With the growth of the communication industry, PR practitioners are often able to directly communicate with their public. This could leave some folks feeling as if media relations is no longer relevant to the job.
However, media now have a vast number of resources at their fingertips, and as a PR practitioner, you want to ensure that one of those primary resources is you. To do that, you’ll need to work on the “3 R’s” of building and maintaining media relations.
Research. Whether you are just starting your PR career or find yourself working in a different market or industry, your first step should be researching your key media outlets. Find out what kind of stories they cover. Learn how much lead time they need to get your story on air or in print. Read the stories that are being covered. Reach out to other PR practitioners for their suggestions. The more you know about your media contacts, the more useful you can become to them.
Relevancy. Make sure your story is relevant to your community and to the media outlets to whom you’ll be pitching it. Ascertain that your information is getting to the right outlet and the right person. Connect it to the subjects they cover. Tie a national news story to a local person or angle. Show how your issue or event connects to the community. The more you can demonstrate how your organization is important to your community or that your issue or challenge impacts a great number of people, the more likely you are to have it covered.
Respond. If a reporter calls for a quote, a photo caption or any kind of information for a story, call them back! You’ve managed to get your issue or idea in front of someone who thinks it’s worthy of being covered. This is your chance to shine. Connect the reporter or news anchor with knowledgeable staff members who can speak about your organization’s impact on the community. Put them in touch with well-spoken industry leaders. Provide them with success stories, statistics or other information that will highlight the success of your organization. The more work you put into the story, the less work the reporter has to do – and they will thank you for it.
Of course, it should go without saying, in all of your contact with the media, be honest. Don’t fabricate facts or “spin” the truth. This is one sure-fire way to damage your relationship with the media. It’s perfectly fine to tell someone you don’t have an answer to their question – but also let them know you’ll find out.
Your foundation is built, and it’s rock solid. You’re pitching stories and connecting with key media. Your supervisors think you are a PR whiz kid. This doesn’t mean that your hard work is over. In reality, it’s just beginning. You’ll be fine as long as you continue to use the “3 R’s” to maintain the relationships you’ve worked so hard to build.
Amy Douglas, APR, has more than 25 years of experience working with a number of arts and cultural institutions. She has been University of Florida Performing Arts’ director of marketing and communications since 2008.