Getting your message out involves many factors. Making sure you are organized and accommodate the media is at the top of the list. To the point — are you someone the media looks forward to hearing from, or do they cringe when they hear your name on the other end of the telephone?
Have you ever tried talking to someone who seemed like they really weren’t interested in what you were saying to them? Worse yet, are there times when people act like they don’t care whether they are inconveniencing you? Intentionally or not, public relations practitioners frequently convey those messages through a lack of organization and not learning how to cooperate with the media.
Just as the “5Ws” apply to creating an effective press release, three of those rules are also relevant in working with the media:
No one respects a public relations practitioner who isn’t sure about whom he wants to speak with. Know who is responsible for assigning stories, along with who the beat reporters are for different issues (the society reporter at the morning newspaper isn’t likely to be interested in an announcement by a local politician unless it is about a gala their spouse is hosting).
Keeping track of assignment editors/producers requires organization, but is a must. Achieving this requires organization through maintaining a current list of media contacts that includes their names, mailing addresses, email addresses, and telephone and fax numbers. Additionally, the information should be backed up in several ways such as hard copy, computer disc, a directory located on your desktop, etc.
It cannot be said enough times: knowing when to not contact the media is paramount. There are times throughout the day when different reporters, editors and producers would prefer for contacting them, but there are also specific periods during which it is an absolute violation to call or visit.
Calling an editor minutes before deadline or producer just as the evening news airs won’t win you any fans. At best they won’t even take time to speak with you, and at worse you may receive a firm rebuke. Keeping track of deadlines and newscast air times is crucial, and it will vary with different media outlets, based on their publication cycles and the schedules for stations’ newscasts.
Specifically, it is your responsibility to become an expert at knowing what different editors, reporters, and producers need to assist them in working with you. This can be accomplished in several ways:
- Introduce yourself to the media when taking a new public relations position, either by mail or a personal visit. Some editors and producers may not want a visit, while others may welcome personal contact. This will vary, but is the responsibility of public relations professionals to initiate contacts.
- Familiarize yourself with details. Along with deadlines, this includes knowing whether local newspapers have special sections in which your information could run and when television stories air specific stories.
- Keep in touch. Successful public relations professionals know that it is important to make sure the media do not only hear from you when a big story is breaking, otherwise you run the risk of them forgetting you are out there. Maintaining contact does not equate to overexposure or being a nuisance if it is kept to a minimum.
Remember, these are the people you need in getting your message out to the masses. Cultivating strong professional relationships with them is another key essential in that process.