A Refresher in Media Relations

by Frank Williams

Technology is transforming the world of public relations and strategic communication, and many now view the press release as a relic of ages past.

At the start of my public relations career over two decades ago, much of my work revolved around traditional media relations. These days, more and more of our work is digital or web-focused in nature. When I recently received a referral to a new client who needed assistance with a media announcement related to an acquisition, it was a welcome reminder of my professional roots.

This project also provided a great refresher on some key principles of effective media relations:

  • Clarity: Our first step was to gain a clear understanding of the details to be announced and develop a clear, coherent message that could easily be understood by reporters and editors who are not subject matter experts on the item being announced.
  • Media list development: We invested some up-front time to identify both the relevant media outlets that might be interested in covering the announcement and the appropriate contact at each outlet.
  • Relationships: Over time, I’ve developed relationships with key people at nearly every media outlet to which this release was sent. While not every one of them covered it, the fact that it came from someone they know and trust at least got it on their radar.
  • Newsworthiness: It’s important to understand that every media outlet has its own standard for what is newsworthy, and that their standard depends largely on their intended audience and coverage focus. One outlet expressed great interest in the announcement and is working on a story because it was in the heart of their geographic coverage area, while another did not cover it because it was outside of the area they normally cover. Take the time to study each outlet, understand their audience, and develop insight into their standards for newsworthiness.
  • Timing: Timing is everything. Unfortunately, the timing of this announcement roughly coincided with the arrival of Hurricane Isaias in Brunswick County. While it was still newsworthy, coverage was delayed because the storm and its impacts were dominating the headlines.
  • Responsiveness: Several of the reporters had lots of questions about the story. Emma Ericksen from our team served as the liaison between the reporters and our client to get them the information they needed in a timely manner.
  • User-Friendliness: It is important to make the reporter’s job as easy as possible. This includes providing them with a well-written press release that conforms with Associated Press style, anticipating questions and providing information to answer those questions (we included a fact sheet with the release), and helping the reporters get the answers to additional questions in advance of their deadline.

This project was a great refresher in the basic principles of media relations, and it was a welcome throw-back to my roots as a public relations professional.

Frank L. Williams is founder and president of Pioneer Strategies

Frank L. Williams

Frank is the founder and president of Pioneer Strategies.