Better Media Relations 101

We were recently asked by some students in a public relations course how to attract reporters’ attention and what social media practices prove most helpful with fostering good media contacts.

Our response was threefold. First, get to better understand the person behind the keyboard and up against the deadline. Second, like with any relationship you are trying to establish, good media relationships take time and are built on the trust garnered from honest and transparent exchanges. Third, there are a few practices that you should consider honing in a consistent and persistent manner – with no expectations of instant success.

On this last point, here are a few of those practices that will foster better media relations.

#1) Think of six basic questions that must be addressed before you begin writing your press release. If you can’t answer the questions, you don’t have a story. If you find that your answers are lacking, likely your story is not newsworthy.

  • What’s the story?
  • Why is it newsworthy?
  • Who cares?
  • Why am I (or my client) a resource?
  • What’s my specific, relevant expertise?
  • What other resources/assets can I offer a reporter?

#2) Consider these 4 ways to make your relations with media stronger.

  • Get to know your media better by researching reporters’ blogs, Twitter, online forums and other spaces where you might learn from their online conversations.
  • Cultivate a relationship by interacting with journalists/bloggers online. Read what they’re writing, start a conversation and share ideas with them.
  • Spot trends to create new story opportunities. Find relevant, current news items to develop new hooks for your potential story.
  • Participation in social media will ultimately lead to media coverage. If you’re blogging and tweeting about timely, relevant topics, this can help you generate additional media coverage.

#3) Consider these ways to attract media attention via Twitter (perhaps your best tool to get reporters’ attention during their working hours)

  • Follow those reporters who you wish to follow you.
  • Watch for tweets asking for help, especially on deadline.
  • Comment on a story a reporter wrote or aired, making sure you add the reporter’s Twitter name to the comment – and when possible, link to the story.
  • Retweet their tweets, especially when they link to their stories.
  • Offer to connect them with experts you think will genuinely help them on their beats.
  • Thank them for RT and Mentions and for covering an event they attended.
  • Look out for story ideas for them, not just big stories but follow-up pieces on stories they’ve already done.
  • Extend the relationship to other social networks if they’re more active elsewhere.

 

Chris George, providing reliable PR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer and experienced communicator? Call 613-983-0801 @ CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

Media Preparedness (5) – Your By George Practice Drills

bgj_top020In our media preparedness sessions, we provide tips on how one can become more effective in dealing with the media. In coaching one-on-one, we will often provide exercises that will force a person to climb out of their comfort zone and think about how they look and sound.

By way of example, here are some tasks that will help improve the way you convey your ideas with media – also, in your workplace, at home, in the public… in fact, just about everywhere.

1) Look at yourself in every mirror you pass — are you smiling? If not, smile.

2) Tape record a conversation – make note of how you sound. What is your current pitch, intonation, inflection? Write down how you can enliven your conversation.

3) Practice voice improvement – your pronunciation, articulation, inflection – by reciting, on a daily basis, a piece of admired work – Mark Anthony’s eulogy of Caesar; Sir Winston Churchill’s ‘We shall fight on the beaches’ speech; or Lord Tennyson’s Ulysses.

4) Practice reading people’s non-verbal communications by turning volume down on television; observing people talking on public telephones; and/or people-watch in restaurants, street corners, and other public areas. List the non-verbal signs you make use of now, as well as the signs you have noted through observation that are effective.

Media Preparedness (4) – Insight into The #1 Rule

communication2In interviews, always remember The #1 Rule: “You are delivering a message, not answering questions.”

 

Messaging takes work. Practicing takes time.

  • Know what your messages are
  • Begin where you want
  • Consistently deliver messages
  • Assertively bring the message into the interview
  • Do not merely reply to questions; answer them, but move to your messages
  • Repeat, repeat, and repeat

 

What are messages?

  • Key points that need to be stressed in an interview
  • A point you want the audience to know and remember
  • Answer why the issue/program/policy is important
  • Answer what it will accomplish in ‘the real world’ – will it matter to your father or spouse??
  • (Consider whether it adds a new ‘angle’ to a current news story)

 

Deliver Messages in Quotes and Sound Bites

  • Most of the time your interview will be reduced to a five to ten second sound bite in a television or radio news item, or a one to three line quote in a newspaper or magazine.
  • Obviously you cannot force the reporter to quote you in a helpful way instead of a harmful way. All you can do is encourage the reporter to use a quote or sound bite that reinforces your message.
  • The key to getting your message across in the news item is to prepare a couple of irresistibly quotable quotes and be sure to get them across in the interview.
  • And, repeat, repeat and repeat.

Media Preparedness (3) – Rules to Remember

Remember The #1 Rule: You’re delivering a message, not answering questions.

Prepare for your media encounter, preparing your messages, the opening statement and your key points of argument. Think about the most effective way of relating your message. Finally, keep ‘The # 1 Rule’ top-o’-mind.

 

Anticipate. Listen. Then speak.

The most effective way of anticipating the eventual news story is to listen and observe when in an interview. Be an active listener. Watch, listen, then open your mouth.

 

Stay in control of the exchange.

Remember that the reporter is engaged in the interview with a personal set of biases. You should agree where the premise of the question is correct and do not hesitate to address any misconceptions. Keep your key message uppermost in your mind and, through engaging the reporter, bridge your statements to stay on-message.

 

Paint a picture, tell a tale and connect.

Communications should be a two-way experience. Engage the interviewer and the audience. You can effectively serve to make a point with recent happenings or your current surroundings, and everything from a timely quirk to an immediate observation. So, appreciate the moment of your interview and be engaging.

 

Give reporters what they want and they will produce what you want.

Reporters will respond to messaging that is relevant to the audience, is timely in its delivery, touches a nerve as a human interest story, has entertainment value, is factual and/or controversial. Their editors look for a story to display one or more of these elements.

Media Preparedness (2) – Preparing Yourself

work_5Before you speak to a news reporter, prepare yourself. Here’s a media encounter checklist.

 

1) Establish objectives of interview – both the media’s and your objectives
2) Collect relevant information
3) Prepare messages and themes for interview
4) Complete crib sheets for your reference
5) Develop opening statements
6) Think of examples, stories, an analogy
7) Practice quotes and sound bites
8) Review potential questions

 

Only after you have thought about what you should say, what you want to say – should you open your mouth to a reporter.