How to work with media: Pragmatic tips from someone with experience on both sides of the desk

6 Nov 2020

2020 has become a year to slow down, rethink and look back on what we have achieved, and where we want to go moving forwards. I’ve spent some time revisiting moments in my career journey to reflect upon what I’ve learnt along the way. During my first year with Sinclair, back in 2016, I wrote an insights article about making the leap from journalism to PR. I can’t help asking myself four years later, especially with the ever-changing media landscape, to what extent my past experience as a journalist is still relevant?

While the significant shift from traditional print media to digital and social media may have changed the format of media stories and coverage, my belief is that the relationships between PR’s and journalists are largely unchanged. Below are my tips for PR professionals and journalists to consider when working with one another.

Know your media

First and foremost, before you type that email or pick up the phone, know their name, know their publication and know what subjects they cover. This is the very least a PR can do, and it’s essential for building a good relationship with media. Telum is great place to start, so use this to your advantage.

Be the expert of your story

Before getting in touch with a journalist, try to ask yourself: do you comprehend the story angles before media pitching? Can you confidently respond when pushed for more details? Do you know exactly what information can and can’t disclose? In a nutshell, do your preparation work before outreaching to a journalist.

The smaller details still count

Are you aware that your telephone or email manner could actually be a deal breaker? Have you addressed them properly and introduced yourself clearly on the phone? Do you know their communication preference? While a WhatsApp message could be the most convenient way to reach a journalist, some media refrain themselves from receiving any form of contact besides emails. Check Telum before reaching out, many media have already listed their communication preference there.

‘User-friendly’ press materials and images  

A PR pro should know that press releases and images they share with media should be pretty much ready-to-use. If the busy journalist sees a poorly written press release or receives images that need to be re-sized, chances are they’ll drop the story before they’ve even finished reading your pitch.

Understand how journalists work

Timing is so important, and dictates how many journalists work. Nine times out of ten, when a journalist gives you a deadline, they mean it, so don’t miss it, or you risk losing your story being placed. If they reach out and need a response within an hour, it’s likely that they are fact checking before they’re internal deadlines close, so I advise you to be responsive and have your factsheets and FAQ’s up to date so you can respond in a matter of moments. Please respect their editorial calendar. Unless there is an embargo on your story, never tell a media when to post the story, no matter how big your campaign is, because that is simply not how they work.

With experience working on the both sides of the desk, my takeaway piece of advice is to put yourself in the journalist’s shoes. By showing you understand them, you should be on the right path to building strong media relationships. Need help winning the media? Feel free to get in touch here.

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