There are some media relations rules you should follow or be mindful of to ensure that:
- You don’t waste critical time with a botched media engagement approach
- You invest your media budget wisely
- You support your client/employer to tell their story/viewpoint in the right way, at the right time, and in the right media outlet.
As such, after two very interesting Twitter chats that took place in the past month – one on #powerandinfluence and the other on #hacksandflacks – I thought I should share with you all some very useful, yet often disregarded rules, of proper Media Relations. Here they are:
1. BE NICE AND POLITE
Regardless of how important your client/employer is, good manners will open many doors for you. Journalists are not your family, nor are they your pub drinking buddies (well, they may become one day).
Be respectful and professional at all times, and never mix your personal views with those you are required to promote or sell-in.
Build a relationship based on trust and respect – after all, if you provide the journalists with a good story, you become reliable as a source and, if you do not fluff your way in or out of that professional rapport, you’ve built a relationship for life.
If they know you and you earn their trust, no matter who your next client/employer will be, they will be keen to hear from you again.
2. MAKE SURE YOUR STORY IS A “STORY”
Many of us, myself included, have often been asked to send a piece of news to the media even if we knew it was not newsworthy.
For your story to be a “story”, it has to:
- Be relevant for the publication/broadcaster profile you pitch it to (a story perfect for Vogue won’t be of interest to The Economist)
- Have a regional/economic/social/emotional angle to it.
If it doesn’t fit these two prerequisites, then do not bother sending it or simply advise your client/employer to have it shared/published on their owned media channels (website, social media platforms, newsletter etc.) only.
The fact that the organisation is “award-winning”, “fantastic”, “a leader in its field”, “made the Top Whatever” is not news; what the organisation does or doesn’t do is news.
3. GIVE LEAD TIME
When you successfully pitch a story to the media, give them time to run with it. If you put it up on your channels first (website, social platforms), then it is no longer “news”.
Unless you are strictly dealing with an issue or crisis (where your organisation’s/client’s channels need to be the most authoritative source of information for any media outlets), give 24 hrs lead time for the story to be picked up by the media.
If you cannot do that and are requested to put it up no matter what, ensure that, when you pitch it to the media, you provide plenty of new angles to it: stats that are not mentioned in the initial announcement, implications for the future of the sector/industry, next steps that need to be/will be taken etc.
4. HAVE SPOKESPERSONS
When you have an “amazing” story, you need to have someone equally “amazing” to be ready for comment: TV, radio, online etc. The news cycle is so fast and short lived today that you need to maximise any awareness raising opportunity you have.
Make sure your spokespersons (CEO/MD/subject matter experts etc.) know the story you are “pitching” better than they know their names. It’s absolutely crucial that they can answer all the questions they may get related to your story, and that they exude credibility and reliability.
The more complex, impactful or internationally reaching your story is, the more spokespersons you will need to cover all its angles.
To many, media training is about sitting up straight and smiling into the camera – that is just so wrong and unhelpful! While body language matters at some point, none of your spokespersons will ever be asked to comment on your story because they have nice ties or perfect teeth! You need to tailor their training so that, first of all, they are able to answer all the questions they are being asked.
You need to become/be the “journalist” at that time – and I do believe every PR person worth their money should be able to do that – and, effectively, turn into the most unfriendly and controversial journalist out there. If your client/employer makes it through that “grilling”, then you have done your job properly.
5. INTERNATIONAL REACH
I’ve been working a lot in Middle East lately, with both Governments and national organisations, and I cannot emphasise enough the importance of glocalisation. Transcreation is vital in getting the message across, and your ability to source and train spokespersons who can fluently use the local dialect is crucial.
If your story covers several geographies, tailor it to maximise its reach and national impact. What matters to Egyptian media, for instance, may be different than what matters for Saudi Arabia’s. Media relations is one of the first instances where, certainly, one size doesn’t fit all.
If you need help, I’m here.