Proactive Media Relations: Do’s and Not Do’s

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I recently blogged for the company I currently work for about how the strategies and tactics used in spokesperson training can be used in business situations. Reaction and feedback I received was positive, which got me to think about blogging on my own about public relations and media relations.

Lots to talk about, here. Proactive versus reactive media relations. How to best work with the press. How to determine when and if the press have any interest in working with you. Crisis communications.

I’ve been lucky enough in my career to have worked the agency and corporate side of things. Done and seen a bunch – – Fortune 100 companies, Olympics, NASDAQ, NYSE, celebrities, Chapter 11, emergence, product launches, etc.

I was sort of on the proverbial fence when – after I “liked” a former colleague of mine’s post that said: Shameless client plug. But so proud of this placement, I received a comment back from her:

Andy, I vividly remember securing a hit in the South Bend Tribune back in the day, and I was absolutely elated. I felt silly for being that excited about such a tiny paper, and you told me, “The day you stop feeling excited about a client hit, you need to get out of this business.” Good advice to this day. 🙂

So, I’m taking this as a sign. What will follow will be periodical musings about my chosen craft, but before I get started, I want to thank the late Ken Fairchild who taught me everything I know about spokesperson training, or as he called – – The Strategy of Answering Questions. Ken was a good man who is missed.

So, let’s kick this off by talking a little proactive media relations. Media relations can be one of the most rewarding aspects of public relations. Seeing the fruition of your work – from developing a compelling story for the appropriate journalist to pitching that reporter, to seeing yourself, your client or your boss on-air/in-print, on the Internet – – should be a great feeling.

Working with the media does have an inherent set of obstacles. Arguably, the biggest hurdle we face is that we are in an industry where many of our peers do not always work smart or strategically with reporters, editors and producers.

Whether it is sending out mass mailings, blindly reaching out to an outlet that isn’t right for a particular story or e-mailing attachments to an inappropriate contact, some of our brethren have created an adversarial relationship with the media.

Let us be sure that we do not demean or devalue what we do.  When we do things the right way – that is create and develop a great/compelling story and provide it to the appropriate audience (via the media) – we become a tremendous asset to the media and our company/client.

A big/critical part of our job is acting as a gatekeeper (are you the keymaster) of sorts for the press. To do so, we must understand what makes news and what is important to the press (and their real audience) AND we have to manage the expectations of our client, boss, team, etc. I can’t tell you (but I will, otherwise the blog will be really short) how many times I said “No” during brainstorms, client meetings, etc.

Whenever I did, I would explain why and – whenever possible – give an alternative idea. Back in the day, it was very common to hear, “I could see this on Oprah” for a pitch that was anything but “O-worthy.” Having “reality check” conversations may be difficult to have at the time, but it is best to have them instead of alienating the press with a pitch that doesn’t resonate. The reality is, reporters/producers have long memories and will not take calls/delete e-mails from those who are so off base that you are wasting their time.

A producer at TODAY once told me he wished more public relations professionals were like me – – “when I take your call or read your e-mail, I know you’ll have something relevant for me. I may not always take the pitch, but you’ll be in the ballpark.”

Well, that was pretty painless (at least for me). Hopefully, it was something of note for you. Please comment and let me know what you think and if you have something you want me to blog about. You can connect with me on Linkedin or follow me on Twitter. Thanks.

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4 thoughts on “Proactive Media Relations: Do’s and Not Do’s

  1. All good points Andrew! Credibility, relationship, newsworthy, and knowledge of how a newsroom operates are all critical components of successful proactive or reactive media relations. The media sphere is so much bigger now and audience targeting has taken on new levels with instant positioning across multiple mediums that creativity is limitless! One piece of advice however from a 30 year veteran: always collaborate with colleagues and/or clients and don’t ever think you’re the smartest person in the room, even if you’re the only one in it! Earned media placement for a client or cause is often fleeting, even in smaller markets, so maximize all available resources when planning a pitch, post or practicing a crisis!

    1. Great points Robert, thank you. Collaboration is critical with those who have a good understanding of the news landscape and what the client/topic, etc. can deliver. Never an issue of me thinking I’m the smartest in the room. 🙂

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