Media Relations Best Practices: Tips From the Press

– by Cecile Oreste, Media Relations Specialist, Business Wire/Washington, DC

When it comes to media relations, journalists are the experts.  After all, they are one of the major audiences — if not the major audience — that public relations practitioners are ultimately looking to reach.  Here are some tips of the trade from various media outlets including the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Associated Press, Federal News Radio and Bucks County Courier Times/The Intelligencer.

1. Be available . . . always.

Stacey Burling is a health care reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer.  According to Stacey, “My biggest pet peeve is people who send out press releases, then don’t return a phone call when I have a question about it.  When you send out a release, you, or someone on your staff, should expect to be quickly available to answer questions for at least a couple days.”

Mark Hamrick, on-air correspondent and online video producer for the Associated Press in Washington, DC, also stresses the importance of being readily available.  Mark recommends providing easy access to media relations personnel.  Include information on your release that will enable journalists to contact you any time of day.

2. Think about your story in relation to the media outlet you are pitching.

It would serve public relations professionals well to think about what medium is best for their story before contacting a journalist, says Mark.  Some stories are better for audio, while others are better for video.  Some work best in print.  Know which ones work for your story and tailor your release accordingly.

Julia Ziegler, Web/Operations Manager of WFED-AM Federal News Radio, adds that you should think about how you want your story to appear in the media.  Is your story visually compelling?  If so, provide pictures or links to video which can be embedded.  Journalists are much more likely to use the tools that are provided if they are given up front.

3. Know who you want to target and customize your release accordingly.

Learn who is covering your industry and find out who actually wants the information you are providing, says Julia.  It is best to define your audience and target the media outlets that are reaching them rather than sending your release to everyone.  According to Julia, “The biggest publication is not always your biggest ally.”

Rachel Canelli, education reporter/video correspondent for Bucks County Courier Times and The Intelligencer, adds that one of her pet peeves is “[when] PR people get pushy about something that’s clearly not applicable to this area.”  Grab her attention by clearly defining the local angle of the release.

Remember that writing your release with the media in mind is always your best bet.  As Stacey Burling says, “One of the biggest problems is PR people who do not know how to think like journalists.  They miss opportunities to be included in stories.”  Follow these tips and don’t let your story be left out!

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