Business and Operations
Building good media relations
By Pam Lontos
By Pam Lontos
Sept. 2, 2009 – As a business owner, you’ve probably heard media exposure
can greatly help your company, especially during tough economic times when
marketing budgets are low and competition is high.
The truth is, learning to leverage the power of the media
can help you stand out from the competition without expending your resources.
If you are new or inexperienced in dealing with editors or reporters, you might
feel intimidated. But there’s absolutely no reason to believe you must have
superpowers or be famous in order to approach the media.
People interview people they like. If you can develop a good
rapport up front, that’s half the battle. Media professionals, like everyone
else, gravitate toward someone they enjoy talking with. You can adopt
strategies that will cause interviewers to come back to you time after time.
First and most important, be respectful of the reporter or
editor’s time. Deadlines are 24/7 these days, and you are one of many people
approaching the media with articles, ideas and pitches. Media professionals are
among the most overtaxed and pressured people you will ever meet. If you have
initiated the contact, your first question should be, “Are you on
deadline?” If they say “yes,” never
sabotage the relationship by forging ahead anyway. If they are on deadline, ask
when would be a better time to call back. No need to risk alienating or
annoying them. You can always call back.
You don't want to be someone reporters interview once and
never want to again. Here are a few ideas to help you relax and make sure
editors and reporters accept your articles, book you as a guest on shows or
interview you for pieces they are writing or videotaping.
Become familiar with the journalists you would like to
cultivate relationships with. Follow their work, and let them know when you
enjoy something they have written.
Comment on something specific. Watch the TV broadcast or the talk show. Read
the magazine, newspaper or blog. Listen to the radio show or podcast. Familiarize
yourself with the content. Look at the ads to see what audience the advertisers
Once you become familiar with the audience, you will
understand what the audience wants. This will allow you to tailor your content,
making it more valuable to the reporter or editor. Providing great content is
the best way to motivate reporters to contact you in the future! Another good
way to target your material correctly is to ask the reporter or interviewer if
there is anything else you need to know to better understand his or her
audiences. That way you can fashion the content of your remarks as you prepare
for an interview or, if you are writing an article, you can strike the
appropriate tone. Reporters, editors and talk-show hosts will respect you for
the extra effort you make to ensure your ideas are valuable to their readers,
listeners or audiences.
Be observant during conversations and pick up personal
details. If the reporter is heading out the door to pick up children from
soccer, make a note of it. Remember to ask about the children's progress next
time you call. Also, be on the lookout for items of interest to a soccer parent.
For example, you can e-mail or mail the reporter a parenting article about involvement
in children's sporting activities. This costs nothing, and therefore there will
be no breach of ethics on the reporter’s part to accept it. At the same time,
he or she will appreciate your thoughtfulness.
Reporters and editors often spend most of their time in the
world of ideas. They like to think and talk about challenging ideas. When you
are engaged in conversation, remember to bring up the topic they like to talk
about. In a similar vein, if you see a subject come up in the news you know
will interest a reporter with whom you are developing a relationship, copy and
send it to him or her.
Don't let months pass without contact. Send birthday or
holiday cards to keep the relationship going. If you stumble across an event or
idea related to an area of the reporter or editor’s interest, call and leave them
a quick voicemail about it. They will get the message that you are thinking
about them as people, not just using them for your own narrow purposes.
The goal is relationship building. If the reporter or editor
you would like to get to know is local, you can drop by the office (with
appropriate notice), suggest coffee or even invite him or her to lunch. And
when you do this, be sincere about it. Treat the reporter as you would any
other friend or acquaintance you truly value. If it’s all about you, if you’re
in the game just to advance yourself, this will become all too readily
apparent, and you will alienate the very people you are trying to impress.
When you are interviewed, give good quotes. Strive for
simple, declarative sentences. Use
concrete images. Answer the question. Don't go off on tangents that interest
you. Remember the reporter is working
hard to gain the knowledge he or she needs to write a good story. Or the radio
host is looking for that pithy quote the listeners can relate to. Help the
reporter do a good job, and once again your effort will be appreciated.
Be enthusiastic on the phone. Even if you're not doing an
interview for broadcast, the reporter will appreciate your passion for the
subject. Stand up and smile – your energy and cheerfulness will come across. Laugh
or get the interviewer laughing.
If you've written a book on the subject you are being
interviewed about, offer to send it. This will help them learn more about the
topic they are researching. You can also offer, say, five books as giveaways if
your interview is with a radio reporter. Radio stations love promotional ideas.
At the end of an interview, ask about other stories the
reporter is currently covering. Explain how you may be able to contribute and
offer a unique angle that may interest their audiences. Always remind the
journalist that he or she can call you back with questions. And make it clear
that you’re eager to be an accessible source of information in the future.
Don’t forget to maintain your relationships once they are
established. Again, thoughtfulness is
the key. Sometimes the reporter will call you as a source, but you just aren’t
right for that particular subject matter. You can still be helpful by
suggesting another person to call. Or,
if the reporter needs a second or third source to interview, suggest names of
other people. If the story is not something you can help with, but you can
steer the reporter toward a more productive source of information, the reporter
will remember this and be grateful.
Effective media relations is all about relationships. If you
develop, nurture and maintain good relationships with reporters and editors, you
will become the expert source they seek out time after time, which will help
you stand out from the competition and boost your sales.
Pam Lontos is
president of PR/PR, a public relations firm based in Orlando, Fla. She is
author of "I See Your Name Everywhere" and is a former vice president
of sales for Disney's Shamrock Broadcasting.
PR/PR has placed clients in publications such as USA Today,
Entrepreneur, Time, Reader's Digest and Cosmopolitan. PR/PR works with established businesses, as
well as entrepreneurs who are just launching their company. For a free publicity consultation, e-mail
Pam@prpr.net or call 407-299-6128. To receive free publicity tips, go to
www.PRPR.net and register for the monthly e-newsletter, PR/PR Pulse!