As a public relations executive, I have determined over the years what works and does not in representing clients with the media and their respective outlets. A press release is a one way modality of delivering information, but not an exchange between source and writer. Contacting the media and analyst community is not as simple as sending passive press releases, it is a detailed process.
Building a personal rapport is the first step, although many incorrectly think that inundating the editor with press releases is the most effective approach to get noticed. Establishing the initial contact may take place in several mediums, via phone or email is the most efficient manner, in my opinion. Piquing the interest of the individual by relating the information to a previous story, as an additional option, or inquiring about their editorial needs usually will produce a rapid reply. Educating the contact on a topic that they may not be familiar is seen as being informative and helpful versus just pitching another story. Being a positive resource is the answer to getting coverage, this must never be forgotten.
A straightforward approach with the objective clearly stated will be most appreciated by the person whom you desire to influence. By listening to the feedback, an immediate fit or alternative may be determined to set the process in motion. If the story is defined as an analysis of a particular market or topic, it does not behoove you or your client to jam a corporate story down their throat. An analytical piece has a purpose as an overview to the reader, therefore changing this format is a disservice to the circulation of subscribers. You may be lucky enough to get one story out of the editor with your strong persuasion, but don’t count on it in the future with this tact.
News stories require solid facts, are on quick deadlines, and references by customers and industry analysts to validate the information. This is where the public relations counsel earns their money and every word of coverage due to the tough restraints involved in news reporting. Customers often do not want to participate in news stories due to security concerns or just the hassle of the editorial demands. Analysts can be difficult to reach on a tight deadline and therefore cannot provide the expert testimony to verify the corporate news story. Every company feels their news is the most earth-shattering, but in reality it comes down to whom can provide the information the easiest for the editor and within the space allotments of the publication.
Product related stories require the editor to be well versed in the technology in order to relay it to the readers in reasonable terms. Products are where the education process comes into play once again; it serves all parties well to be a source of information. If the product manager cannot answer the question, it is best to defer to someone whom can articulate the message completely. Utilizing examples of success stories and actual scenarios can be the most effective manner to relate the often complex data. Specifically outlining the features and benefits realized as a result of the product use can translate quite nicely into the article.
Another aspect of maintaining the media relationship is one of being able to fill a need, not just always pitching a story. This nurturing can be analogous with friendship; there is a give and take. Touching bases without a story to pitch is beneficial. Being available when it does not serve your own client, but as a referral to another source when asked shows good faith to the editor that you are not just contacting them for a story. A call or email to check in can never hurt a solid relationship with the media.
Last, but not least, credibility is essential to a trusting media exchange. Many public relations professionals have usurped this very important fact in the pressure to deliver results for their clients. It is difficult to fess up to not having the perfect story, reference, or product to conform to a big feature in a high circulation publication that is right in the target market. The loss of exposure will be short term, but at the time it seems monumental. Don’t make the client fit the article, it will sting long after the story is printed. Once you have betrayed an editor’s trust by stretching the story or skewing the data, you and your client are finished and any future coverage is not looking rosy.
The aforementioned process should be referenced in order to be successful in the media community in the long term. Hard work at the onset will be rewarded down the line with repetitive ink.