A good reputation is more valuable than money.
Publilius Syrus (~100 BC), Maxims1
In the eyes of a journalist there are two kinds of PR professionals – the kind they run to for information and the kind they run from. Since PR and Media Relations are as connected as Siamese twins, your success in public relations will be heavily determined by which of the two categories you fall into.
Once you have done your research to determine which media will most benefit your client or organization, you need to establish your credibility with them. Consider the following two scenarios:
The Wrong Approach
ABC Corporation, a new venture, hired Pushy Patrick for the position of Public Relations Specialist to help them develop a positive image in the community in which they operate. He approached them for the job after being self-employed, claiming he was tired of the paperwork involved with having his own company and wanted to work for someone else.
In reality, he hadn’t been very successful with his own business; you will soon see why. ABC Corp. wanted Patrick to obtain some positive media coverage for the company. Unfortunately, Patrick had already developed a reputation with the local media of being very demanding, calling reporters several times a day pushing his stories.
His first attempt on behalf of his new employer was a call directly to the editor of the local paper with a story that Patrick, out of the goodness of his heart, is giving to this lucky editor first. This editor, already aware of Pat’s reputation for arrogance, gave him the “thanks-but-no-thanks” response. Patrick argued with him, insisting that he run the story about this amazing new company. The editor finally hung up on him – without running the story, of course.
The Right Approach
Contrast Patrick with Grace. Grace is new to PR and eager to build up her clientele. She is contracted by the XYZ Company to let the public know about their recent contributions to the community.
Grace researches the local papers to determine which one has the greatest circulation. She then looks over several editions to find out which reporter is most likely to cover this type of story.
Her next step is to call the reporter to introduce herself and ask for 15 minutes of his time, offering to buy him coffee and tell him about a story that she thinks is right up his alley. While not all reporters will show interest in this, some will, and you’ll never know if you don’t try. Now back to the story… During the meeting Grace tries to get to know the reporter and discusses articles he has written (letting him know that she reads his work).
She is now in a position to ask him what kind of stories he likes and how he prefers to be approached with ideas. She has succeeded in building a relationship with this reporter, winning his confidence, and establishing her own credibility.
Critical to the success of anyone in public relations consulting is media relations. The more coverage you can get for your client (aka “free publicity”), the happier your client will be. But you must remember that the media can be your best friend or you worst enemy, so make sure you approach them with respect and in a professional manner. It is important to keep in mind that in the minds of the reporters they are doing you a “favor,” not the other way around.