Making friends with the media is an important part of public relations. Unfortunately, many PR professionals and their organizations alienate the very people they should befriend.
Here are some of the media’s most common pet peeves, with advice on how to avoid them.
#1: Showing you do not understand the media outlet
Avoid pitching stories that do not fit the publication, program or blog.
One editor told me that a PR firm regularly pitched cooking recipes to his technology publication, a sure sign they didn’t know what the magazine covered.
And there really is no excuse. Review the media outlet. Note its sections and departments, its tone and topics. Check its media kit, which gives you an overview of its audience and mission. (You can typically find media kits either under the “advertising” or “about us” sections on the web.)
Do the same type of research for any broadcast program. Note its format (e.g., news program or talk show). Study the personalities of the host and hostess. Learn the correct pronunciation and spelling of their names. (Don’t be like the PR manager who mispronounced the name of a leading San Francisco radio personality. This definitely showed that she had not listened to the program. It’s fair to assume that the producer only slightly listened to her.)
Throughout this process, consider where your company or organization might “fit” into the publication or program. Remember, the media is not going to adapt to you. You need to find a place for yourself.
#2: Showing you do not understand the journalist’s role
Some journalists regularly filter out communication from companies or agencies they feel have wasted their time.)
Contact the appropriate person for your story or pitch. For newspapers, send news releases to the city editor (for local news) or to the business editor (for business stories). For magazines, send news releases to the news editor. For newspapers and magazines, send story ideas and articles to the features or articles editor. For blogs, send to the blogger who writes about your industry.
For broadcast contact the news director (for newscasts) or producers (of specific programs).
#3: Failing to respond
If a journalist asks you for information, get it to them as quickly as possible. In general, I recommend getting back to the media within the hour, if only to say that you can’t provide the information immediately. If that’s the case, at least let them know you’re working on it, and give an estimate of when you will have the material.
#4: Failing to deliver
If you’ve promised something, deliver it or have a very good reason why you don’t.
One way to assure you’ll keep your promises is to focus on the most important reporters and editors. The 80/20 rule works in publicity as in virtually every other endeavor. Keep in close contact with the people who provide 80 percent of the value of your publicity program.
#6: Hiding contact information
It’s amazing, but many companies do not put media contacts on their websites or even on their news releases. Include contact information on all releases, and place the information prominently on your online press room.
#5: Treating someone poorly
Years ago, someone verbally attacked the assistant of a prominent technology journalist, bringing the assistant to tears. He went public with the story, making it clear that he did not appreciate that kind of conduct.
The moral of the story: follow the golden rule. It’s good business. It’s good PR.
#7: Losing perspective
This is perhaps the media’s biggest pet peeve of all.
Sometimes PR people are too close to their companies to do their jobs well. PR’s function is to facilitate two-way communication between the organization, the media and other outside groups. The best PR people are intermediaries. They help both their companies and the media.
So look at things as reporters would. Ask yourself if your idea would appeal to their readers or viewers. Adapt the idea until it has that appeal.
This ability to balance the needs of the organization with the needs of the media is at the core of solid PR work. Maintain that balance and you will have a win-win relationship with your company and the media.