Media Relations – It’s All About Relationships

Your company is about to
launch a new product or service that will raise the achievement bar in your
industry. You want to make sure that
every customer for your innovative offering hears the buzz, and acts on it by
buying it – in droves. You write a press
release announcing your exciting news, and fire it off to Business Wire, PR
Web, several industry magazines, your local paper’s business editor, and the
newsrooms of local broadcasters. You
post it, with a big headline, on your company’s website. You sit back, and wait for the world to beat
a path to your door.

Some time later, you notice
that your door is still on its hinges. Your hoped-for media response was underwhelming. In fact, it was non-existent. You saw the headline on the Business Wire
page. You know it was near the top for
several hours on PR Web. But no industry
writers called, and your press release wasn’t even run in your local paper’s
business pages. Why not? Where did you go wrong?

In your business, you’ve no
doubt discovered that relationships are what make customers out of
prospects. The same principle is in play
with media relations – it’s not what you know (or how well you write your press
release), it’s who you know. And how
they feel about you and your company.
When you were developing
your business plan, you put an advertising budget in under marketing, didn’t
you? Here’s another question: What’s the best advertising in the world?

Answer: free
publicity
.
I can hear you – you’re
saying…”OK, Casey, but how do I get free publicity?”
You develop relationships
with reporters who cover your industry, that’s how.

Look at your local daily
newspaper, and local TV news. Pick up
the last copy of your industry’s trade magazine. What stories have they run in the last year
about people, companies or events in your business sector? Who reported the story?  Print media needs to fill the news holes in
their pages – the news hole is the part of the page that isn’t paid advertising
– and television news needs to have something to report between
commercials. Reporters will welcome a
heads-up about news on their beats that they don’t have to go out and dig up on
their own.

The approach here should
NOT be to call or email the reporter and tell them all about your company. You want to be a source, but not a source of
annoyance. The best way to open a dialog
with a reporter is to offer yourself as an expert on your business sector – for
example, if the reporter’s beat is real estate and development, and you’re a
Realtor with a lot of experience in commercial development, you’d be a great
source for that reporter.
Make contact with the
reporter after you’ve read or watched some of her or his recent pieces. Start a conversation – email is ideal here –
with some of your observations about the piece, and about where your industry
is headed. Keep it short, not a
dissertation.

If there’s an industry
event coming up in town, ask the reporter if they’re planning on
attending. If they are, make a point of
seeking that reporter out and introducing yourself. Start a relationship, just as you would with
a prospective customer. A caveat – be
aware that journalists have ethical standards dictated by their industry and
their employers. Gifts, even a free
lunch, have to be reported, and in most cases refused. What you need to offer is information, good information, not bribery.

Once you’ve established a
relationship with a reporter, value it. Offer them stories, not self-serving fluff – the relationship will only
pay off if it’s win/win, just like every other business relationship. Is what you have newsworthy?  Is a new branch office for your company news:
is it offering employment in an
economically disadvantaged area, or is it just another suite of offices in an
upscale office park? There has to be a
news “hook”, something that makes your story more than just your story.

Harking back to the
scenario I drew at the top of the article, if you have an fresh solution or
product that you believe will have the world beating a path to your door, the
way to tell the world certainly involves writing a great press release. You’ll get a lot more mileage out of that
release if you send it to reporters who know you, who regard you as an expert,
and who will tell your story to their readers – your market – who will then beat a path to your door.

Becoming an expert is what
you did on the path to starting your business. Being recognized as an expert by the media will give you visibility
worth thousands, even millions, of advertising dollars that you don’t have to
spend.
Does this give you a new
view of reading the morning paper, watching local news, reading a trade journal? Are you itching to make a list of reporters
who cover your industry? Great – now go do it!

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