You have news to share and you want help telling a great story, so who are you going to call? The media.
We have shared tips for how to be newsworthy and walked you through the details of how to write a press release, now it is time to coach you on actually connecting with the media—how to contact the media, finding the right contacts, and best practices for successful media interactions.
Connecting with the media is just like networking and business development; it is a process of connecting with people and nurturing a relationship. Your ultimate public relations goal is to become a reliable and trustworthy source.
Best ways to contact the media
Make it Personal. Just like any good networking, you want to make a personal connection with the media. Show them you’ve done your homework and know their publication and know what they write about! Reference a recent article they’ve written and offer a compliment, comment, or insight.
Be Social. In today’s digital world, you can connect with media sources in a variety of ways. While you want that direct connection via email, you may also get someone’s attention via social media. Are the media contacts on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram? Can you capture their attention there? You can send an email and then also reach out via a direct message on LinkedIn. Part of the process is figuring out the forms of communication they prefer.
Face Time. Learn what conferences your contacts will be attending and use that as an opportunity to try to meet them face to face.
Call ‘Em. Sometimes you just need to pick up the phone. While you will often be sent to voicemail, it is an opportunity to make the connection more personal by leaving a message and letting them hear the sound of your voice. If you are lucky, your contact will answer so don’t be taken by surprise. Make sure you are prepared for a person to pick up the phone, so you make the most of that time.
Media contacts are busy people working under deadlines while being inundated with pitches, press releases, and every possible person and company looking for coverage. Know that, understand that, and be respectful of their time. Strive to be a helpful, dependable resource, not the person known for just being annoying.
How to find the right media contacts
Target. Determine your target publications or other media outlets.
Research. Look on the television, radio, and publication websites for their editorial staff’s contact information. You will typically find their titles and the subject areas they cover as well as emails, phone numbers, and guidelines.
Capture. Put the most important contacts’ information and editorial guidelines in a database so you can keep track of your interactions—when you send messages, responses, follow up, etc.
Best practices for successful interactions
Balanced contact. Don’t pester the media but do stay in touch. This doesn’t mean call every few days…think about touchpoints over weeks and months.
Understand lead times. There will be different publication calendars and requirements for print vs. online vs. television and radio.
Understand the importance of planting seeds. It may take time for an editor to see the value in an idea or find relevance to their audience or readers, so it could take a year or more to come to fruition.
Brainstorm with editors. By sharing a number of story thoughts you may spark future article ideas.
Don’t be too promotional. There needs to be relevance between the idea and the media outlet’s audience. Offer examples to help illustrate.
Provide visuals. Have photography to support your pitch or images that can help illustrate another story. Having the right photo may be a first step to gaining some recognition. These contacts are looking for great videos too.
Be responsive. When the media calls, return the call right away. Confirm that you received the message and request. Inquire about deadlines and let the person know you will get back to them right away with the proper information or an appointment for the desired interview.
Understand the difference between editorial and advertising. We have mentioned that both are valuable pieces of a strategic marketing plan. When it comes to contacting the editorial team, have one or maybe several interesting ideas to share that speak to their audience or readership while offering your company as an expert source or example. If you have one message that you want to share over and over, then reach out to the advertising team.
Be helpful. Be a resource. Make their job easier. Can you provide a writer or editor with well written background information, photography, and expert quotes? Then you are giving them a lot to work with.
Just like all aspects of marketing, communicating with the media requires a multifaceted effort. These are relationships that need to be nurtured and developed over time. These people will become valuable members of your network no matter where their careers take them. Remember that even if the information you share via a press release or phone call doesn’t get published, it has served a purpose. You have had the opportunity to bring your company to the media’s attention. Your willingness to make that initial contact and nurture that relationship with timely follow up and trustworthy information may be the launching pad you need to become a reliable resource for your favorite media outlet.
Judy Campbell is president at Campbell Consulting. She founded the agency in 1996 to provide companies with strategic communications counsel encompassing PR, digital communications, content creation, media training, and social media. Campbell Consulting is dedicated to shining a spotlight on the country’s best brands and thought leaders in cannabis, craft beer, hospitality, food and beverage, blockchain, and software. The agency was nominated for the 2019 BOB (Best of Breed) Awards.