There are plenty of reasons to seek out the support and expertise of a PR firm. For many businesses, though, it’s all about coverage. Whether it’s helping the company build brand recognition, maintain its reputation, or bring in new customers, there’s nothing quite like seeing your name in lights.
However, while media coverage can be a powerful asset for any business, earning it can be a challenge, especially in today’s landscape. For PR teams, this is where strong media relations come in.
It may no longer be all about schmoozing over bottles of Bolly — sadly. But it’s still vital to be able to build genuine connections quickly and effectively with the people you’re pitching to.
You can’t have a deep bond with every journalist. But there are several approaches that will give you a higher chance of connecting positively, especially if you’ve never spoken to them before.
Conversely, there are some methods that will do the exact opposite — but they might not be what you expect.
With that in mind, here are five ‘myths’ about building and maintaining media relations.
It’s who you know
Despite the old adage, it’s not always about who you know. Having an established relationship with a journalist is never a bad thing. But it isn’t essential when it comes to getting traction with a story. In fact, just because you have an existing connection, it doesn’t mean that the journalist will be interested in – or able to cover – the angle or news you’re suggesting.
In my experience, ‘cold pitches still get read and accepted. In fact, sometimes this can be the start of a beautiful new relationship. As long as your pitch is short, snappy, and relevant, you’ve got a shot. As well as forming a new contact, it could also lead to that crowd-pleasing headline you’ve been waiting for.
Ask and you shall receive
You’ve researched your targets, honed your pitch, and secured that all-important opportunity with a journalist. You’re buzzing. And the client is thrilled. All the hard work has paid off!
If it’s an interview, naturally, the spokesperson will want to know what they’re going to be talking about ahead of time. So, should you ask the journalist for questions in advance?
Well, there’s no harm in trying. But no matter how well you know the journalist, they’re under no obligation to share an exact list of questions in advance of an interview.
If you don’t get the steer you’d like then anticipating the most likely questions — based on the content they usually write or even doing a ‘trial run’ interview in advance — can help the spokesperson prepare. And it’s always worth having a member of the PR team on hand to step in if the topic strays from what you have agreed with the journalist.
Read all about it
Let’s assume the interview’s gone well and the journalist is writing it up. Many clients think they’ll be able to see the final product before it ‘goes live’. But it’s important to set expectations.
Asking to read the journalist’s piece in advance is not a wise move. In fact, many journalists would be flat-out offended by this. Not only could this damage the PR team’s relationship with that person, but it could reflect badly on the company itself. Or worse, result in the journalist pulling the piece entirely.
The truth is, if you want complete control over your content, paid options are where you should be looking.
If at first you don’t succeed…
Reporters are busy. Some receive hundreds of emails a day from PR people, all hungry to catch their eye. Expecting all of your media contacts to respond to the first email you send — the day you send it — is unrealistic. But that doesn’t mean all hope is lost.
Sometimes, your pitch might not be quite right. But I’ve known several journalists who file the email away for a later or more convenient date. I’ve received unexpected — but very welcome — replies days and even weeks later when the timing is better.
There’s also no harm in one polite follow-up. Just bear in mind that you’re contacting people who are often working to tight deadlines or are out and about. Chasing them consistently and being a pest isn’t going to suddenly make you a priority. But a well-timed nudge just might make all the difference.
In the hot seat
If I were to ask AI to create me a stereotypical image of a reporter, I would expect to see a press hat and a microphone being thrust into someone’s face. Equally, for some, picturing a typical interaction with a journalist conjures up images of a Piers Morgan-style grilling. But few journalists take this aggressive or intrusive approach.
These preconceived ideas can put even the best spokespeople off speaking to the media, which limits opportunities to get that all-important coverage. There should be no need to fear speaking to a journalist, especially if the general pretext of the conversation is positive.
It’s down to the PR pros to make their spokesperson feel at ease by preparing them as much as possible and then giving that person their moment to shine. While it’s worth remembering that everything you say is ‘on the record’, those conversations are a golden opportunity to tell your story. And not one to be wasted!
There’s no hard science to media relations. But there are tips and tricks to becoming as close to pitch-perfect as you can get. Understanding how reporters tick, providing them with what they need, and working with the brand or spokesperson to get them truly media-ready will set you on the right track.
To learn more about our approach to media relations or want to book a slot on our extensive media training course, visit: https://www.wildfirepr.com/services/media-relations/