Six Tips for Effective Media Relations

Maybe it’s politics, maybe a celebrity scandal, or even interest rates. Whatever the trigger, news media dominate our social media feeds and cocktail conversations. More and more organizations want to be part of those conversations, but sometimes struggle to be heard. Here are a few pro tips to help understand and break into the media feed:

  1. Create a media toolkit:

A fact-filled news release is no longer enough to secure effective media stories. Deep budget and resource cuts mean media have less time and fewer resources than ever to build out stories. You can help – and increase the likelihood that your story is chosen – by providing news-savvy tools and material that meet the needs of different mediums. TV needs engaging high definition video and visuals; newspapers need a timely news hook and an interesting or explanatory photo or infographic; radio needs a compelling interview subject and listener relevance.

  1. Be available:

Send out your news release or other materials when you’re available. You’re inviting media to share your story:  be there when they accept. This includes the person whose name appears at the bottom of the news release and a spokesperson. Reporters generally work on tight timelines and with limited resources, so they expect a timely response. If you’re consistently available and able to answer questions, send that photo, provide a missing fact, or connect them with a competent spokesperson, they’ll be more likely to cover your story and come back for more in the future. Coordinate your team’s schedule to maximize news opportunities.

  1. Prepare your spokespeople:

Your time is valuable, and you need to use it effectively. When an editor or reporter decides to do a story on you or your company, they have a goal in mind. You should have a goal, too, and it should be tied back to your business plan and the story you need to tell to actualize it. Media interview preparation and practice will help make your interviews much more effective and strategic whether the story is one you’ve pitched or you’re responding to a request. Hone your skills, know your messages and how to land them before your next interview.

  1. Customize your story:

Different types of media need different information and angles. Consumer-focused media want to know how your product or service is new or unique for their readers, viewers or listeners. How will this make their life different or better? Business media want to know what’s special or different about your business history, challenges or prospects. What problem are you solving? And trade media who specialize in and understand your industry want more detailed and practical information about your “secret sauce”. Prepare your messages and materials accordingly by creating customized versions for each type of media you’re targeting.

Bonus tip:  Trade media are often overlooked and that’s a big oversight, in my opinion. Trade media are always looking for stories on your area of expertise, have a deeper understanding than mainstream media, and can be instrumental for raising awareness among peers, partners, lenders and potential employees. Trade stories can also be a source of news for mainstream media. Don’t underestimate them.

  1. Involve Communications early:

Good story tellers know how to capture your attention. It’s the same with experienced communications professionals. There are many ways to finesse the launch a new product, celebration of a milestone or announcement of a big change, and some are more amenable and compelling to news media than others. Plans that work for Operations, Finance or even Marketing don’t always organically convert to editorial media – but often they could if communication needs are considered early on. At the risk of sounding self-serving, get your internal or external communications advisor at the table early, so they can guide your announcement or story in a way that will achieve your goals. It can often make the difference between disappointment and success.

  1. Coordinate traditional and social media efforts:

Social and digital media offer a direct connection with your constituents and the traditional news media. Make sure your strategy and tactics for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and other digital channels support your overall Communications strategy, and your media relations goals. These tools are a great way to heighten interest in your story, and you have full control of them. Use it.