Building Bridges, not Barriers: The Do’s and Don’ts of Media Relations
Written by Ali Negus
Media relations, the art of dealing with journos and editors, is a necessary skill for anyone working in PR, essential for harbouring coverage for clients.
While in theory, anyone can do media relations, a high level of expertise and finesse must be applied in practice to succeed. Here is a list of some of the top Do’s and Don’ts of media relations to help you succeed in PR.
DO research the journalist and publication
The key to succeeding with journalists is showing that you know who you’re pitching to. The more generic the pitch, the likelier a journalist is to pass on it, so it’s crucial to get a personable aspect across, using a targeted approach. Do they cover these types of stories? What are their interests and preferences? Do they prefer stories with emotional pulls or do they want specific data only? Identifying these details is the foundation of a tailored approach– it can be as simple as complimenting their previous work! Small moves like this not only enhance your chances of getting their attention but also help to maintain a relationship with this person for the future.
DON’T write too much
Journalists receive up to 500 emails a day, dozens of calls, and goodness knows how many direct messages on Twitter, so have to be ruthless about who they reply to. If a pitch is long-winded, it will be skipped. Make your writing concise, to the point, and immediately engaging. Highlight the main aspects without overwhelming them with unnecessary pleasantries- a well-crafted subject line can be your best foot in the door. Overall, respect their time and keep it brief, which can even leave them more intrigued.
DO use different media channels
A great way of reaching journalists isn’t always via email or phone. It can pay off leveraging social media and other online platforms to get your idea across. The benefit here is that you are using a method to conduct media relations that others may not. Journalists see social media as a more informal way of reaching out, maybe not for something breaking tomorrow, but for a topic or particular interest that you can develop in the coming weeks. Leveraging social media such as X (formerly Twitter) allows you to make it more personal. This can help build a strong rapport with the journalist, which is often missed out on with traditional outreach.
DON’T be afraid to follow up
Journalists often don’t see an email or listen to their voicemail so assuming that a lack of response means rejection is a mistake. By following up (within reason), you not only demonstrate your commitment to the story but also acknowledge the fast-paced nature of their profession.
Although following up is an important part of media relations, so is knowing when to back off. If the answer is no, accepting it and demonstrating understanding to the journalist will show professionalism. Therefore, what is required is a delicate balance between persistence and gracefully accepting defeat.