May 17, 2010

Media relations—More than just a one-night stand

Public Relations Heart

Media relations is a lot like dating...

Recently I found myself consoling a coworker who was bothered because a reporter wouldn’t return her phone calls or emails or agree to go to lunch with her. Suddenly it occurred to me that entering the world of media relations is a lot like diving into the dating pool. Both involve unwritten rules, lots of phone calls, rejection and frustration—but with a little patience and a little luck, a long-lasting and trustworthy relationship can develop.

The relationship between a PR professional and a journalist is not just a one-night stand. It takes persistence and commitment.

PR pros are natural relationship builders. Even though we may be “playing the field” by pitching more than one journalist, it’s our job to make each one feel special. This means we need to do a little homework. I’m not advocating stalking by any means, but finding out interests and making a connection are keys to building any relationship. Read the journalists’ blogs, follow them on Twitter and find out what makes them tick before you decide to pitch them.

When connecting with a reporter, avoid bringing up competition. You would never compare the new person you are dating to one of your exes—it’s completely unflattering. So why would a reporter want to hear “X and Y media outlet picked up my story, so you should too”? You’re trying to build a new relationship, so keep others out of it.

PR pros should be reliable, accessible and punctual. If you set some time aside to talk to a reporter, make sure you are there when you say you will be. Reporters have strict deadlines; you can’t keep them waiting around or they are going to move on to someone else. If a date showed up 20 minutes late and forgot to call you, you would probably kick them to the curb too.

After you’ve established a relationship and a reporter tells your story, stay in contact! Keep the conversation going—even when you don’t want something in return. You wouldn’t want to date someone who only communicated with you when they wanted something (think 1 a.m. text on a Saturday night—get real). If you stumble upon an interesting study or resource that doesn’t involve you and could help out a journalist, send it over to him or her. He or she will remember it, and will appreciate that you’re not asking for a favor.

Stay optimistic, PR people. A recent study by UKDating.com reported that the average woman dates 24 men before finding “the one” they will marry. So don’t get discouraged if every reporter doesn’t want to tell your story (and we all know that it was a great story). There are plenty of other media contacts out there, so keep on pitching.

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