Building the foundation for better media relationships
By Drew Beadling, Senior Associate
When it comes to public relations and communications, few things are as important as building trust and credibility with the media. This is a field that is built on relationships, and as crucial as these relationships are, they are just as delicate. The media can and will play a significant role in shaping the public’s perception of your company, and poor media relations practices – whether it’s one critical mistake or a pattern of refusing to respond to media outreach – can spell trouble for your company in more ways than one.
If you find yourself struggling with media interactions, check out our five tips to remember as you build your relationships with the media.
Remember you’re in it for the long haul: This will not be an overnight process. Though your media reputation can be ruined very quickly, the path toward good standing is long and winding. Step one is to establish a single point of contact and consistent practices and procedures that can be replicated over a long period of time and stick to them.
Be responsive: Responding to media requests or inquiries promptly in certain cases can be even more important than the content of your response. Even if you will not be able to fulfill the request, or you have to let the reporter know you will get back to them at a later time, a quick response shows you value and respect their job, and they will respond in kind. Taking this simple step also helps to avoid the dreaded “no comment.” The last thing you want is a media report that says the company was contacted but did not respond. This creates distrust among reporters and harms your credibility in the community.
Be proactive: If you know you have something coming that could be newsworthy and know of a contact that would be interested, proactively reach out to them ahead of time and offer to share that information when appropriate. If you can make a reporter’s job easier, chances are they will be easier to work with down the road. If you need time to get them what they need for a future story, they are now more likely to hold their story and give you the time you need.
Be reliable: If you promise to get back to someone by a certain date or time, make sure you do. If you promise someone an exclusive on a story, you better stick to it – and don’t give it to a competitor.
Be transparent and truthful: There will often be information that your client does not want to disclose, but we would encourage as much transparency as possible and to always be truthful. Smart, experienced reporters will often expect public relations professionals to present the most favorable version of the truth possible for their client, but will never forgive a public relations professional for lying or providing information that later turns out to be false. Remember, media relationships are built on trust and credibility. If you lie to a reporter, and that lie becomes known, it could take years for you or your company to rebuild that trust.
A theme running through all of these tips is respect – treat the media with respect and communicate with reporters with the same respect that you provide other professionals. Media relations is about relationships. Reporters are not robots that you feed press releases into and expect a story to come out the other side. Get to know the reporters you’re interacting with; their personalities, what kind of stories they gravitate towards, etc.
This will help you establish rapport and secure better and more accurate coverage. Also, if things ever go awry, they’re much more likely to be open to your side of things if they truly know you, and don’t just look at you as a pitching machine. At the same time, don’t take it personally if they ever report something you don’t love – remember that they are doing their job, and you are doing yours. Mutual respect is key.