The Value of Media Relationships

Amy Stern - 01/10/2023

The key to achieving prominent media results is viewing the role of the publicist not only as a conduit of your client’s key messaging, but as a matchmaker between your client and the media.

The importance of media relationships is at the core of being able to deliver solid publicity on behalf of one’s client. A good publicist is one that helps the journalist to do their job by becoming an invaluable resource. This can be achieved in many ways, such as offering background (without expecting anything in return). For example, offering to share valuable information that can support the journalist’s story with insight from assets you have available such as:

  • Customer surveys
  • White papers
  • Peer reviewed articles
  • Scientific studies
  • Even sharing relevant editorial that has appeared in other outlets
  • Invitations and announcements about seminars and events on topics of interest
  • Connect them with key sources even when they’re not your client (but certainly never in direct conflict with your client or if it’s a competitor)

You may ask, why should one do this with no guarantee of client placement? The answer, all in the name of providing information because by offering assistance and support, the publicist is planting the seeds of relationship building not operating in a self-serving silo that only benefits his/her client. While a publicist’s first responsibility is unquestionably to the client, if that is the only master to be served, media success will be in short supply.

6 Ways to Build Successful Media Relationships

  • Do Your Homework – nothing will damage your reputation faster than sending a “cookie cutter” pitch to a media contact with no insight as to what they’ve covered lately, what topics light their fire or even worse, finding out after you’ve pitched them that they just did a feature on that topic a few days ago. Engaging with journalists on topics that provide an opportunity to offer up your available experts is helpful, but just as helpful is interacting with them when you don’t have someone or something to pitch. Try commenting on a recently published article or asking a question that can expand the conversation they’ve initiated. In addition, sharing their content with your social network can’t hurt either.
  • Establish Trust – media relations go way beyond sending a press release, pitch or other communication and then praying your client will be included in upcoming editorial. Early on in my PR career, an editor at Bon Appetit taught me this valuable lesson. While representing a major household appliance brand, I had the opportunity to pitch her often and she often featured my client in her new product editorial. During one of our phone conversations, she explained that she generally had a negative opinion of PR folks as they often tried to fit a square peg in a round hole. She told me she was always willing to take my call because she knew that if she was working on a story about waffle irons, I’d never try to insist she elaborate on the multiple features of my client’s newest coffee maker. She felt she was heard and as a result often proactively reached out to me while working on stories.
  • Create Mutual Respect – think about how you like to be treated and reciprocate with actions that consider:
    • TIMING —-no emailing or outreach beyond normal business hours unless it’s truly breaking news.
    • RELEVANCE — don’t try to fit a square peg into a round hole. For example, if the reporter is doing a story on the best toasters, don’t try to convince her to consider the amazing new product features in your client’s new blender series.
    • BREVITY – keep your communication short and sweet – lead with your story idea, industry expert or market insights. Journalists receive hundreds of pitches a day, so if you want yours to be read, value their time and get to the point. If you’ve done your homework, your pitch will resonate with the target audience they serve and the client or brand you represent will fit into the context of the story being told.
  • Leverage Newsjacking Opportunities – Newsjacking is the art and science of injecting your ideas into a breaking news story so your brand and experts get noticed. It’s leveraging what’s happening and inserting your client’s industry expertise into the story. Newsjacking takes creativity to be successful as it requires finding ways to infuse your message and experts into existing news vs. becoming the news. For a deeper understanding and some examples, see my previous blog on the topic
  • Anticipate Their Needs – this means offering to provide accompanying photos or video if it helps tell the story, mailing a copy of your expert’s recently published book without being asked and even offering to set up a Zoom call with your client to take one more thing off the reporter’s plate when they’re under the gun.
  • Don’t Delay – timing is everything so when a reporter or producer asks to connect with your client as a resource, be sure the client responds in a timely manner. Sometimes it’s a matter of hours and other times it’s a matter of days, but either way in this business, “the early bird catches the worm.” By example, during the midst of Covid a Forbes reporter was looking for an infectious disease expert to comment on “why 40% of Americans still don’t wear a mask.” My ability to secure the opportunity on behalf of my client who was a small regional hospital was ensured due to our prompt response given the reporter’s super tight deadline. As a result, the client was the only expert quoted in this national news story even though there were a host of hospitals within an hour radius that were much more recognizable by name. The placement allowed the client to gain visibility, establish thought leadership and the fact that they were quoted as an expert in a venerable publication such as Forbes, elevated their perceived brand equity leading to an increase in website traffic as readers were motivated to learn more about who they were.The most successful pitches are those that ring authentic and resonate with true newsworthiness in the ears of media vs. self-serving promotional copy that can erode the media relationships you’ve worked so hard to build.The litmus test for newsworthiness is putting yourself in the shoes of the media. As you are about to hit “send,” on your carefully crafted email, ask yourself from their vantage point, “Why should I care about this?” If the answer is that it delivers on the interests of the audience the outlet serves, it’s very likely your client will see the fruits of your labor in the results to come.

    Do you have a new campaign that could benefit from more media exposure? Connect with me and let’s talk about it how to leverage those relationships to get the word out.

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