Even though some may frown upon this statement, it’s true when it comes to media relations; it’s a two-way street out there. There are times they need something, and there are times you need something from them as well. Here’s how to cultivate a good relationship with your local media.
Having a tight relationship with the media is critical in growing your organization, building authenticity, and gaining credibility.
But, many agencies and organizations struggle to set their footing in the media landscape, failing to forge relationships, often due to lack of time, skepticism, and mistrust.
It’s imperative to understand that the media plays a vital role in communicating your news to the public, whether you want it communicated or not. So why not take control of your narrative by building a relationship with the media?
Building these relationships is not as daunting as you may think. Sure it’ll take time, but it’ll be worth it when you begin to gain the benefits of controlling the narrative during a crisis, strengthening credibility, gaining third-party support, and bringing awareness to your agency’s professionalism.
Here are four simple ways your agency can build a positive relationship with the media.
Tip #1 – Identify News Outlets
Before you begin to build relationships with the media, identify news outlets that target your agency’s key audience.
For example, if you’re a law enforcement agency, you would want to target hard-news media organizations, community newsgroups, and law enforcement trade magazines, opposed to entertainment news outlets and lifestyle magazines. Why? Because that would be a waste of time as those news organizations don’t normally or frequently publish law enforcement, public safety, or crime-related news content.
Be intentional with the news organizations, journalists, and reporters that you connect with. If you’ve worked in your community for any amount of time, you’ll know who the outlets and journalists are that usually cover the news in your area.
Tip #2 – Introduce Yourself
When a person can put a name to a face, it enhances the human connection. This is why it’s essential to introduce yourself to news directors, editors, reporters, and journalists – because the more they know you, the more likely they will begin to pick up on your press releases and news tips.
Nowadays, you don’t even have to introduce yourself physically; you can start by reaching out and engaging with them via social media.
But, if you have an opportunity to introduce yourself in person, say you’re both at an event or whatnot, take the time to go up to them and introduce yourself in person; it’ll pay off in media coverage.
It’s sad we have to say this but stay guarded when forming relationships with people who report the news. Anyone today can start a Facebook group and call it a news outlet, and claim themself as a member of the media. They may not have any formal training or education and will push the boundaries of professionalism and courtesy. We’ve had personal experience with these types of people who will try to “buddy” up to you, only to try to write a “gotcha” post.
Tip #3 – Respect Their Deadlines and Keep Your Word
Always ask about the news organization’s daily, weekly or monthly deadline to respectfully remain aware of their time and ensure that you have all materials for them (photos, videos, statements, etc.) well before that date and time.
Continuously turning items in late, rescheduling interviews, and not responding promptly will undoubtedly frustrate the reporter or journalist and make them steer clear of you in terms of giving you an opportunity to tell your agency’s side of the story.
So be sure to identify their deadlines early on and create an excellent first, second and infinite impression to keep the relationship strong.
The last part of this tip is a reminder to always keep your word. If you tell a journalist you’ll call them back in 20 minutes, then call them back. Over time, they’ll know that you mean what you say, which will give you some working time to put something together for them if you’re dealing with a critical or evolving situation.
Tip #4 – Give Them A News Package
You will become a news organization’s best friend if you start giving them entire news packages. However, this can be somewhat a challenge if you are a “one-person operation,” or involved in an evolving situation or incident. However, for those times where you have some time, consider putting together a package of information for the media.
TIME SAVER TIP:
Upload your news release, photos, videos, and sound bites to a Dropbox folder, and share the link with the media. You can even post it in a blog post on your website or push it out on social media to make it easy for the media to get.
Giving them a news release, along with appropriate contacts, photos, a video, sound bites, graphics, and links, will be helpful to them as you give them a complete visual story so that they don’t need to start from ground zero.
Building relationships with the media will take time, just like any relationship. Still, when you begin to have the opportunity to get ahead of false narratives that are often spread across social media, critical incidents, and bad press, it’ll be worth it.