Media Relations tips for your Business

Expert Guide: Integrating Media Relations with Your Business Strategy

Media relations entails connecting directly with those who make news and features in the mass media. It works to make the most of favorable coverage in the media without directly advertising. One of the biggest challenges of dealing with the media is figuring out what they’re looking for and enabling them to present your brand accurately.

Reader’s Take Away

  • Get a clear idea about what Media Relation is about
  • Learn about the difference between Public Relations and Media Relations
  • Learn why Media Relation matters for your business
  • A guide about how to approach and send prefect pitches to journalists
  • Brief about what has changed and what has not in Media Relations
  • Learn what are the current Media Relations trends
  • Learn how to measure the success of  Media Relation campaign

Businessdictionary.com defines media relations as having “Linkages with the media personalities and resources that facilitate an organization in getting a favorable, timely, and widespread editorial coverage.”

If you want your brand to be perceived in a certain way, then media relations or publicity should be the right weapon in your arsenal. It goes a long way in shaping and influencing behaviors by providing external endorsements for products/services and/or organizations.

What makes it more reliable than other forms of direct communication (such as advertising) is the fact that media relations typically uses the skills of journalists for communicating with customers. This way the brand manages to create the much-needed credibility for itself in a way that would not work with other forms of communication.

Why Media Relations?

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Simply put, media relations entails connecting directly with those who make news and features in the mass media. It works to make the most of favorable coverage in the media without directly advertising.

One of the biggest challenges of dealing with the media is figuring out what they’re looking for and enabling them to present your brand accurately. The credibility of the information comes from the fact that it is the news media that eventually decides on whether or not to publish/broadcast your information, or if any new perspective you add is of interest to them and their audience.

As compared to paid advertising, news coverage acts as a third-party provider of factual endorsements straight from the horse’s (journalist’s) mouth or from a reliable first-hand source. Also, it helps that the costs of news coverage is lower than what advertising firms would charge.

However, it is important to note that media relations cannot be successful in isolation. These activities need to be integrated with the organization’s bigger plan, its vision and mission, and the sales and marketing objectives; and every communication should be focused towards a specific audience.

Difference between Public Relations and Media Relations

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More often than not, media relations and public relations are terms that are used interchangeably. However, they’re different in the following ways:

Media Relations

Broadly speaking, media relations refer to a company’s interactions with journalists, reporters and editors from newspapers, television, radio, and/or the Internet. The final objective of media relations is to convey a business’s message or information through the use of suitable media outlets.

Depending on the information that needs to be managed, companies can hire professionals, put together an in-house team, or liaise with external agencies to get their message to the audience.

The great thing about working with media relations specialists is that they make things easier. They’re usually in touch with people from the media world on a daily basis, which is why they’re effective in designing and developing media plans and strategies, which will create/manage positive perceptions of the company.

Media relations professionals work in tandem with the media in order to forge strong ties with not only journalists, but also bloggers and content writers. These are the people who can act as the link between the company and the public.

They’re experts in the field of mass communication, and with using social media and the Internet as such, and anticipate and keep tabs on the trending topics. All these fields go a long way in carrying out activities that present a business in a positive light.

Public Relations

Public relations (PR) is more about connecting and communicating with the public by means of the several relationships that a business may have built with them. The Public Relations Society of America defines it as a “strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their public.”

The public can include customers, employees, investors, industry and governmental entities, charities, suppliers, and the media.

Public relations not only helps a company build a great PR strategy, but also helps it understand customer problems and provide meaningful solutions, monitor the results, and make future estimations. It can, therefore, be said that digital PR agencies consider a larger canvas and examine how the public relates to and perceives an organization.

Why Media Relations Matters for your Business?

Use Media Relations to gain earned media and press relations

Understanding the following elements highlights the need for and the importance of media relations experts now more than ever before:

Managing Communication In Crises

With the advent of Internet, we’re living in times of information explosion and because of that, everything that goes on in organizations reaches the people – the good and the bad. While good news can win more customers, bad news about messed-up orders, poor sales, quarterly losses, and other crises can ruin a company’s reputation, especially if handled poorly.

You can always employ media relations experts to assist you in dealing with such situations. Whether it is a journalist, reporter or a blogger who’s written unkindly about your company, a seasoned media relations professional can douse the damaging fires by speaking with concerned journalist/reporter/blogger and get the article modified or explain to them as to why they should consider revising the non-story.

Information Travels Swiftly

All companies today have their respective websites, social media accounts, blogs, community pages, and so on. This increases the need for them to handle controversial issues with care, and continue being aggressive in their promotion of positive ones.

Having a media relations professional by your side in such scenarios would mean knowing the most influential bloggers and reaching out to them. A media relations expert will be able to not only create a smart message, but also know when and how to deliver that message to the right people.

Gone are the days when the adage ‘any publicity is good publicity’ was considered relevant. Such philosophies not only result in the generation of inconsistent messages, but also end up confusing the internal and external stakeholders of a company. If you have a negative story on your hand, it is best to dissolve it before the small fires turn into blazing infernos.

The Valuable Is Always Rare

Fortunately or unfortunately, because of the emergence of social networks and blogging platforms, everyone thinks they’re great writers and/or reporters. The truly valuable and influential reporters, however, are (precious and) rare.

While generation Y may get all their daily news and entertainment from their computers, e-readers and smartphones, there are a number of people who read the good ol’ traditional newspapers and magazines.

An experienced media relations professional will know that every field has a handful of reporters, industry experts and bloggers whose opinions matter and work towards building a healthy working relationship with these influencers. They’re aware that only they will be effective in making introductions and generating sufficient coverage that will ultimately work in their favor.

Doing so successfully isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, which is why several companies prefer to engage media relations and public relations practitioners and harness the benefits.

Don’t Forget SEO

In many ways, search engines play a pivotal role in managing your online reputation. Its connection with publicity, therefore, cannot be overlooked. It is important for companies to rink well in online search results as this is indicative that they’re taken seriously by the industry. It is also an endorsement in itself for companies and they will not be disregarded by your audience, especially when they’re prepared by third-party members of the media.

Similarly, it is also important that you employ SEO to control and mitigate negative reviews, false information and stories, and other online content that could be detrimental to your company’s image. Instead, your media relations team can build positive online search results that will aid the media coverage for your company.

It’s a known fact that prospective investors, clients and partners do want to know everything about a company before doing business with them. Having a sound online reputation goes a long way in getting them to support your business. This also determines whether or not they have potential leads coming their way.

Harness Public Relations Too

Doing so can be particularly effective if your company is into content marketing. There’s no denying that the traditional method of using flyers, brochures and catalogues continue to be effective even today. Further, we also have companies that use whitepapers, webinars, and video for marketing their content.

Email marketing works wonders when it comes to marketing content as well as outreaching people. In fact, it’s what drives most people to download, subscribe, or request more information. What companies can do here is make a database of email addresses once they’re captured or later use.

However, emails need to be formulated carefully. Instead of boasting about your company to your readers, you will do better to send an email with a post published on a reputed platform about how your company is a promising one.

Speaking of email and social media outreach pitches, most of the biggest media outlets and journalists/reporters are constantly barraged on a daily basis. It is, therefore, crucial that you break the queue and get the attention for your business from the best outlets. Wondering how you can do that?

Here are a few tips that can help you in outreaching:

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Be the Expert

As a business owner, you need to ensure that you have suitable member of your team signed up with HARO (Help a Reporter Out). This is great platform for journalists and industry experts to connect and collaborate. There are several categories that you can sign up for. This will provide you with several opportunities to get covered by media outlets wherein you can exhibit your expertise and your business.

Lay the Foundation

No journalist will take you seriously if they don’t know you or feel that you’re buttering them up only to get recommendations. It is, therefore, suggested that you spend sufficient time building a healthy relationship with them before pitching to them is a great way to lay a strong foundation.

You can do so by liking/following their social media page, commenting and sharing their stories, and complementing their stories that you genuinely like. This way they will know that you’re an ardent admirer of their work. Again, the important thing to keep in mind here is to be genuine. Journalists can easily tell when you don’t mean what you say.

Early Bird Gets the Worm

In keeping with the age-old adage, it is best to be done with your pitching early in the morning. This is especially true of news that is time-bound and needs to be read before a particular hour.
Most people begin their official day at 9 a.m. and send out their pitches at that time. It makes sense to start pitching and outreaching early if you want to beat the crowd.

Reach Out with Infograhics

Nobody likes to be confronted with a wall of text every time they look for information. Break the monotony by using visual content in your material. Infographics are a great way of combining facts and figures with the visual format.

They look appealing and are easy to read and share, which means they have the potential to generate more views than a verbose for the media outlet. Including infographics in your pitch will increase your chances of getting media coverage.

Pitch via E-mail

The days of pitching to journalists over the phone are history, especially with emails coming into the picture. That’s probably because journalists are too pressed for time to listen to you on the phone, and would rather hear you out at their own time and over a more convenient platform. This makes email and social media your best bets when comes to pitching.

When using email to pitch, ensure to make your subject line as catchy as possible. Ideally, it should be a maximum of 50 characters. A sure-shot way to make sure that your email gets opened is by personalizing the subject line. Using the recipients’ name and location will surely increase your open rates.

Perfect Your Pitch

Whatever you do, avoid making your pitch sound like a promotional advertisement that brags about how great your organization is. Refrain from describing your business as a pioneer in its field as that is just the kind of promotional pitch that media tend to avoid.

A better way of presenting your organization is by producing a pitch and connecting it with current events to make it more relevant or by positioning your offerings as solutions to problems. Provide useful and insightful information and you’re sure to get a favorable response.

Further, ensure that you proofread your pitch and make it perfect before sending it out. The last thing that journalists want to read is a pitch that is replete with spelling and grammatical errors. Such pitches are instantly deleted. It, therefore, makes sense to have someone else proofread your pitch as well. This way you can be doubly sure that all the errors have been rectified.

Journalists and reporters receive scores of pitches in a day and going through each one can be virtually impossible. This is why it helps to keep them short and sweet. If they find it attractive and easy to read, they will dig deeper. Your pitches need to be succinct and snappy to be read.

Things to Keep in Mind When Writing a Pitch

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Writing press releases is no mean task and can get real stressful if you don’t know how it’s done. Before you write a media pitch, however, you need to understand what it is. Simply put, it refers to information that is sent to journalists to give them a quick update about the latest in your company. The pitch is sent to persuade them to use your information and write an article about your company that projects you in a positive light.

You cannot go wrong with your pitch. If you do, journalists will ignore it. Hence, it is important to know how to pitch effectively. The following few tips may be of help in this regard:

Do Your Homework

There are journalists and there are influential journalists. You want to work with the latter, which will need work. Before you send out a pitch for your product to every journalist you come across.

Do your research and look for journalists who cater to your niche as you’ll likely receive feedback from your pitch that way. Make a list of all the journalists you get to know of, select about twenty to twenty five relevant ones and pitch to them.

Improvise and Improvise

Once you’ve decided on the journalists you want to pitch to, it’s time to take the next step. Go through your writing and see where you can improvise. There’s always room for improvement and you want to make sure to put your best foot forward when reaching out to journalists.

Customize your pitch for maximum effect and show the various ways in which your product/organization fits into the subject that journalists cover. When they see that you’ve tailored your pitch, they’ll appreciate the effort and you’ll have their attention.

Talk Business

Sending out your pitch is only half the job done. Post that, ensure to follow up (within a day) with the journalists to verify whether or not they have received your mail. Doing so is important because journalists receive several emails in a day and yours can easily get lost in the clutter.

When you call, however, be honest about your intent of following up. If you lie about it, you only end up losing credibility. Tell the journalist why your pitch is relevant, and if he/she finds it pertinent and interesting, he/she will enquire further about it.

Use Social Media

Use social media to stay up-to-date with the local and your favorite journalists by following them on different platforms. This way you can keep track of that topics they’ve been writing on or posting about in the current ties.

What has changed and what has not in Media Relations

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Here’s what’s changed:

  • There are fewer traditional media outlets, which is why there are fewer reporters as well. Most journalists work for long-established media outlets and receive hundreds of pitches in a day, while their editors instruct them to cover only the biggest and the most important news.
  • The Internet is a formidable force in facilitating the spread of information. Professionals who use the Internet need to be in the know of everything happening in that environment. Working with them is starkly different from working in traditional news studios, which makes media relations more data-driven.
  • The digital world has opened up opportunities for journalists to talk about your company. Everyone’s on social media, including them. They regularly write articles, blog, tweet, and create infographics and videos with the view to create and present content across various platforms.
  • As you surf through different blogs, you may see that several niche bloggers have made their views known and presence felt. This doesn’t imply that you cannot pitch to their blog. In fact, it means that their point of view can play a big role in getting your story the coverage it needs.
  • Also, several of the bigger enterprises are creating their own team of journalists in order to become a part of industry blog and related news websites. This ends the role of the middleman and makes the influential media outlets almost unreachable unless you have solid ties with the sponsoring organization.

A few things about media relations that haven’t changed are as follows:

  • If you thought that there is a scarcity of pitching targets, you couldn’t be more wrong. While mainstream media outlets have reduced in number, online media and social network platforms have taken their place. So, the opportunities do exist.
  • Standing out in a crowd, beating the clutter of information, and making your presence felt continues to be a huge challenge. And that’s why it is more important than ever to get in touch with the right journalists and pitch your story. This is not easy for media relations professionals to achieve.
  • Taking a cue from the above point, the quality of your relationship with influential journalists can make or break things for you. A great way to improve your business is by working with your pitching target while you still have a relationship with them.
  • When pitching, make your story interesting enough for journalists and they will not be able to turn it down. Give them details about thinks they cannot find in other places. Telling the audience a great story that doesn’t sound like a promotional advertisement still remains at the heart of both, content marketing and media relations.
  • Being accessible and delivering on promises to journalists without causing delays helps forge stronger ties with them. Responsiveness and cooperation when working with a journalist will surely earn you better coverage.

How to measure success of Media Relations campaign?

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So how does one measure the results of a media relations campaign? Of course, there’s no perfect way to do so because more often than not, the variables and metrics involved are beyond our control. However, there are certain parameters can give you an idea of how successful your campaign is. Mentioned ahead are a few of them:

Number of Placements Secured

One of the best ways to measure the success of a media relations campaign is by counting the number of placements secured through the campaign. This should give you an idea of whether or not your story was received well by the media. If your story is interesting, it is bound to have an audience and receive more coverage, ultimately resulting in a successful campaign.

The effect of a placement depends on the number of readers (or circulation) that the publication has, the extent to which the readers are engaged, and the relevancy of the readers to your business. Without the right readers, even the most brilliant material can be ineffective.

Ad Rates

When comes to publishing an article in the newspaper or magazines, every inch of space is carefully used to the fullest potential. The advertising fee received from clients depends on how much space they need; so even a centimeter of space matters. As we progress to using digital media, the same approach can be used to evaluate the placement against the fee that a client would have to pay for a sponsored post or a link from the site.

The Internet is never constant and change is the name of the game, which makes it difficult to determine as to how much clients may have paid for an ad. Further, some advertisers measure their success rate through PPC (pay per click), per unique visitor, or by the size of the ad.

Changes in Website Traffic

It may be a good idea to go through and track the client’s website’s data and see how many people accessed it from your placements or when direct traffic to the client’s website increased/decreased after you placement was aired on TV. Other factors that can be considered here are the links acquired from the placement or syndications of the story.

It makes sense to share this data with the client to show him/her that the campaign is working. It can also help you figure out the types of campaigns that worked with this particular media outlet, and how you can get another break with similar media outlets.

Using Google Analytics and back link measurements may not always work accurately. Many a time, reporters do not include links to client’s website. It is always best to look at other ways to get your news story covered.

Also, Google Analytics may not necessarily be able to provide data on who visited your website once and remembered to come back to you when they needed your services. This is because the results of media relations activities aren’t always instantaneous.

Measure Against Initial Goals

Few would deny that the best way to determine the success of a campaign is by measuring the results achieved to the initial goals that were set. Obviously, goals differ from client to client and how they perceive them. Depending on the industry, the size and the circumstances of the client, the goals can change.

So, what does the future hold for media relations professionals?

If you’re wondering about this, you may find a few answers here. A few trends that they need to watch out for are as follows:

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Sharing News on Social Media

Social sharing of news is going to be big in the coming times. In fact, this trend is already catching on. News releases with attractive or noteworthy headlines will have the power to encourage sharing of the piece on social media platforms. Pitches that have the ability to spark off controversies will get more attention and shares rather than basic new items.

Social media will be used more often to outreach influencers and ask them to share their views and strategies to further boost the number of social shares. Media relations professionals will be using social sharing metrics more than ever.

Contributions from Thought Leaders

Several media companies now offer novel content-driven ad experiences, sponsored content and creative syndication partnerships. This is testimony to the fact that the need for quality content is only increasing. This is where company executives come into the picture. It is now becoming common to see company executives contributing their views and opinions through thought leadership articles and educational articles to well-known publications.

This phenomenon is already witnessing a rapid growth with the emergence of corporate blogging. We’ve come a long way from the times when companies considered content promotion to be a tough nut to crack and undermined the power of blogging. Thanks to social media, it is much easier to promote and share blog content to audiences. All that’s needed are talented writers.

Differentiation Is Key

There were times when only certain mediums broke exclusive news. Today, news spreads like fire, and every medium has the same news, which makes its way online almost instantly. When a social network announces a change in its features, the announcement finds its way to multiple news websites within minutes. It is only natural, therefore, for publications and journalists to look for ways to differentiate their coverage in such a scenario.

By offering differentiated and exclusive news, journalists can bring something unique to the table. Publications are always on the lookout for content that stands out and enable their journalists/reporters to devote more time in digging deeper through their stories and provide the audience with more engaging and insightful news items.

Inclusion of Multimedia

Apart from providing the audiences with exclusive content, another method of differentiation for publications is using podcasts and video interviews that add further credibility to print and online news pieces. Podcasts are an upcoming multimedia tool that media relations and public relations practitioners can use to better their pitch, and present a more holistic view of the story at hand.

Several news websites use videos to showcase their stories, which is why media relations professionals will do well to focus their efforts on producing visually-appealing content that can be viewed across various devices.

Age of Infographics

A story that is adequately supported with relevant facts and figures will always find favor with publications. The way these facts and figures are represented also matters as they’re useful in validating trending stories. It isn’t uncommon to find media relations and PR professionals conducting primary research by using online surveys tools to make their findings easier and more authentic. Enter infographics.

The reason why infographics have been gaining popularity is because they present data in a more professional and sophisticated manner that is also visually and content-rich.

Ensuring Media Relations Success

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The following five pointers can help make sure that your media relations campaign is a roaring success:

Begin Well

It is said that first impressions last forever. You know you have one chance to make a great first impression, which is why it is crucial to send a pitch that is in keeping with the reporter’s field of work. Spend some time reading the reporter’s beat to understand the types of topics they cover and the kind of stories they’d be interested in. Doing so will help you lay a strong foundation to build a relationship with them, thereby getting into their good books.

Review Your Pitch

So your pitch is ready and you’re about to send it over to the journalist? But, before you o that, stop and think if you’ve done enough to create the perfect pitch. Consider the flow of your story – Is it too self-centric or promotional? Does it convey what you actually want to say? Is it reflective of your perspective?

Further, does it include all the elements that the reporter may need – images, videos, access to sources, and so on?

Time Is of Essence

The world today views time as one of the most important resources at our disposal. Wasting it can prove to be disastrous, especially when we have social media driving news cycle. It is critical that a time-specific news piece does not go to waste and a reporter’s inquiries aren’t ignored.

While you may have a busy schedule, give yourself half an hour’s time to respond to emails after receiving them. It is crucial to be responsive, else the concept of breaking news loses its relevance. You need to be accessible by journalists and provide your individualistic take on current industry-related matters. This can be instrumental in building a strong and lasting relationship.

Bring In the Human Touch

We all use social media to stay in touch and keep abreast of the latest news. However, nothing beats the good old face-to-face interaction as that brings the element of personalization and humane-ness into the entire exercise. Meeting and interacting with someone on a one-to-one basis can go a long way in building trust, and puts a face to the emails and calls that are exchanged on a daily basis.

It also cultivates a better relationship that goes beyond just pitching, and you can get to know journalists better w.r.t. their ideas and interests, and the stories they like working on.

Conclusion

Media relations is a complex, yet challenging field to be in. However, once you get the hang of the basics, one should have no trouble getting into the nitty-gritty. What ultimately matters are the relationships you cultivate with journalists, publications and media houses. The key is to identify the influential ones and build from there.

This makes it easier to get stories published (or not) and even tweaked, when required. Finding favor is the name of the game. With a little persistence and hard work, media relations professionals can excel in this field.

(Image Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 )

Taral Patel is PR Executive at PRmention, a Digital PR Agency helping businesses grow through their highly-innovative approach to engaging with audiences. Being a certified digital marketer, he understands how modern technology shapes the PR industry. In his free time, he loves to hang out with his friends, and cheers for FC Barcelona. Connect with him on Twitter @connect2taral