Your treatment and response to reporters, journalists, editors and analysts can greatly affect your organisation’s reputation in the market-place. This relationship is so important that it has its own name – Media Relations, its own experts – PR professionals and firms that specialise in Media Relations, and its own set of rules.

Here are 12 rules of Media Relations that is useful to understand and apply. Follow them and you are well on your way to gaining your organisation the positive visibility you seek. Break these rules and you will be sorry.

Rule No: 1. Each and every reporter is a “key” reporter.

Reporters move around all the time. I have seen local tabloid reporters go on to work for mainstream publications such as the New Straits Times, The Star and The Edge. If you make the mistake of blowing a reporter off because they do not work for an influential publication, you may pay the price for it in the near future when that reporter joins an influential publication.

Rule No: 2. Ignore on-line publications at your peril.

On-line publications are always on the look-out for news. In addition, many off-line publications also have an online presence (NST, The Star, Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, etc.). If you pitch a story to an off-line publication when their on-line counterpart has just published a similar story, it can be a major embarrassment for you and your organisation.

Rule No: 3. Respect deadlines.

Reporters are in a critical, time-sensitive business. Nothing will kill your chances for positive coverage faster than ignoring deadlines or not being responsive enough. If you cannot fulfill their time-line, inform them quickly so they can get what they need elsewhere. If the reporter requires information on your organisation arrange for them to speak to someone who is well-versed with the information and make sure this someone has received training on media skill.

Rule No: 4. Ensure that your ‘news’ is newsworthy.

Just because your organisation has come out with an enhanced version of its popular product this does not mean it is newsworthy. You need to pitch the ‘news value’ in a well-written news release and lead with that.

Rule No: 5. Quotes can be of news value but you need to humanise your quotes.

If you are giving an interview or writing a news release, bear this in mind. Do not come off sounding rigid or official and avoid clichés. Tell an interesting story but keep it simple and concise.

Rule No: 6. Understand the media channel and its target audience.

It is essential to do your research before pitching a story or giving an interview. Read back issues of the publication and find out about its readership demographics. This will present the approach the publication will most likely take and helps you prepare your material. Be sensitive to the publications that emphasise the different points of view or product differences of yours and that of your competitors.

Rule No: 7. Do not pitch one publication against another.

Offer different articles to each publication – a different angle, a different aspect of the same story. When you pit one against the other you run the risk of losing the goodwill of both.

Rule No: 8. Always think long-term.

Do not expect reporters to be at your beck and call – publishing your organisation’s news at your command, but you ignore them when you do not have news to pitch. Build bridges by supplying them with industry reports, new sources and articles relative to their area of expertise. Be a reliable resource the media finds credible as well as helpful and this will benefit your organisation when there are future news opportunities in your industry.

Rule No: 9. Share your sources.

Give your reporters referrals for background information. Make your clients and customers available. Make your key personnel available. Offer guidance and media training to your clients and customers. Provide them with pertinent information if you will be referring a reporter to them.

Rule No: 10. Understand your competition.

Know what they are saying about themselves and about you. This will help you frame your answers and prepare your material to resist any negative perceptions a reporter may have about your organisation, products or services. Do not say, “there is no competition,” to a reporter as this may ‘open a can of worms’.

Rule No: 11. Always follow up but do not be a pest.

If an interview or news release requires a follow up, by all means, do so. But do not call often to find out whether your news release has been received, or when news might be published. This is a major turn-off to reporters and editors. They have their priorities and they do not like to be badgered.

Rule No: 12. Prepare materials according to the publication’s and reporter’s requirements..

When in doubt, ask. There is nothing worse than learning that your story was rejected or compromised because of incorrectly supplied content.

Rule No: 13. Be ethical

This is true for all your Public Relations activities, not just Media Relations. Do not compromise your core values for short-term gains. It is just not worth it in the long run. You will be found out and you will compromise the reputation you and your organisation are trying to build. (Should you make a mistake, admit it and apologise.)

by Aisha Rashid, Immediate Past President (IABC/ Malaysia)

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