One of the biggest challenges communicators struggle with – in media relations – is the consistent and recurring ability to capture a journalist/writer’s attention.

Journalists face an overwhelming amount of communication daily.

Breaking through the noise and making a lasting impression on journalists has become increasingly difficult. Between physically rushing for press conferences and interviews, going through (read: scanning) emails, direct messages and social media inboxes, selecting a newsworthy topic and actually drafting the article, there is not enough time to make every communicator happy.

The pressure cooker. Or the ‘don’t you know how much is riding on this’ situation.

Compounding this challenge is the fact that media relations as a role a communicator plays within their organisation (or in support of a brand) is frequently misunderstood to mean “magician”.

Media relations is one of the primary tools used by communicators to distribute information, shape public perception (of brand or organisation), and build relationships with journalists and media titles. When used correctly, it can enhance an organisation’s credibility and reputation through brand visibility, thought leadership, and audience trust.

But it is not a rabbit that communicators can pull out of a hat at will.

Regardless of whether the journalist/writer is your second aunt’s third cousin thrice removed who has moved to your country.

If that link is not working for a sales or leadership representative, it is not going to work for a communicator.

It’s not you, it’s me. Actually. No, it isn’t.

It’s important to call a spade a spade.

As a communicator, it’s a 50-50 success rate at gaining the attention of our target journalists and writers because we have our fundamentals wrong.

Write and they will publish does not exist in any multiverse.

Fact check: maybe it does, but definitely not in this specific reality.

Before we hit ‘send’ on that press release, we must be certain we have covered our fundamentals.

A key obstacle is ensuring the relevance and newsworthiness of pitches. Communicators must craft compelling stories that align with the journalists’ specific beats and cater to the interests of their audiences. Failing to deliver genuinely newsworthy content can lead to pitches being overlooked or rejected, hindering media coverage opportunities.

Additionally, the lack of personalisation in pitches can be a significant hurdle. Sending mass-distributed or generic emails can be off-putting to journalists, who value personalised and tailored communication. It’s a relationship remember, and no longer a one-way broadcast.

Timing is crucial as well; understanding journalists’ busy schedules and deadlines can make a considerable difference in capturing their attention. Are you sending the materials at the end of your work-day so you can check a box, or are you timing it for when the journalist needs to send it to their editor for a final approval?

media relations

Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to wait so long, and be in the kinda world where we all belong? 

Building and nurturing relationships with journalists takes time and effort. Like any other relationship, establishing a foundation of trust and credibility is essential for long-term success in media relations.

There are three areas to become fundamentally competent at – consistency, accuracy, and timing.

Consistency covers more than just making sure the journalist/writer knows what to expect from you when representing your brand/organisation. It includes being clear about expectations, about doing what you commit/promise to, and being honest about boundaries including those set by your organisation. In this relationship, being straightforward about what’s possible and not builds your reputation better than shooting for the stars and failing to catch any.

Any and every piece of content you share must be accurate. This means double and triple-checking your information, materials, sources and when in doubt, holding onto it for further clarification or validation. To a brand representative, sharing inaccurate information is an apology and a ‘I will make it up to you’ situation even when it’s leadership or another team that provides the information. For a journalist or writer, it can have a tangible impact on their performance reviews, the opportunity to cover a career-impacting story/event, or it might mean being sent to a less-promising desk or beat.  

Timing presents a significant challenge in media relations due to various factors. Journalists operate under tight deadlines, and pitching at inconvenient moments can lead to overlooked or buried pitches. Moreover, competing news events can overshadow or diminish the impact of a pitched story, making it essential for PR experts to consider the broader media landscape. Additionally, understanding the seasonal or timely relevance of a story is crucial to maximise media coverage opportunities. Communicators must also account for lead times in certain media outlets, necessitating proactive pitching well in advance.

Sidebar: We are all on the same side, (just) trying to get along.

Building a strong and mutually beneficial relationship with journalists/writers is important.

Such connections lay the foundation for effective communication between communicators, the journalists and writers.

As mentioned, we should not assume a ‘build and they will come’ mindset because of the relationships. Instead, cultivating a positive relationship is about investing in building trust as a reliable source of relevant and newsworthy content.

A strong rapport helps cut through the deluge of information journalists receive daily.

A solid relationship enables better understanding and alignment of interests. By getting to know journalists’ beats, preferences, and the type of stories they find most compelling, communicators can tailor their pitches and content accordingly. This level of personalisation demonstrates respect for journalists’ time and interests.

Strong relationships facilitate open communication and the exchange of feedback. Communicators can receive valuable insights into what makes a story newsworthy from the journalists themselves, helping them refine their pitch. Constructive feedback also helps communicators understand how to better cater to the needs of journalists and their respective audiences. These insights can be shared within the organisation or stakeholders so the best combination of information and materials can be prepared.

Long-term relationships contribute to credibility and reputation building. As communicators consistently provide accurate and valuable information, journalists perceive them as trustworthy sources. This credibility extends to the brand/organisation, enhancing their overall reputation with the media.

media relations

Here are 3 steps you can implement today to help with your media relations activities.

While there are many steps available to work on when it comes to enhancing media relations, here are the 3 we find that can be done almost-immediately to increase the effectiveness of outreach efforts.

Research and personalisation:

Timely and newsworthy pitches: Ensuring timely and newsworthy pitches is essential for successful media relations

Follow-up and relationship building: Effective follow-up is crucial in media relations.

There are other steps you can consider as well such as: understanding your target audience and what media titles they consume information from, crafting compelling and engaging stories,

building media relationships beyond pitching, as well as how to integrate content with digital and social media channels.

These steps can vary based on the specific goals and objectives you have set as a communicator for your brand/organisation. It’s important to also re-look at your master communications plan, and how your campaigns play out, and where exactly media relations can provide the most support.

I provide communications and PR solutions for organisations and communicators through counsel, consultancy, training and solutions. With over 20+ years in the industry, we have created frameworks, methods and content that enable you and your team to launch, grow, level up and earn revenue effectively and efficiently.

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