The Other PR: How Personal Relationships with the Media Impact Public Relations
By Neil Torres
Over the years, the world of public relations has been evolving. Today, companies are looking for ways to develop their own content, collect likes and shares on social media and create digital experiences that promote their products or brands.
But no matter how much things change, the one thing that every client wants from a PR agency is media coverage. Whether it’s a brief product mention, a quoted executive, a feature article or the coveted cover story in a big-name publication, executives continue to gauge a successful PR program by the news coverage it generates.
What many clients don’t understand, though, is that coverage is often earned through relationships that a PR professional has with key reporters – whether at national outlets, trade publications or industry blogs. Through those professional relationships – which often feel more like personal ones – media relations specialists are able to reach out to key reporters with good story pitches. And because the reporters trust our instincts, they’re more likely to give our ideas some consideration.
Media relations is an art that begins with research about a reporter’s areas of coverage and how they operate. To set the foundation for a successful interaction, it’s important to know what types of stories the reporter writes and whether they tend to be product-focused or company-focused.
A good media relations specialist will know how often they typically write, how and when they like to be contacted and what they’re primary coverage areas include, such as key companies. No reporter ever wants to be bothered with pitches that have nothing to do with what he or she covers.
Likewise, just as in any relationship, there needs to be a personal element, too. There are intangible pieces of information that go to the heart of the relationship because they create a human connection, a link between people that goes beyond a product pitch or coverage plans. Where did the reporter go to college? Which sports teams are his or her favorites? Does he or she have kids? How old are they?
These are the personal details that will help break down walls when trying to connect with a reporter. While reporters are very aware that we’re pitching companies, products and executives when we call, the initial ice breaker – a chat about her recent vacation or his kids’ summer plans – goes a long way to making the conversation a friendlier one and further solidifying the personal side of the relationship.
Certainly, all the personal chatter won’t matter if the pitch is completely off-base. But if a reporter knows there’s familiarity with his or her work and time has been taken to understand the coverage areas, the personal touch works as a springboard for not only the pitch but also the ability to be a resource.
When reporters are on deadline, looking for an executive who can chime in on a trend or respond to a current event, they turn to resources they trust to help them find the companies or executives who can add value to their stories.
Nurturing and cultivating relationships are important for any PR professional. Sure, getting the cover story takes time. But incremental wins are important too because they not only help with client exposure but also earn another point on the PR success scorecard.
Neil is Blanc & Otus’s in-house media strategist. He really should be called our media and friendship strategist, because he somehow knows everyone. Combine that with his media savvy, and he’s unstoppable. In his current role, Neil is responsible for day-to-day account activities, creating and implementing PR plans and programs, managing strategic media relations, developing thought leadership platforms and identifying new opportunities for clients to maximize their business objectives through strategic communications.