(image credit RedSky1)

As the newsgathering industry realigns and re-engineers itself, PR practitioners are following suit. Integrating new digital tools. Leveraging the use of social networks. Engaging target audiences with a specificity never before possible.

Some have said that Twitter and other microblogs like it will soon put an end to the traditional press release – and PR as we know it. They may be right. Or not. When stories need to get out fast, there’s still nothing quicker for a reporter or editor than to repurpose a timely, well-written, thorough press release or video from a PR professional known to be accurate and ethical.

If your media-relations efforts need a boost, here’s some back-to-basics guidance to keep in mind.

Media matters

  • Media provides an invaluable third-party endorsement. What is said in an unbiased news story carries more weight than a paid advertisement.
  • Good press rarely just happens. Especially in any kind of sustained way. Someone is usually behind the effort, advancing the story with additional information, angles and activities.
  • A good media relations program prepares a company for proactively dealing with situations that might arise (i.e. crisis management), as well as working to promote the issues and messages that are important to the company.
  • Organizations or individuals who are sought out by – or who want the attention of – the media need a plan to maximize outcomes.

Seeking assistance

  • Working with a PR professional offers a business proven strategies for handling media inquiries and telling your side of the story.
  • Begin by recognizing that the media has a job to do. Reporters will do that job with or without your help, but don’t you want to tell your own story? You can if you deliver timely information they can trust.

What to expect

  • If reporters are doing their job correctly, they should be thorough and unbiased in their reporting. Expect hard questions. Be respectful of their efforts.
  • A company must communicate real information – not just corporate gobbledygook. If you only talk around an issue, reporters will have to get the true scoop elsewhere.
  • In developing a public message, think through all angles: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats.
  • For on-air interviews, role play possible questions and answers beforehand so you’ll feel more confident and prepared. Yes, do this in front of a mirror or another person.

Potential tactics

  • Press releases: Normally one and no more than three pages, these must relay specific, newsworthy information and be disseminated to the appropriate media. (Don’t be the guy who sends an ag-related release to an entertainment reporter.) They should include follow-up contact information and links for downloadable images.
  • Press conferences: Use these to make an important announcement or to provide more detail on a controversial or time-sensitive subject. They give the media visual opportunities. Provide a media kit with relevant press releases, logos, photos/graphics, information about the company/product/issue, and additional contact information.
  • Editorial pages and on-air commentary: Whenever possible, personally visit editors and editorial boards. Offer useful facts and context. State your position and answer any questions they might have. The goal isn’t to see an editorial the next day. It’s to provide better understanding and perhaps a different frame of reference if and when they do write something that concerns you.
  • Letters to the editor: Put forth an opinion – with a name attached. Consider who would be the best author for the letter.
  • Pitching story ideas: Usually done through a phone call or email, and followed up by pertinent written material.

Media tips

  • Get to know the media you work with regularly. Learn beats/topics of interest so you can pitch story ideas to reporters who want to hear what you have to say.
  • Let reporters know that you will act as a resource anytime needed.
  • Do your homework and comment on the work they do. It builds relationships.
  • Keep in touch on a regular basis. Not just when you need something.
  • Always be forthright and honest in your interactions.
  • Return reporters’ phone calls as quickly as possible. Even if you don’t know the answer to their question, call and let them know you are working on it.
  • Be respectful of their deadlines and constraints.