Tips to Rock Media Relations

By: Kevin Byrnes

I decided to focus this post on how to rock in media relations to a handful of pointers I learned during my transition from being in the media to now being a PR practitioner.

First, the news release. While most of us likely know this, it’s worth a reminder. Don’t send your news release as an attachment to the media. I learned that from my first boss in PR. Cut and paste your news release into the body of the email. Media folks on the other end don’t have time to open an attachment. Hit them between the eyes with your content.

Next, don’t dupe your headline into the email subject line. Find something in your release that made you react. Maybe it’s a quote. A particular fact or statistic. One of my rules of thumb throughout my career in judging content has been—if I react to something—chances are someone else will as well. We want our news release to get noticed by the editor, producer or reporter. Recently, I took a quote from a news release I worked on and used it in the subject line of the release email. When I followed up by phone, a reporter mentioned the quote.

Speaking of which, DO follow up with a phone call to media outlets. I’ll relate a story from my own career when I was in the media. I was working as a TV news assignment editor at the time. A PR person called the desk, following up on her news release about an event. I hadn’t seen it in the assignment file. I was very interested in what she was saying. We ended up sending a videographer to cover the event.

Thinking back, the other two competing stations in the market covered it as well. Imagine if that PR person hadn’t called me to follow-up? My station would have not had that item for our newscast. Would it have made our newscast worse than our competitors? No. However, I was glad when I turned in my report comparing content that we had what they had. So, yes, DO call and follow-up on your news release/media advisories and other notices.

Another area in my growth as a PR practitioner has been in building relationships with media members. In this email, text and tweet communication landscape, don’t count solely on those forms of contact when building relationships with journalists and media members.  

I had huge success with a business media outlet while working in government PR. I was writing about economic development issues, so I decided to contact one of the editors and introduce myself. We had good chemistry on the phone (friendly and personable matters!). He told me about his daily digital edition deadlines, where he was often in need of content. I took note. I started sending him material, hitting a home run on one particular story where they used elements from my release as well as my photo—at the top of the digital edition!

Eventually, I called the editor to just say hello. No pitch. That relaxed conversation helped add further trust between us. He could count on me for worthwhile content. I trusted he would do his best to use what I sent him. A win-win.

I’ll conclude this post with a short mix of other ways to rock in media relations. At one of our recent PRSA Detroit events, a suburban weekly journalist said to me, “the relationship between the media and PR pros has never been more important.” “You (PR pros) are the boots on the ground now for us in the media.” He’s right. The cuts in news media operations juxtaposed with the urgent need for content to meet digital deadlines has created a wide vacuum of opportunity for us practitioners. How do we fill it and create a win-win for us and our media counterparts?  

Start by sending a picture or pictures (no more than three is a good rule of thumb) with your news release. Write your news release as if it will be printed as is.  Follow  AP style rules. Double checks facts and spelling. I have a number of news releases in my portfolio that were used verbatim by the media. I imagine you do as well. Finally, a brief word on pitching.

Write a couple of facts down about your content before calling the outlet or journalist. Rehearse your pitch out loud.  Hit  those couple of facts, speak clearly and coherently and let go of the rest. If earned media is meant to be—it will be. And, say thank you when your material is used. Like a job interview follow-up, a thank you can a long way toward your next pitch.

These pointers are some of the things I have learned in my transition from being a media member to being a PR practitioner. I hope they help you rock in media relations!

Kevin Byrnes is a Communications Consultant at ByrnesPR & Media Services. His current clients include an investment banking organization, an animal pet shelter as well as some other non-profit groups. He is a member of the Detroit PRSA chapter (national as well) and serves on the blog committee. He is also a member of the Individual Communicators Network (ICN Detroit Chapter).