Back to Basics: Media Relations 101

Industry news

Trying to get your organisation featured in the media is a lot like planting seeds. You need to know your garden (audience), choose the correct seeds (your story), prepare the soil (media list) and nurture the plant regularly (media outreach). In a world were everyone seems to be competing for attention using the flashiest, newest and biggest tools, it’s important to remember the basics. After all, without strong roots, even the biggest communications strategies can come tumbling down.

We’ve gone back to basics and compiled a list of elements you should always be mindful of when engaging with the media.

  1. Know your target audience(s). The first step to getting media coverage for your organisation is to pinpoint who your target audience is and which media you should use to reach them. Depending on your budget and story, this can include local papers, television programs and radio stations; trade, sector and professional magazines; consumer and lifestyle media; or even national newspapers, radio and television. Ask yourself - who will be interested in my story? What type of media and which publications do these people or groups consume, read, watch or listen to?
  2. Think and write like a journalist. While you might believe your organisation or product is the best thing on the market, many journalists may not share the same perspective. You need to have a story to tell - a real, meaningful story that a journalist, blogger or consumer will think is worth listening to and sharing. Always look for the human-interest element of the story and make sure this stands out in your pitch or media release. Write clearly and succinctly, and most importantly, don’t make your message sound like an ad. If you think and write like a journalist, more often than not, you will reap your reward.
  3. Build contacts. More often than not, public relations is about not what you know, but who you know. The key to securing a spot in the local paper can sometimes come down to how well you’ve introduced yourself to journalists in the past and the connections you’ve made in the media. While it’s never too late to start building rapport, it does take time, and it won’t come from repeatedly sending unanswered follow-up emails. It comes from a genuine connection and mutual interest in a topic or specific industry.
  4. Tailor your pitch. Many organisations shoot themselves in the foot by sending out the exact same media release to everything that moves, without taking into consideration the journalists’ areas of expertise or beat. Using this type of scattershot approach is like planting seeds for a Hawaiian plant right in the middle of the Himalayan Alps – it just doesn’t work. If you want to send out a press release on the same story to a number of outlets, make sure to tailor your release to appeal to the different journalists and audiences.
  5. Help them help you. Make yourself useful by only reaching out to journalists when you know you’ve got a story they can’t turn their back on. Read up on their articles, follow them on social media, get a clear understanding of what each of them covers. Find out their deadlines, supply your story well in advance and be available to answer their questions and to provide them with further information or high-res images. Journalists' news agendas are different from yours, so make it easy for them to cover your story.

Above all else, remember that gaining media coverage isn’t something you’re entitled to. You need to work for it. But, with a good understanding of your audience, an interesting story, the right connections and an optimistic attitude, you’ll have a set of media outreach tools powerful enough to rival even the flashiest of communications strategies.