developing a media relations strategy

How to Launch a Media Relations Program: SoGal Webinar Recap

This past month, Ketner Group president Catherine Seeds and I had the pleasure of hosting a media relations strategy webinar with SoGal, a global platform for the education and empowerment of diverse entrepreneurs and investors. During this webinar, we provided attendees with key tactics and strategies to consider as they look to launch a media relations program.

We discussed:

  • Why businesses across verticals should consider a media relations program
  • The value of media coverage
  • The key steps to launch a media relations program

The top takeaways:

  • Do your research
  • Get to know your media targets
  • Personalize your conversation with each.

Here are some of the highlights from the webinar:

Why have a media relations program?

A media relations program can drive external awareness for your company through validated third-party sources.  Let’s say your company just landed its first round of funding or launched a new product in the market. If you do not tell your story, someone else will.

By creating a media relations program, you have the ability to tell your story to a member of the media community and reach multiple audiences beyond your own network.

What’s more, a media relations program can help bolster your company’s cache among a particular audience. Let’s say your chief data officer is well-versed in a particular technology within the healthcare industry.

You can generate media coverage by having them provide commentary for a relevant story a reporter is working on. Securing exposure for him/her as an expert on related hot button conversations positions your company as trustworthy and informed. Ultimately, it helps elevate your brand recognition and brings a sense that you can solve tough challenges.

Last but not least, a media relations program can build your company’s digital breadcrumbs. Highly relevant coverage helps you to rise through the ranks of engine search algorithms for your business’ key terms.

Tactics for building the program

As you consider creating the program, you must decide whether to run the program in-house or work with a public relations agency. Depending on what path you choose, we always advise that your company dedicate a single in-house lead. That person, often the CMO, can make sure the agency and internal stakeholders work together seamlessly.

When budget is tight or you’re just starting out, there are many easy and free tools available to help. For media opportunities, HARO and Qwoted are two platforms where reporters look for sources for stories they are working on.

As well, Twitter is an important platform to keep in mind. Identify and follow relevant reporters and engage with them regularly. Plus, they often post to Twitter when they need sources for a story. Sometimes even better, Twitter lets you avoid annoying pitches by keeping up with what they vent about.

Three best practices to launch a media relations program

Once you’ve done your research, it’s time to begin. We often advise these top three best practices to get started:

  • Identify your target audience
  • Identify key conversations you want to drive
  • Do your research and build your top 20 list of media contacts and publications you would like to work with

After that, it’s time to begin your outreach and prepare for interviews!

Get to know your media targets

Many attendees emphasized the value of not just tracking journalists, but building an effective relationship with them. Really, the art of media relations is all about differentiating your company in the eyes of the journalist.

Take the time to really personalize your outreach to each of the media members you connect with. And make sure that the story you offer is relevant. We can’t overstate how much this helps you build an effective relationship in the long run.

As Catherine best put it, “nurturing those relationships will always pay off in the end!”

To learn more, download the complete webinar presentation.

Person holding microphone for media interview

Media Interviews: Best Practices for Spokespeople

If your company has ramped up its public relations and marketing program, chances are, your company has been asked to take media interviews.

Whether this is the spokesperson’s first time or their 100th time to take a media interview, their ability to successfully drive the interview is critical to achieving the desired coverage.

When it comes to media interviews, each spokesperson must find their own unique style. After all, a journalist is typically reaching out to a particular spokesperson because they need a subject matter expert. Therefore, exuding confidence and knowledge during the interview process is a must.

Tips for nailing the interview

Though each spokesperson should have their own unique interview style, there are a few things you can do prior to the interview to prepare and nail the talking points.

Do your research

Just as the journalist did his/her research before reaching out, the spokesperson should do the same. Getting to know the journalist’s reporting style will help the spokesperson provide relevant points during the interview. Doing the research will also provide the spokesperson with additional fodder to create a connection with the journalist during their chat.

Keep in mind that journalists receive more than 100 emails a day and take about 3-5 interviews on a daily basis. Therefore, ensuring that you are providing a differentiated point of view and unique data points, will help the journalist explore different angles to the story they are working on.

As well, if you are currently working with a PR agency, the agency should work to gather sample questions ahead of time and provide the spokesperson with a media profile that highlights the journalist’s experience to help the spokesperson prepare.

Talk it out

Keep in mind that the interview can happen in a variety of ways; via phone, in-person, podcast recording or over live broadcast. We recommend having the spokesperson undergo a mock interview training process to identify areas of improvement and hone their unique interview style.

Keep in mind that public speaking is not everyone’s forte and therefore, practice makes perfect. Having the spokesperson run through several mock interviews that go over the nuances of all these forms will only help the spokesperson perfect their style.

For example, if the spokesperson plans to do a live broadcast interview, taping the person during the mock interview process and then reviewing the tape will help the spokesperson identify areas of improvement in clarity, tone and body language. This will help the spokesperson ace the 15-30 second segment that will eventually make it on air.

This will help avoid the scenario Ricky Bobby from Talladega Nights found himself in when being interviewed live and he kept raising his hands up to his face, saying to the broadcaster, “I don’t know what to do with my hands.” With a little practice, you can avoid this problem during your spokesperson’s interview process.

During the interview

It’s go time! As your spokesperson speaks to the journalist remind them that everything they say to them should be deemed “on the record.” Key tips to keep in mind include:

  • Provide soundbites. Remember that the journalist may only use a portion of the interview in their story. Therefore, ensure that your comments quickly relay the key messages you want to be published.
  • Provide unique data points, numbers and statistics that you can reference publicly.
  • Be energetic, honest, transparent and yourself.
  • Do not answer a question you do not know. It’s ok to not know the answer to every question.
  • Do not comment on speculation.
  • Do not name any customers that you cannot reference publicly.

After the interview

As the term states, media relations is about building a relationship with each media contact. Therefore, ensure your spokesperson connects with the journalist to thank them for the interview. Additionally, connecting with the journalist via Twitter and LinkedIn will not only help the spokesperson keep the relationship going with the journalist, but will also help to keep a pulse on their ongoing coverage.

As we’ve mentioned before, practice makes perfect! If you have an upcoming media interview, now is the time to start preparing. Utilize the above helpful tips to get started, but don’t be afraid to call in the pros once your program really takes off!

PRSA Corner: Breaking Through the Noise and Reaching Your Target Audience

ClpsEJ3UYAAqeNFWe recently attended and were the official sponsor of the June PRSA Austin Chapter Luncheon. The luncheon titled, “Media Relations: Insights from the Newsroom,” featured three journalist panelists who discussed how media has evolved over the years, the integration of skills and technology in media relations and how PR professionals can (and should) break through the noise to reach target audiences. Here are some highlights:

Tara Doolittle is the Viewpoints editor for the Austin American-Statesman and is in charge of the editorial pages and online commentary. She began as a rookie reporter in 1997 and has worked with the newspaper’s reporting teams covering education, city hall and lifestyle. As many journalists do, Tara receives over 400 emails a day, which means getting her attention is no easy task. Although she gives first priority to local pitches over others, she tells PR folks to send short pitches, know who you are pitching and focus on the journalist’s interests, and course, always be sensitive to deadlines. Other key take-aways from Tara:

  • For hard news and community engagement pitches, Tara recommends doing research on how other publications (in other areas) report certain trends and how those trends might play out locally. Look for ways to tell the local story. As well, Tara says PR professionals should “think broadly” because the Statesman is not just a print newspaper, but a multimedia content platform.
  • According to Tara, the digital space is the way to go, especially with social media and sharing. She recommends PR professionals think about this when it comes to pitches. Photos and videos are a great way to keep people on the website for longer periods of time – it’s a win-win for everyone!
  • Tara said the biggest struggle she faces as an editor for a daily local newspaper is serving three sets of readers because they all want different things: folks who don’t pay for online content; folks who do pay and read online content; and full subscribers.

Erin Quinn-Kong is the editor-in-chief of Austin Monthly and the editorial director of Austin MonthlyAustin HOME and austinmonthly.com. A Missouri native, she attended the University of Missouri School of Journalism and worked in New York City as an editor at Allure and Us Weekly before moving to Austin in 2008. Compared to the Statesman, Austin Monthly operates with a smaller staff who has to work very hard to keep up with daily and monthly deadlines. It’s a fast-paced environment (with a small staff), which definitely makes it hard for PR professionals to get the attention of the editorial team. Knowing that, Erin says it is critical for PR professionals to know why the story would work in her publication, and know who you’re pitching to and why. Other key take-aways from Erin:

  • Pitches come into play when they make a connection to something that relates to the local area, or that may have appeared “buzz worthy” on social media. That is the sweet spot on pitches!
  • Erin recommends asking them to coffee. As editors, she believes it is part of their job to know the PR people in town. Having the opportunity to be “face to face” with PR professionals is a much better way to connect than an email.
  • Her biggest challenges as the editor of Austin Monthly include creating boundaries between her job and life and the struggle of small budgets and staff combined with high expectations.

 Haley Cihock is Executive Producer for KXAN. With 15 years of experience in broadcast news, she writes, edits and manages a team of producers, anchors, editors and field reporters working on the noon newscasts across two channels. According to Haley, the best stories come from community engagement – listening to the buzz around town, hearing what local citizens are talking about – and then figuring out how to cover the story. She believes that Austin has an engaged audience and people in the city really want to talk. At KXAN, social media is a huge tool for listening for potential stories. Other key take-aways from Haley:

  • Make no mistake, there is limited “on air” time, so Haley recommends that PR professionals pass story ideas and news to the digital side to get more bang for the buck. Using multichannel media is a great way to disperse the message, and it is how stories evolve, especially when it is resonating with people. Haley also says the evolution of media means that things are moving faster and faster, things get lost, so PR folks should try more than one platform to tell their story.
  • As an on-air journalist, Haley has to think of the bigger picture, but often times receives “micro” pitches from PR professionals. Pitches have to be bigger than just one thing. It is important to think beyond your client or your one story – try to make connections that could turn into bigger feature stories.
  • Her biggest challenges as an on-air journalist is always trying to be the first with the story, but to also to get the story right and do it better than anyone else. Erin believes that, for TV journalists, the challenges haven’t changed much, but the ways of approaching them are changing. Her two biggest pieces of advice is to not send video to the newsroom (they have to shoot their own) and to not send gifts to on-air journalists.