How to Build Media Relationships

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Key Elements of a Public Awareness Program – Part 3

Create trust and respect

The first step to securing some good free publicity is hooking up with the right people. Sending information to a generic address at every major media outlet in your area is almost always a waste of time. You need to find someone who is ready, willing, and able to get your story covered.

If your business or organization is in a metropolitan area, invest in a “Media Guide” from local PR firm, preferably a large one with a good reputation. This will provide you with the names and addresses of editors, staff writers, producers, and other key contacts for print, radio, and TV.

Once you have the names, select the organizations you prefer to work with, call each of their contacts and introduce yourself. If you live in a smaller community, simply call the media offices yourself and ask who should be your point of contact. Then call that person and introduce yourself.

Working with media contacts is like working with clients – it’s never a one-shot deal. You have to stay in touch with them and build lasting relationships before they will feel comfortable handling your stories. Rather than simply emailing or faxing your press releases, take the reporter to lunch to discuss how you can help them find a good story.

In between, send your media contacts tidbits about possible stories that you think might interest them. Offer to make introductions.

And, remember, courtesy counts; always follow up with a personal note. Now you are no longer a “grabber” – you are now part of a symbiotic and mutually beneficial professional relationship.

Make your media contact’s job easy

Print media uses an inverted pyramid style in publication. To understand what the “inverted pyramid” name means, picture an upside-down triangle – one with the narrow tip pointing downward and the broad base pointing upward. The broad base represents the most newsworthy information in the news story, and the narrow tip represents the least newsworthy information in the news story.

When you write a story in inverted pyramid format, you put the most newsworthy information at the beginning of the story and the least newsworthy information at the end. There are a couple of reasons newspapers use this format. Primarily, it is because most newspaper readers are skimmers – they skim the paper looking for information they feel pertinent to their lives. In doing this, they generally read only the first paragraph.

The inverted pyramid serves an additional purpose for the media. It is common practice to chop from the bottom of an article one paragraph at a time if necessary for space reasons. Using this format makes the media person’s job easier and casts you in a more favorable light as they do not have to do much rewriting to get your story ready for print.

Be sure to check out all the articles in this series on Creating a Public Awareness Campaign. What Makes a Story Newsworthy? and Tips on Getting News Coverage have already been published.

How to Build Media Relationships, How to Write a Press Release, and Two Simple Tools for Generating Publicity are yet to come.