Media relations is a valuable tool in the marketing toolkit. It’s a good way of showing thought-leadership and expertise, and carries with it the benefit of third-party endorsement. If a journalist or editor thought it was worth writing about, or publishing, your views, this adds validation.

Building relationships with individual journalists might seem pretty straight-forward, but even the most sophisticated organisations and experienced executives can get it wrong.

Top tips for better media relations include:

  • Identify the journalists important to your business and make sure you are familiar with their publication and the kinds of stories that they write.
  • Consider what interests their readers. For example, ask what reader feedback they are getting, or what stories are getting the most clicks. This not only helps you make a contribution but can also provide good feedback on what your market is concerned about.
  • Remember it’s about issues not products – we can’t emphasise this enough. Focus on what interests journalists and their readers, not what’s important to you. Journalists aren’t interested in writing a story that promotes your business for you – they’ll just tell you to take out advertising!
  • Be available. Being knowledgeable and articulate is always important, but don’t underestimate the importance of simply being available to take a call or answer an email. If you prove you can be relied on, the journalist will come back to you another time. If you don’t respond, they’ll move on to the next person – and keep going back to them.
  • Don’t contact a journalist only when you want coverage. No-one likes to feel they are being used and yet many people do just that with journalists. Trying to turn every contact into a story every time will only damage relationships. Instead, try to catch up on a regular basis for a chat over a coffee.
  • Likewise, realise that not all media contact will result in instant coverage. Sometimes a meeting with a journalist does not eventuate into the journalist writing a story. This does not mean the time has been wasted. Meeting with journalists on a regular basis is as much about relationship building as it is gaining media coverage.
  • Consider inviting journalists to company and industry functions. Journalists can be invited to client events and to roadshows and conferences. They often appreciate the opportunity to be presented with the same material you are presenting to your clients, as you are presenting it.
  • Be honest. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so, but promise to get back to them if you can. Or if it’s a question that you’d prefer not to answer, simply say so – and if possible, offer some different insights.
  • Don’t waste journalists’ time. Notwithstanding the need to create relationships, don’t overdo the contact. Be aware of journalists’ time pressures when they are on deadline. Don’t try to sell a story when there’s no interest. Don’t offer an exclusive when you’ve already given it to someone else. Deliver on promises, especially when you have been given a deadline and return calls promptly.

Once you have started building the relationship, keep it going. Let the journalist know you will keep in touch about any important news you have coming up. Don’t thank them for any positive coverage they give you but do thank them for their time. You want to become the first person they call for any media comment on your area of expertise.