As Media constitutes a large part of Corporate Comm & PR duties, here is a guideline that could be useful

Media Relations, an essential component of any strategic PR toolkit, is actually all about the associations you develop with the media – your media relationship. It is the art of building relationships with media representatives – specifically reporters or journalists. This relationship is built on mutual interest and trust where you have the content – the news stories, and they are looking for stories for their newspaper; news portal, radio or TV station.

As a communication/PR practitioner you always want maximum publicity for your event, product or service. However, be mindful that reporters or journalists are there to report on the news not to do your marketing promotion. Reporters or journalists work for their editors, readers, listeners and viewers. They do not work for organisations that are seeking publicity.

How to build better media relationships?

A. position your company or client as a resource to the media. Practise the principle of ‘give and take’. When the media calls, always attend to their calls. If the information is not readily available offer to return their call with the information requested. Always honour your promise and return their calls.

B. offer to help reporters/journalists and radio/TV producers develop story ideas or suggest subjects (and people) for feature stories. Facilitate their efforts to gather background information and analyse market trends. Be there to comment on breaking news. When you are responsive and credible you will gain their respect. This leads to healthy media relationships.

Peruse this checklist to position your organisation or client as a trusted media resource:

1. Return calls promptly. Respect reporters’ deadlines and they will respect you for this.

2. Do not be pushy. Listen attentively to what the reporter is looking for and why they are doing it. You need to be clear about their intent and what they set out to achieve.

3. If you are unclear on the intent – seek to clarify. If you are uncomfortable about the reporter’s line of questioning, ask about the thinking behind the question.

4. Be accommodating. In the event you do not have all the answers, just admit it. Offer to obtain accurate information from other departments’ personnel. This positions you as a helpful and accessible source for them to come back to and contributes to good media relationship.

5. During an interview, you can go off the record at any point if you are concerned about being misquoted. State firmly that the particular information is ‘off the record and not for attribution’. Ask the reporter to confirm this and better still – confirm it in writing.

6. Always thank the reporter/journalist who attends your event or interview for the opportunity to discuss your story. Acknowledge that they have an interesting although challenging job and that you respect what they do. You can ask when the story will be published or go on air so you can look out for it.

7. Be diligent about following up. When you see the news about your story, always send a thank-you note or e-mail. Even if the reporter did not present you, your organisation or your client in a positive light, be gracious about it. Let the reporter know that you would like to suggest future stories from time to time and ask about the types of topics he/she might be interested in.

8. Record all media calls in a Media Log. Keep track of who you spoke with; questions asked and answers given. Keep notes on the reporter’s style or approach, what worked well and how the story played out. These are essential for you to understand what is required for the future.

9. Retain your notes as you would need them to sustain a connection and a relationship with the reporter/journalist. Keep track of which print or broadcast media and reporters that covered your story, how receptive they were and whether the story was a positive, neutral or negative piece.

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