Catherine Bauer writes…
Australian journalists are increasingly used to going through “media spokespeople” – either public relations consultants or in house communications managers in order to get information or quotes. They are also well used to receiving news and information via a PR practitioner, media adviser or media manager – so many names for what is essentially the same role.
This has been the case in political circles and the world of large corporates for decades, but the use of third party interfaces between the media and smaller organisations, groups and individuals is now also happening more often – perhaps not surprisingly in a world where a wrong word or misconstrued answer can very quickly go global via social media and the internet.
Many media consultants were once journalists themselves and understand the whole news process.
As a journalist for most of my professional career and now working in PR, I can say that whichever side of the communications coin you work on, there are plenty of similarities. Both journalists and PR practitioners have to understand what makes news, who the audience is and what it cares about. And both professions must issue news and information that is accurate, honest and transparent – that goes for anyone making or distributing news.
Having said that journalists are now used to making a communications practitioner their first port of call, or are used to receiving news via a consultant, there are still smaller organisations, groups or individuals who want to approach or deal with the media on directly without using a third party.
Here are a few key tips for dealing with and maintaining media relationships for anyone wanting to go it alone:
1. Never waste your own time, or a journalist’s, with a story or an issue that really has no news value, credibility or interest to the wider community. Be honest and seek other valued opinions if you’re unsure.
2. Know and really understand what your “story” or “issue” is and what it is you want to say.
3. Keep your message clear and as concise as possible and show how it will make a difference, add to debate or current knowledge, improve people’s lives or entertain.
4. Don’t feel nervous or fearful about contacting a journalist. They want your news.
5. Unless it’s a massive or important story – don’t ever make your first approach on deadline – unless it really can wait. A general rule of thumb is not to contact a newsroom in the late afternoon.
6. Try to match the media outlet to the type of news you have.
7. Forget trying to set up a face to face meeting “for a chat” over a coffee. Modern newsrooms are busy places and few reporters have time for “chats’ – unless they are going to leave with a concrete story or lead.
8. Send an email outlining your story or issue or send a clearly written, one-page media release – no typos – with your name and contact details and tell the journalist you will call soon to follow up.
9. Make sure you have thought of picture or “vision” opportunities to illustrate the story.
10. If you don’t hear back first, call back the following day to discuss and find out if they received your email. If the reporter really isn’t interested don’t push the point and don’t be precious in rejection. You’ve started the relationship and if you keep sending reliable, accurate and newsworthy media releases, you’ll eventually get results and will be seen as a “good contact”.
11. Never ask to read or vet a story before it’s aired or printed – trust is a two-way street.
12. Once you’ve established a rapport with a journalist, maintain and foster the contact by keeping them “in the loop” with any further news or developments.
Hopefully these tips will give a little confidence to those who decide to go it alone and take their newsworthy story, issue or opinion to the media and help ensure some success.
– Catherine Bauer
Hughes PR is a communications and public relations consultancy with proven and extensive experience in publicity and media relations, issues management, crisis management, digital media and social media strategy and implementation, community consultation, event management, media training, publications and strategic problem solving. Find out more.