How to Work with the Media
If you aspire to work in media relations or public relations or are in business for yourself, you should learn how to work with the mainstream media. Many media organizations, from local newspapers and broadcasters to national papers and magazines, can help you get your messages out to a wider audience than you can afford to pay for through advertising. But you have to understand their needs and agendas before you can have consistent success.
Understand That Media Organizations Are Businesses
Nearly all media are profit-making enterprises and their primary task is to attract a sizeable audience that advertisers want to reach. So they will not be focused on doing you a favor. You need to help them meet their needs before they will help you meet yours. And when dealing with reporters be conscious and respectful of their deadlines.
Make Sure Your Messages Are Newsworthy
What media want are news stories that appeal to one or more significant audience segments. If your story or message is not news, you won’t have much luck. News includes new products or services, a significant new trend, a true “first”, a human interest story, something unique, or something legitimately involving a celebrity. If you can create or report news that meets one of these criteria, most media will be interested.
Know Your Audience and the Media Audiences
You need to know your company’s target audience and the media organization’s audience. If there is no overlap then you may have to look for other media. If there is a good overlap then you need to be ready to present evidence of that if it is not obvious.
The way media obtain information is through press releases and interviews. Even if you send out a press release you must be ready to be contacted and interviewed for more information. Therefore, you need to anticipate likely questions and be prepared to fully answer them.
Be 100% Honest
Never, ever lie to the media. In dealing with media honesty is not just the best policy, it is the only policy. Reporters will not be kind to people and organizations who lie to or mislead them.
Avoid Being Negative about Anything or Any Other Company
Interest from a media organization is not license to unload on competitors or other people. You need to be 100% positive in every contact with the media in order to earn respect and trust.
Be Very Careful What You Say or Disclose
There is no such thing anymore as “off the record.” Anything you say is fair game for reporters. Do not expect anything to be held in confidence.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Being a spokesperson to media organizations is not easy. You must thoroughly master all the key facts about your company, its products, its markets, and why there is something newsworthy to speak about. Then you need to memorize your key messages and the correct and appropriate answers to expected questions. It’s not rocket science but it does require you to do significant homework.
Final Tips for Working with the Media
Long term you’ll need to establish good working relationships with media representatives to be really successful.
Media relations is a very important part of public relations and if your company is not a large one you may benefit from professional assistance by hiring an outside firm..
Warning: It’s counterproductive to try to manipulate media. There has to be a clear win-win basis for media relationships.