suits their needs and they certainly are under no obligation to do so. They don't call it "earned media" for  nothing. Want a 100% guarantee that the media captures every word you wish them to say? It's called a paid advertisement and it can be expensive.

Lesson #2 - Playing in the media sandbox has its risks.

  • Did a media article make my client look stupid or harm their reputation? That's an occupational hazzard of playing the media game folks and if you want to know why, repeat Lesson #1. There are dangers and pitfalls in making yourself available to the media, but the potential benefits can be enormous. Can't stand the heat? Stay out of the kitchen.

Lesson #3 - While that "news"  may be of interest to you, others may find it boring.

  • Story pitches can be like children. Our own fascinate and entertain us, but other people may find them boring or even annoying. That new electronic widget or policy annoucement may be the most interesting thing in your world, but will it be of interest to an editor at www.globeandmail.com ? Maybe not so much. Try looking at it from their perspective.

Lesson #4 - The news media are looking for compelling stories.

  • The good news here is that every organization - yours included - has a number of compelling and interesting stories. Sometimes the most interesting ones are not even what you may think they are. That new electonic widget that your company is flogging may be of limited interest, but maybe its inventor escaped to Canada on a ramshackle wooden life-raft from North Korea. A good PR/Media Relations person can help to identify your organization's stories and tell them in a novel and compelling manner.

Lesson #5 - Your organization's stories are not the only ones out there.

  • And I'm far from the only PR person pitching news releases to www.cbc.ca on any given day. There's plenty of competition for media space and your pitch needs to stand out from the rest in the cluttered media market. A good publicist will know when, where, and how to pitch your story for maximum impact and pick-up.

Lesson #6 - Be available and anticipate tight deadlines.

  • It's pointless to issue a news release if no one from your organization is available for a media interview. And when and if the media come calling, be sure you respond promptly because journalists have to meet deadlines. Enure you have a designated spokesperson and ensure that this person has been media trained. I can help with that. mklein@sympatico.ca

Having said all this, a proactive and professional media relations campaign can be a fantastic and cost - effective way of enhancing your organization's or product's reputation, increasing exposure  and achieving your marketing objectives. But don't go into it blindly or with unrealistic expectations. Good luck!

1 comment:

  1. Is this a way to reach out to clients and generate consulting contracts? If so, your message "I can help with that" should be up near the top of your post. I would also take out the "not an ideal arrangement" and focus instead on the knowledge and experience you have and how your consulting services can benefit your clients. Signed, your sis