Why should you even bother to build relationships with your local media contacts? The answer is pretty obvious — so you can glean local news coverage and publicity where and when you need it. If you don’t have relationships with the people in the media that make decisions about what they include in publications, both in print and online, then your chances of getting coverage can be greatly reduced. In many cases, timing is crucial when you want to get a story out, and having a relationship can make all the difference in the world.
How do you develop media relations?
Step 1: Develop your media list by doing your research online for all the major players that represent the important news outlets in your area. This includes newspapers, magazines, online magazines and blogs — hyper-local online publications (like Patch.com), radio stations, TV stations, municipality newsletters and the list goes on. Develop as detailed of a list as you can from this research that includes names, phone numbers and e-mails. Once you have this precious information do not e-mail blast them with your story. Instead, go to step two.
Step 2: Build personal relationships with these contacts one by one. Get out from behind your desk and go outside the doors of your club. A good place to start is with local organizations, such as the Chamber of Commerce, the local business association, the Rotary Club or any other service club. These clubs are major opportunities for networking that will allow you to meet people that you want to know. I once became good friends with both publishers of the two major newspapers in our area by sitting on the board of the local United Way. The power of personal relationships can never be underestimated. Although this takes time, the payoff is invaluable. You can sell a story more easily to someone who knows and trusts you.
You can also call key media personnel in your area and ask to meet with them, but they are busy people and you may have more luck meeting them out and about in the community.
On a side note — if you do get a reporter to bite on a story, remember they are often on a deadline. Your responsiveness can make or break a story.
Step 3: Study each of your new media contacts — including what kind of stories they publish, their deadlines and how they like to be contacted. Read their articles, follow them on Twitter and Facebook and learn about their personal interests.
Step 4: Develop community partnerships that will provide excellent opportunities for news coverage. Some examples are inviting local non-profits to host their meetings at your location or sponsor a local charitable organization to give credibility to your solid commitment to the community.
Step 5: Position yourself as an expert in your field. Being an expert source for the media gives you increased visibility and credibility, along with providing a platform for your ideas. Your expertise supports your reputation far more effectively than any promotional pitch. You can offer to write articles for the press or you can be its go-to source for all things health and fitness related.
Step 6: Nurture the relationships with the media that you build. They need daily care and feeding, or at least weekly. This can be done using electronic methods: e-mails, Facebook postings or messages, Twitter, or even the old-fashioned phone call. Of course, if you are out from behind your desk enough, you may even have a face-to-face conversation with a contact.
Step 7: Continually update your media relations list. This list is built over years, just like friendships (which is what they are). Media personnel also come and go, making the list fluid, so keep it current.
Media relations are critical to an effective public relations plan. It is important to develop a strong understanding of the media and how best to communicate with them. Once you develop these basic, yet key, fundamentals, you will improve your chances of receiving coverage, which in turn will generate better results.
By Linda Mitchell, the director of marketing and PR at Newtown Athletic Club.