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Building Good Relations with the Media

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Some PR consultants may claim personal media contacts are the key to successful PR. Exercising these media contacts may involve them charging meals and drinks to your account. Don’t entertain this notion. Good PR is about developing a sound professional relationship with journalists – that means providing them with the information and opportunities they need to interest their readers.

Ten Things You Should Do

  1. Understand your media. Editors and journalists are gatekeepers standing between you and the public you wish to address. Look at journal profiles, and forward features to define with your PR company which groups you need to target and with what frequency. Most publication have a web version and often the same journalists are involved, though larger outlets may have different web staff.
  2. Understand what your editors want. Look at samples of key journals, web sites and other outlets on your target list. What is the mix of commissioned articles, features, releases and advertorials? What is the typical copy length, style, and tone of voice? Aim to match these criteria.
  3. Offer exclusives. More valuable than a three-course lunch – professional editors will appreciate exclusive features, exclusive access to senior management and exclusive facility visits.
  4. Provide good copy. Good copy is on time, the right length, in a suitable style, adopting the right tone and delivered in a format for easy editing and inclusion.
  5. Submit good supporting pictures. Including professionally taken pictures (video clips for broadcast/sound bites for radio) – help to sell the story. As with copy, look at what is used as a guide to format. Remember ‘good’ in this context means more than looking good on a small mobile phone screen – it means technically good enough to be printed at 300 dpi on a full size front cover.
  6. Demonstrate authority. Good journalism – and by implication good PR – is based on facts not fluff, give statistics, quote authoritative sources, use reliable research.
  7. Remember the power of the sound bite. In writing as in broadcast, the brief sentence that summarises your case in a few easily remembered words will win the hearts of editors.
  8. Aim for high production values. Editors can get very upset by sloppy copy, poor punctuation, bad spelling and fuzzy pictures.
  9. Know when (not) to phone. Editors are busy people. There are times when you will want to call to sell in a story – but avoid doing this as the latest issue is being put to bed if you want a more favourable hearing.
  10. Say thank you. When an editor takes time out to visit you, publishes your 2000 word feature verbatim or gives you a front cover picture, then do reciprocate with a well meant thank you. And, of course, do ask if there any future opportunities.

Five Things You Should Not Do

  1. Don’t use standard or out of date lists. This is a common reason for unsuitable material being sent to editors and one of the quickest ways to annoy them. Your PR company should research the media for each project from an up to date database and send only to relevant titles.
  2. Don’t claim copyright. This should be true for all material offered for publication free of fee – consent should also extend to web use.
  3. Don’t flog dead horses. If an editor is clearly not interested in the story you are pitching, withdraw politely and offer the story to someone else.
  4. Don’t link editorial with advertising. Unless the item is an advertorial in which case it is a form of advertising.
  5. Don’t compromise the editor’s integrity. Over elaborate entertaining and high value gifts may be construed as some sort of bribe and can backfire.

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