The media’s multiplier effect and ability to disseminate information about an organisation makes it a very important player in any public relations campaign. With hundreds of organisations competing for journalists’ interest, gaining media coverage can be a tough ask. Time and energy is spent not only researching each journalist, but also networking, reaching out and following up.
So what do you do when you’ve finally captured their attention?
We have compiled a list of steps you can take to strengthen and maintain mutually beneficial relationships with the media, and as a result, set your business apart from hundreds of other organisations vying for their interest.
Understand their needs.
Make sure you have a good understanding of the individual journalist or producer and his/her media outlet, interests and coverage areas. Take the time to talk with reporters to find out what they are interested in covering. Ask them about their deadlines, how they would like to be contacted, any stories they are currently working on, and other details. Not only does this make journalists’ lives a little bit easier, but it also provides you with a good understanding of what they expect, therefore maximising your organisation’s chance of future coverage.
Return the favour.
Relationships with journalists are long-term investments. To flourish, they must be beneficial for both parties. If a journalist or a producer helps your business by providing coverage for your brand, it only makes sense to return the favour and help them in their endeavours. Look for opportunities where your organisation can provide commentary on current events or even serve as a resource for a story. If a journalist approaches you for an interview, they are usually on a tight deadline, so be considerate, and help out where you can. Even if you can’t always deliver, making a concerted effort to assist journalists will not only preserve your relationships, but also speak volumes about your organisation.
Say thank you.
Despite all the effort and stresses that go with their job, journalists tend to have thankless work. Always follow up with any journalist who covers a story about your organisation and send him/her a quick email expressing your thanks. This shows the journalist that you sincerely appreciate their work, and you’ll be fresh in their minds the next time you have news to share.
Stay in touch.
The media contacts you have built over time should remain an active part of your outreach list. Staying in touch with journalists and other members of the media, and working hard to maintain the connections you have made, paves a way for the development of long-standing, mutually beneficial relationships. Following their social media accounts, engaging with their posts online, reading their articles and dropping them the occasional lead about stories, shows that you care about your relationships. This keeps you on their radar and helps your organisation stand out.
In public relations, getting your foot in the door is only the first step. With countless relationships created every day, sending story ideas to the media is not enough to keep them on your side. By understanding their needs, helping them in their story endeavours, saying thank you and staying in touch, organisations can turn their dialogue with the media into long-term relationships which will benefit them for years to come.
With over 20 years’ experience in communications, political advisory roles and journalism, Jo Scard is one of Australia’s foremost strategic advisers to corporates, not-for-profits and government.