Control the Message, Not the Media

Whether your organization is hoping to generate awareness, increase market share or enhance brand reputation – one thing is for sure – media relations is a must. However, many clients misinterpret the term “media relations.” What does it mean? How will it help my organization work toward established goals?

To best understand this, it is important to start by identifying what success looks like. Is success a spotlight in an industry publication or a segment on national broadcast? Success does not necessarily mean the largest number of impressions, but the number of targeted impressions – quality over quantity.

Once you have defined success, determine what that looks like at different levels. Develop a Plan A, Plan B and Plan C. If your ideal publication is not interested or the timing is not right, who is your understudy? Building expectations at multiple levels provides balance and security.

The biggest mistake that can be made is focusing too much on how the media should interpret your news. Your goal is to lead the media to your message. Micromanaging and overly stewarding the media will only cause tension and create obstacles. Controlling the message to the media is your job (or that of your PR practitioners), reporting to the public is theirs. Focus your efforts on generating a quality story idea and preparing your source on the front-end instead of attempting to steer your media relations from the backseat.

The smartest move that you can make is to build and foster relationships with the media. It is a symbiotic relationship. It is difficult for one to live without the help and existence of the other (though many journalists may wish the opposite when being harassed by some PR professionals). Start the relationship off on the right foot and research their style, beat and interests. Nothing turns a reporter off quicker than a pitch that they could not develop further even if they wanted (e.g. tips for DIY home projects submitted to a business journal).

While follow-up is important, pestering is unattractive. A casual follow-up via email when you have yet to receive a response is perfectly acceptable. Calling five times in a week is stalkerish and considered by some a form of harassment. Be friends with the media. Do not end up on their blocked list.

Once you have established a healthy relationship, keep it up! Follow the journalist on social media, and retweet and like their posts. Show your support of their work just as they showed support of yours by writing a story. Relationships are all about give and take, not control.

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