Jun 11

ADVICE: Media Relations Is About Stories, Not Lunches

There was a time when public relations seemed to be all about connections, and PR people courted reporters with story ideas pitched at fancy restaurants. But with all the changes that have come to the news business, connections alone don’t cut it anymore. The key to media relations today is a well-conceived story that can be told through multiple channels and is prepared in a way that makes it as easy as possible for an outlet to publish.

True story: Years ago, when I was vice president of marketing and communications for a large communications technology company, I was pitched by a big New York PR firm. They spoke so reverently about one of their colleagues and his connections in the media. As proof they told me, and I’m not making this up: “Katie Couric came to his pool party.”

That’s the mindset we have to lose, and here’s why: Newsrooms don’t have the manpower to cover as many bases as they used to, but their need for content has never been greater. With audiences for traditional media shrinking and new media outlets cropping up all the time, the perceived value of an individual media placement has fallen dramatically. So where does that leave companies that want to maximize their media relations?

Our Dallas public relations firm has always been about storytelling. And these days we have more channels for storytelling than ever. The challenge is knowing which channels to choose and using multiple channels to improve the chances the story will be picked up. The last hurdle – one over which plenty of agencies stumble -- is presenting a story that involves as little legwork as possible for the media.

Ever heard the term spousal outplacement? It’s a service provided by one of our clients for couples who are relocating. It helps the spouse the find work in the new location. Google the term and you’ll see some of our work on spousal outplacement, which included:

  • A news release that pointed out how relocation can be a hardship for couples because so many depend on two incomes.
  • An interview in an influential trade publication on how companies were improving relocation packages to meet the needs of “trailing spouses.”
  • A byline article in another trade magazine about how trailing spouses have to be considered in recruiting.
  • A video interview with a company official.
  • A series of posts on the client’s company blog that was offered later as downloadable content in an email marketing campaign.

I talked about this particular campaign at last week’s PRSA Southwest Regional Conference, where I participated in a panel discussion called Tackling Media Relations. It was clear to me there that our approach goes well beyond that of plenty of many marketing and public relations agencies both in its complexity and its recognition of the way the media operate today.

Media relations is not a pool party; and Katie Couric’s not coming.

tags: public relations, risesmart, media relations, storytelling, public realtions

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Clay Zeigler


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