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Media Training: Media Relations Basics

  April 24, 2022

Relationships need nurturing--whether it's within a family, or between friends, romantic partners, or colleagues.  The same is true for business people and the media.  The time to improve media relations is before you need the media.  Through the media you can promote your services, champion a cause, contain a communications crisis, share your knowledge with a wider audience and more.  Of course dealing with the media can be a double-edged sword.  Here are some quick tips to help you build better media relations; starting in your local market.

  • Follow local reporters on social media.
  • Consume local media to gauge the best outlets to pitch to and those you may want to avoid.
  • Direct your news releases to targeted reporters/anchors in addition to editors and producers.
  • Realize that everything you think is big news about your company, is not necessarily newsworthy.  Let journalists know anyway so they get to recognize your brand.  
  • A local TV station may be interested in your news but not enough to put it on air.  Don't be disappointed if they put it on their website instead.  And, they may include video you provide to them.  Even in large markets, TV stations only have so many crews and sometimes they will use "handout" tape from the newsmaker.  It doesn't hurt to ask.  
  • After you do a media interview, follow-up with a text, email or even a snail-mail note.
  • It's OK to send a basket of goodies to a newsroom for a special occasion but don't expect anything in return.  And, never offer expensive gifts.  
  • If a reporter wants to meet up for a meal, it's generally best to keep it to a coffee shop.  No one should feel compromised by an expensive meal.
  • Know the difference between "on background" and "off the record."  I would not recommend giving information in this manner to a journalist that you have not worked with many times.  There needs to be trust built first.  Truly, "off the record" means they can't use the information--period.  "On background" means they can use it, but won't name you as the source.  But what if the journalist you deal with has different definitions?  Be sure they spell it out every time.  
  • When you hold a news conference, do everything you can to get the media to attend.  TV stations sometimes will send a crew only and that isn't a bad thing.  Up your chances for a big turnout by not competing other big events in your area.  Hold the news conference at a time that is convenient for them and works with their deadlines.  Make sure your venue is media-friendly.  For example, don't set your podium up in front of windows.  If you opt for outdoors, consider traffic and other noise.
  • Planning too many news conferences can be counterproductive. Journalists may see it as too routine to keep covering.
  • If recovering from negative news, pitch some good news their way after a short cooling off period.  
  • You may want to also consider offering a journalist an "exclusive" in the market.  This can be tricky.  You gain points with one media outlet but you may alienate another.  
  • If a media outlet makes a mistake in its coverage about your company, don't immediately threaten legal action.  While that may become necessary, it's best to start by asking for a retraction.
  • Regardless of how much positive coverage your company receives, there may come a time when you have a crisis.  If your first thought is to simply go with "no comment," I'd advise you to reconsider.  Stall for a bit of time while your team crafts a brief response.  Walking through a crowd of journalists assembled outside of your business can be daunting.  You could say, "We're looking into these allegations now and will have a statement later."   If you have someone to walk out with you, even better.  They can help keep you grounded.  Getting angry in front of cameras,  is not going to help your position.

We include media relations in our media training sessions.
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