Media relations, and the importance of being a journalist’s best friend: PT II
Weeks into joining the team at Babel, I wrote a blog on the importance and evolution of media relations. In part II, I share media relations tips and common pitfalls for the PR professional…
Why do I love this part of PR?
Put simply, securing a piece of coverage in a national or business title gives me a great thrill, no matter how many times it happens. Seeing your hard work appear in print, or seeing your client appear on TV or radio as a result of your efforts is one of the greatest feelings!
I have been fortunate enough to build strong relationships with many different journalists, from national newspapers right through to some of the smallest and highly influential trade publications.
I am often asked how I developed such a thick ‘black book’ and the key is no big secret. It is taking the time to get to know journalists, and arranging to meet them away from the office to buy them a drink or lunch. The power of having a one-on-one conversation with a journalist is invaluable.
Common media relations mistakes to avoid
The PR world is getting smaller and smaller, so I am a strong advocate of putting the public back into public relations, and actually getting out to have some facetime with journalists, even a 30-minute coffee will help media relationships grow.
Even today, I am stunned at how many PR professionals still rely on email communications with journalists. Whilst I can understand that calling some journalists can be a daunting task, practice makes perfect!
I was recently speaking to a very good friend of mine, who is now the editor of a top tier enterprise technology outlet, with the aim of finding out about the pressures of the job. He said on average, he will receive over 300 emails a day, and the ones which he looks at first are the ones from people he knows. From experience and conversations with other journalists, this is certainly not an isolated approach, further strengthening the need for personal relationships.
There are two common mistakes I often see: Firstly, PR professionals will speak to a journalist but then cut contact with them for a long period of time – as with any relationship, it needs to be nurtured. Secondly, PR professionals who assume that they’ve built a friendly, solid relationship with journalists over email, when in fact, they’ve never actually met them, or worse – spoken to them!
How to perfect your media relations skills
One of my top tips is to always pick up the phone first and email second. When I get on the phone with a journalist, the first thing I ask is “is now a good time?” – more often that not, it is met with a pause and then the response “I have five minutes”. I personally believe this gives me results as the pause is the journalist thinking “oh, this guy actually understands that I have deadlines and targets to meet.”
Pressure in the journalism field is increasing with each passing day. The number of people working in PR has increased, but the number of journalists in the UK is declining. For example, in 2016, a study found that there are 83,000 PR professionals in the UK, but only 64,000 journalists. In 2018, the same study by the PRCA found today there are 86,000 PR professionals, but anybody who is close to the PR industry knows that there are far fewer journalists, putting more demand on those who are still writing.
With the number of journalists declining in the UK, the need for personal relationships and in-depth knowledge of whatever sector you work in is paramount: this is the key to securing coverage that delivers a buzz for you, and results for your clients!