10 Media Relations Tips Every Successful Public Relations Professional Needs to Know
By Matt Henderson
The Philadelphia Public Relations Association (PPRA), a leading organization for communications professionals in the Greater Philadelphia region, presented a webinar focused on how public relations professionals can build good working relationships with the media.
The speakers included:
- Leslie Foster – Assignment Manager, 6ABC
- Manny Smith – Managing Editor, CBS3
- Abby Miller – Executive Producer, Fox29 10 at 10
- Matt Toal – Executive Producer, WPHL 17
In the PR world, it is vital to foster and develop connections with reporters, news publications, and news stations, and the easier you can make their job, the more likely you are to garner the kind of coverage your clients want. We put together a list of 10 media relations tips we took away from this webinar:
Think like a producer.
When you invite a TV news team to cover your event, know what they need. Let them know what time the most visually exciting part of the event will happen, so they can get the best coverage possible. Provide videos, photos, and interview contacts to the media before the event. Put yourself in the producer’s shoes, ask yourself what you would need if you were covering your client’s story, and be as helpful as you can. When you provide media professionals with valuable content, they’ll not only want to cover your story – they’ll want to work with you again in the future.
Answer your phone.
The news business runs at a fast and furious pace, and it’s important to be available when a reporter wants to talk to you. They may want to speak with you directly to ask questions about a press release they’re planning to incorporate into a story that day. Email can be too slow when you’re up against a tight deadline.
When promoting events, include a “day of” contact with your press materials.
Who can a TV news team call when they’re stuck in traffic on the way to your event? Think ahead and make sure to designate someone who can answer their cell phone on the day of a press event for your client. Anything can happen in the world of news, and plans can change in a moment. Make sure someone is a phone call or a text away when it is most crucial.
Mention safety and security measures.
Treating your media contacts with care and consideration will make them more likely to cover your events. Think about their safety. COVID-19 has changed many people’s comfort level with crowds. As Manny Smith puts it, “If I want to do a nighttime live shot in Center City, unfortunately today it feels a little different than it did pre-pandemic. Knowing that security will be there provides an opportunity for us to be there more often than not.”
Provide user video when possible.
Camera crews are not always available to cover your newsworthy event, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be your own reporter. News stations will often use viewer video if it’s visually appealing enough to air on their broadcast. Hold your camera as steady as you can, get as many shots as possible, and make sure your video isn’t stagnant. Pay attention to the kinds of videos your local news station normally airs. “If you’re going to solicit us with video you’ve shot, then you need to pay attention to our style and try to emulate that as much as possible,” says Leslie Foster.
Keep events tight.
In our ever-shifting pandemic world, it’s important to ensure your events allow for proper distancing. If you’re holding a press conference inside, it can be helpful to allow reporters the option to talk to your client outside away from the crowd. Journalists often have several events to cover throughout the day, and they may not be able to stay for the entirety of your event. Keep your event short and put key information at the beginning of your presentation. Streaming your event and making it available to watch afterwards will also make your key messages much more accessible.
Prepare for remote interviews.
Zoom interviews have become a norm over the past couple years, which means you need to think about making yourself and your clients camera-ready at home. Make sure you have good lighting, and don’t stray too far from your wireless router. Most importantly, let the dogs out! Public relations professional Sharla Feldscher has a cautionary tale: “One day I did a Zoom interview with Channel 17, and the dogs started barking. I was sure they were nowhere in the house. I was thinking that was the end of my career.”
Reach out to the reporter and the assignment desk.
The world of work has changed, including the newsroom. Keep in mind that the people most likely to cover your story may be at the assignment desk, or they may be working from home. Try multiple methods of communication – if you don’t get a response via email, you may have better luck calling a reporter’s cell phone. “Be persistent but don’t be annoying,” says Matt Toal. Be mindful of the shifts a reporter works throughout the day and time your calls accordingly.
Make your pitch brief. Tell them why this story is important.
Time is at a premium in the news world. Sell your story in the first few sentences, and only include the most important details. If you’ve piqued the reporter’s interest, they can always follow up to get more information. Don’t just be precise – be timely. “If you’ve got a client who’s got a crepe restaurant, I might not feature that at all during the year, but if you happen to know when National Crepe Day is, there’s your angle,” says Matt Toal.
Make people the focus of your story.
In an ever-changing world, people want to hear stories that appeal to their humanity. Life is not back to normal, but people are finding solutions to problems in the midst of a new normal. If you can appeal to people’s desire for optimism and hope in challenging times, you’re more likely to get your story covered. “People drive these stories,” says Abby Miller. “You can still cover a hard news story but with a personal angle of providing hope within the context of that story. It’s how the story’s told, and it’s how it’s pitched.” Focus on how people can relate to your client, or how your client is serving the community. Think beyond your immediate promotional needs to get coverage that’s meaningful to a larger audience.
No matter what industry you’re working in, good media relations practices are crucial to your success as a public relations professional. Effective strategies should always be tailored to meet the needs of the media professionals you’re pitching to. Incorporate these tips and you’ll be creating relationships that benefit you, your clients, your local media, and your community as a whole.