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Level Up Your Media Mastery With Insider Media Relations™ Strategy

In today's Move the Stairs Friday Chat, our team shares our best strategies to elevate your media relationships to the mastery level.

Remember, we've included a free downloadable 1-sheet at the bottom of this post that will give you an Insider Media Relations™ strategy for analyzing what's happening in the news cycle like a PR pro!

If you'd like to watch the conversation, you can see the whole thing here:

How to master media relations in the digital age

According to an article published by the University of Bath Press Office,

Working with the media gives the chance to convey expert perspective on important issues, get evidence into public conversations and highlight the important work researchers are doing. Not only does this contribute to public debate, but can help maintain and build support for scientific research from the public, who ultimately pay for a lot of it.”

As former journalists who worked on and off of the air, we know firsthand how important it can be for businesses, brands, municipalities, nonprofits, etc. to partner with local media to tell their stories. If you're reading this blog, you already know the value in it too. Our ultimate goal is to elevate your thought leadership to the point where members of the media are calling you to tap into your expertise.

How does that happen?

It's not a process that happens overnight but there are ways you can differentiate yourself as the spokesperson for your business or brand as you continue to field media interview requests.

  • Make yourself available for media interviews: Understand their deadlines to make the interview process as easy as it can be for them. Trust us, they will remember your kindness.

  • Use an analogy to convey your point: When you operate in an industry where things are very complicated or even downright dull (think a story on taxes!), an analogy is a great way to give the reader or viewer a mental picture of the topic and a whole new perspective. For example, in a complicated story about sportbetting taxes, our client said "Everyone thinks of sports betting revenue as these big cookies in the cookie jar, but when they reach in, all they're going to find is a bunch of crumbs." Now you've got the picture, right? (Also, this soundbite got used a whopping 17 times in the original story and followup stories!)

Once you've established yourself as a go-to resource for media, you'll notice some changes in your relationship. For instance, when you call them to pitch a story, your email gets opened and read.

Secrets of media relations masters: the pinpoint pitch

"With great power comes great responsibility." - Peter Parker, AKA Spider-Man

If you're at the point in your relationship with the media where you can pick up the phone and call them, you're in a great position to pitch your story. This means that you've earned the trust and respect of media colleagues. This power goes beyond merely sending a press release to "the desk." This is you calling or emailing your media colleague to let them know you've got a story they'd absolutely be interested in covering.

Of course, with this power comes responsibility. It's critically important to read the room before tossing your pinpoint pitch. Pitching your story during a crazy news cycle or breaking news event will not win you friends or coverage.

We understand not everyone follows the news cycle as closely as we do at M&C Communications so be sure to check out our free, downloadable 1-sheet at the bottom of this blog so you can do your own quick analysis to make sure you're pitching your story at the right time.

Keep in mind:

  • Pick your publication: Does your story require in-depth analysis? Print or radio is likely the way to go. These reporters have more time to spend explaining your story to an audience that is used to getting their news in chunks as opposed to bites. Does your story have great visuals or emotion? TV is a great option for stories like this.

  • Before you pitch: What’s happening in the news cycle? If you are coming off of a local tragedy, particularly one where information is still fluid, hold the pitch. If there is a large scale regional event that's dominating the headlines, such as a hurricane making landfall, hold the pitch. Speaking of hurricanes, the weather always rules the newscast. Snowstorms, heavy thunderstorms, record heat, record cold, strong wind, etc... will always headline a newscast, particularly if the weather is extremely impactful or damaging. If this is the case, hold the pitch.

  • Pitch timing: Journalists have designated times where they have newsroom meetings and discuss the stories they are going to cover that day. There's typically a morning meeting anytime from 8 AM - 9:30 AM, depending on the newsroom. There's almost always an afternoon meeting anytime from 1 PM to 2:30 PM. Time your pitch so your media partners can take the idea to the next newsroom meeting.

If you ever find yourself in a touchy position with a reporter, such as a scenario that you are not familiar with or a topic you may not want to comment on, you have the opportunity to help your media partners without saying, "no" entirely. For instance, can you offer up an expert you know that might be a better interview about a particular topic. Is there an industry organization that could speak on behalf of your industry regarding a difficult topic? Make sure to give your contacts a heads-up before handing out their information.

Tips for working with the media during a crisis

If you are a thought leader in your industry and a reporter has your number, you can bet the farm they will be calling you during a crisis scenario. It's important to remember what a crisis is. We like this quote from Northeastern University's PR faculty lead for their Master of Science in Corporate and Organizational Communication program.

“Crises don’t happen just on the front page. They occur every day, affect groups of all types, and come in different shapes and sizes. Every organization needs to have crisis planning in its communications tool chest."

This does NOT mean you need to have an entire crisis plan ready to go (although it doesn't hurt). However, you should have at least an adaptable outline ready to go, just in case.

  • Establish your message points

  • Determine who’s going to handle contact from the media. If it's a large enough crisis, do you need to use a tiered approach and hold your CEO until a later time to make a comment?

  • Have a media-trained spokesperson

  • Have a backup spokesperson too!

  • Be firm but fair with your trusted media contacts. There should be a mutual understanding that you both have a job to do.

  • Check, double-check, then triple-check your information before giving a quote. Remember during times of crisis information will change. It is okay to state that as well.

Whether you are giving a quote during a time of crisis to a trusted media colleague or acting as a spokesperson for a larger audience, the tips to remain successful during this time and keep the conversation from going sideways does not change.

  • Make a decision: Is this a good interview for your brand or should you look to find another source, such as an industry organization?

  • Empathy: If there are victims in a crisis situation, you always acknowledge them first. Show patience and empathy while fielding questions. There is a strong possibility you will be asked the same question multiple ways multiple times and it's important to not show frustration during a time of crises. You need to be the voice of calm.

  • Bridging: Use the bridging technique to move the conversation away from topics that might be a threat to your brand and steer the conversation to your message points. Here's what that sounds like: "I understand you're looking for answers about this issue, and I do too. Here's what I know right now, we are doing XYZ to address this situation..."

  • Flagging: This is a technique to verbally "flag" a point you really want a reporter's audience to remember. Here's what it sounds like: "It's important for people to know XYZ" or "The most important thing to know is XYZ." Remember, don't just say it, use the enthusiasm in your voice to flag as well.

Use these strategies for working with the media and soon you'll be on your way to being a media relations master!

News Cycle Analyzer
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