The mid-Missouri chapter of the Public Relations Society of America recently hosted a lunch-and-learn on “Bridging the Media Gap, from Press Release to Story.” The event featured a panel of members of local media, who shared their perspective with attendees about how public relations professionals can work with their media contacts to establish and maintain mutually beneficial relationships.
About the Panel
- David Lieb, Associated Press correspondent
- Brian Hausworth, news editor for KMIZ-TV (ABC)
- Joey Parker, news anchor for KMIZ 17-TV (ABC)
- David Lile of “Columbia Morning with David Lile” on KFRU 1400 (news talk radio)
- Be direct.
Put a summary of your story right at the top of your email to get your pitch read. Telling the reporter how this news will affect their audience helps, too. Most reporters can find their own angles, but providing it yourself will save them time and earn you their appreciation. If you can tie your story to current events, do it!
- Add a personal touch.
Take the time to find out the name of the reporter you’re writing to, and address them in the email. Better yet, take some time to meet your most important media contacts in person. Reporters will remember your face when they see your email in their inbox, and they’ll care what you have to say because you’ve shown them you care about connecting with them.
- Know when to send your news.
The earlier in the day you send your press releases, the better. If you wait until later in the day, your contacts may already have found other stories to write about and not have time to cover.
- Do it the old fashioned way (AKA don’t rely too much on social media).
Social media is a great new tool for organizations and the media to connect with everyday people. But it has its downsides. Reporters have caught a lot of flack for running unsubstantiated claims they found on social media. They may look to social media for context, but they won’t seek out your organization’s social network feeds to find new stories. It’s best to keep sending out press releases to traditional media rather than relying upon social media distribution.
- Say something, even if that something is “I don’t know yet.”
When a company or organization you represent ends up in a difficult public position, it may seem like the best way to save face is by saying, “No comment.” But the panel stressed that once you say, “No comment,” you lose control of the narrative. Opposing voices will have free rein while you say nothing in response. When possible, give the reporter some context for why you can’t comment. Also, letting them know that details are forthcoming and you just can’t say anything yet will lead to better a better relationship with the media in the long run.
Bonus: How a reporter chooses a story
David Lieb told us that when a reporter is considering whether to write a story, he or she considers the following criteria. If your press release has one or more of these elements, it’s a lot more likely to be picked up!
- Is it new? (Did it happen recently?)
- Is it prominent? (Is it a big enough story that people will care?)
- Is it close to home? (Does it affect the reporter’s audience?)
- Does it have an impact? (Does it make a difference in the community?)
- Is it unique? (Has this story been told before?)