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Media relations is not downloading a list of names from a database and sending them a press release on blind copy. That's called spamming. It can sometimes work, but, you wouldn't want to rely on such a 'hit and hope' approach.
Ask yourself: Is it better to have one piece of excellent coverage in a Tier 1 title that you've collaborated upon with a journalist, than it is to get five pieces of Tier 4 coverage by spamming press releases? It's not difficult to see where the value lies to your client. It is our job to achieve that.
Thankfully, media relations are straightforward. You need to work with the media to find common ground between what they want to write about, and what your client has to say. They are rarely the same thing. Especially, presently, when the media has mostly reverted to a core' hard news' function as it navigates the pandemic.
As a communications expert, you need to have enough intel from your media relations to help shape positive stories about your client that will interest the titles you seek. Journalists are pretty upfront that receiving thousands of spammy emails a day is irritating and puts them off dealing with PRs. Understanding what they actually want isn't hard.
The key to understanding what the media wants to write about or feature is to continually consume that media and find the patterns that will inform your strategy to secure your client's coverage.
Who writes that type of story? What publications? How does the piece usually look? Does it require lots of access to a key figure? Who? Does it need visuals? What type?
Consuming all the media all the time would be fantastic, but you'd have no time to actually do any work. So you need to be methodical in your approach. Start with a few particular publications that are key to your clients' industry. Once you are comfortably abreast of those titles, find more that would be useful for your client's business growth.
While you are gathering information, also take any opportunity to talk to the media, to ask them direct questions – they're human too. They have a job to do, and we can make their day easier.
Journalists are pretty honest and straightforward about what types of stories they like to cover, saving you lots of time and resource.
Take your pique
Now that you have a strong understanding of your client's target media, you can identify client stories that will pique their interest. However, this is not the end of you utilising your media relations skills. If only! No, this is just the start.
You need to know how your target journalist – and the publication they write for – works. How far out do they write their articles? A few hours, a day, a week? And what's the internal process? Do they self-publish, or does it go to an editor who may change it, and who will also need a press release or hyperlink?
Knowing seemingly insignificant facts like this gives you an understanding of the time frames you need to operate in to meet your client's goals. If you want something to run on a specific day, you might need to pitch it several months in advance. Or it could be mere days. Likewise, knowing when you might need to be on-call for any last-minute fact-checking by scrupulous editors can be the difference between success or not.
This insight also helps you coordinate more complicated media strategies, from embargoed launches to press trips.
Know your way
The third phase of media relations is the most fun and rewarding – having strong relationships with the media.
Getting to the stage where you can very quickly call-up a few close media contacts can be invaluable in many situations:
- Sense-checking stories before you share with the client
- Researching media opinion to inform a new client pitch
- Amending a negative article to be more balanced
- Forewarning of a rival brand piece in the works at a target publication
Under the influence
Influencer relations follow the same principles as media relations.
The skill is to have an in-depth understanding of the influencers' needs to incorporate your client within their feed authentically.
Who is the influencer's audience? What content do they seek from this influencer? What are the platform insights that inform how to create compelling content that works for both parties?
As with media relations, the job does not end at the point of an agreement to post being made. You need to be on-hand as their contact for the client, picking up questions to ensure they have the very best experiences engaging with your client's goods to generate positive content for their followers.
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This is part of our Beginner's Guide to public relations