how to do media relations

A Reporter’s Advice on Media Relations

By Communications, Crisis Communications, Media

A reporter friend texted me about his frustration with communications professionals who are either hamstrung by their bosses and unable to do their jobs, or who otherwise fail to conduct media relations in a timely manner. The situation doesn’t help anyone, as no one can do their job, and the public doesn’t get the correct, or sometimes, any information. “How do we get you to teach the communications professionals in this town how to communicate?” he said.

I have taught many people how to work with the media, and especially how to communicate in a crisis. I think it’s good to hear directly from the media how they want to receive information from their sources, as a refresher for all of us. Here’s the gist of what my reporter friend wants all people working in communications to know.

  1. It’s important to say something. Saying nothing means information comes from other sources, and the rumor mill is very active.
  2. It is critical to understand how quickly rumors spread and whip people into a frenzy. Social media can make any communicator’s job even harder, as the battle to correct misinformation mounts depending on how long the true story is delayed.
  3. You really can ask for something to be off the record. We understand that there are times you can’t tell us at the time, but you CAN say, “Hey, I can’t tell you much yet, but off-the-record, don’t send everyone home for dinner just yet.”
  4. Stop trying so hard to protect your people or control the narrative. In most cases, your subject matter expert is smart, capable, and willing to answer questions. Let them. You will get grilled less often if there is regular, proactive communication. If you never say anything, it looks like you’re trying to hide something.

I’ll add to this that it is OK, in the case of a crisis to say that you don’t have all the information, while sharing what you do have (stating the facts), and that you will get back to the reporter as soon as you have more to say. If you’re waiting for your client or boss’s approval before sharing information, you can at least let reporter’s know that you’re working on it, rather than leaving them hanging.

8 News Values: How to Tackle Media Relations and Keep Your Credibility

By Media, Public Relations

The media (and the world at large) would like your help. Understanding the difference between what’s news and what’s not is super important. As users of smartphones, blogs and YouTubes we are ALL the media. As consumers of news, we, through consumption, sharing and engaging, determine what’s interesting to the masses.

Ah, such responsibility!

As a business person, marketer or communications lead for a nonprofit it is critically important to fully “get” the eight news values, and to understand that your “news” must fit into one of these buckets and you must have a pretty clear understanding of how to articulate that fit. If you can’t, and keep wondering why the media “never” covers what you pitch, you might take some time to seriously consider whether what you’re sharing is really even news at all.

I’ve been using the following list to help pitch news, create client editorial calendars, teach public relations students, mentor people in my industry and keep my own public relations on message for many years. As a special bonus, I’m offering you the workshop handout, Is it News? from Jaggers Communications to download, print, post above your desk and on your refrigerator, at the end of this post.

8 News Values You Can Use

1. Proximity — is location a factor? What’s happening right in the client’s back yard?

2. Prominence — has someone famous aligned themselves with the company?

3. Significance — is this the first of its kind anywhere in the world? The biggest?

4. Timeliness — is there something happening “today only” or for a limited time?

5. Human interest — is there a story to be told about the owner of the company, its employees or its customers? There’s potential for a whole series of stories here.

6. Unusualness — what makes this story or this client really different from its competition? What is happening that rarely happens anywhere?

7. Conflict — this is not always the direction you want your news to take, but if your client has come into conflict with a customer, local authorities or a competing entity, the story may become that news rather than the news you want to share.

8. Currency (newness) — the value in news that is new lasts about two seconds in today’s speed-driven communications. It’s tricky to get in front of a story and share something that’s new, and it won’t be news unless you’re the very first to break it.

Now . . . go forth and be newsworthy!

Get the handout — Is it News? From Jaggers Communications