The Definitive Guide to Managing Media Relations
Table of contents:
- What is media relations?
- How to build your media network
- How to get media coverage
- How to measure your success
- Tips for dealing with journalists
- How to use a contacts database for better media relations
- Media relations checklist
What is media relations?
Media relations refers to the relationship between a public relations professional and the media, where there is a mutually beneficial outcome for both parties. This includes media coverage and brand awareness for the company sending the release, or pitch email and easy access to stories and first-hand information for journalists.
Managing media relations allows an organisation to get coverage of their story, mission or event in the media while providing a fitting story to a journalist. It includes working with the media on a regular basis which over time builds rapport with both journalists and their audience or the general public. This allows organisations to reach a wide audience with their mission without the high cost of advertising.
Managing media relations consists of working with the media to get wide coverage of your story, build trust and brand awareness and build relationships with journalists and others in the sector. Successful management of media relations is a particularly important element of public relations as having a good relationship with certain journalists can determine the success of your story or campaign in the media, playing a vital role in whether or not it makes the news.
Key elements of good media relations include:
- Choosing where to focus your efforts to get your story coverage and channelling energy into these, instead of aiming widely in a bid to make the news.
- Discovering how to develop your media relations strategy while managing relationships with journalists, editors and correspondents.
- Creating a list of journalists that you will regularly send press releases and/or pitches to, and building a relationship with them.
- Understanding the role of a journalist and catering to their needs – sending releases at certain times of the day and week, including copy in the email and not as a separate attachment etc.
- Asking journalists what kind of stories they are working on or looking to cover. Managing a series of relationships with internal stakeholders and journalists in an effort to get your stories covered.
How to Use Media Relations to build a network of Journalist Contacts
Building a media network is an integral part of working in public relations. Without a strong network of journalists, your story is less likely to make the news. Here are some ways to go about building your media network:
Connect with journalists
Building up a relationship with journalists is an important part of managing media relations. Here are some ways to connect with journalists:
- Use a contacts database to find journalists who cover the areas that you specialise in.
- Follow them on social media (Twitter or Linkedin) and reach out to them.
- Send them a pitch and offer to discuss the story further over the phone.
- Connect locally if possible – offer to set up a meeting, get to know each other and discuss the ways in which a working relationship would be mutually beneficial.
- Write attention-grabbing press releases that are truthful and reliable.
Building up trust and familiarity will mean that they will be more likely to cover your press release if a story that fits their day comes into their inbox. An issue faced by many journalists is that press releases that come into their inboxes are not newsworthy or not written in a format that lends itself well to covering a story.
Understanding the needs of journalists is a critical part of good media relations, as if your press releases stand out as well put together and focused on making their work easier, they will trust you time and again to provide good, newsworthy content that easily translates into a story. This provides mutual benefit as it guarantees press coverage for your story and it gives the journalist exactly what they need to write a good story. Read our piece here on how to write an effective press release.
Building a media list takes away the pain of manual data entry and trying to circumnavigate the restrictions on sending multiple emails through certain mailing software. Building lists of journalists who may have an interest in your story or who generally cover the topic that your story encapsulates is a great way to tactically send press releases. Using press distribution software can be an excellent way of curating lists as it gives you access to journalists’ contact information and allows you to filter them by topic. This cuts out the time that would otherwise be spent searching google for appropriate contacts and their email addresses. Two key types of lists are distribution lists and pitch lists. A distribution list allows you to send emails to many journalists at once. This is done when you have a story that would do well in the mass media and would garner public attention. A pitch list can be used to send a pitch to a small number of journalists in an attempt to get them to cover your story. Ensure that this list includes only relevant journalists.
Read our blog on how to write a PR pitch email here.
See how you can use MediaHQ to Build expert media lists here:
Understand the media industry by tuning in.
The media industry is ever-growing and movement within the industry is constant. Every day, journalists, editors and reporters change jobs, move within the industry or leave it all together and it is essential to monitor these movements as a PR professional. If you have built up a contact list, it is imperative that it is regularly updated as journalists can move to different sectors or companies and may no longer be a good fit for the specific list they were previously on.
There are a few different ways to monitor the industry including keeping an eye on Twitter, where many journalists announce their job moves, finding websites that monitor the movements of some journalists or using a media contacts database that uses a newsfeed style format to inform users of movements within the industry. The latter is the most accurate way to keep your media lists up to date as you may be notified when a contact on one of your lists has been updated or removed. This takes the guesswork and time-consuming trawling of the internet out of media monitoring and gives you back time to write and distribute stories. At MediaHQ, you will get a notification when a journalist on any of your lists has been updated or deleted, making it easier than ever to keep track of media movements and keep your lists up to date.
See how MediaHQs List Notifier Function works below:
How to get media coverage
A great starting point when looking for media coverage is tuning into what a journalist wants from a press release or a pitch and basing your layout and story around that. You could have the most interesting story in the world, but if it is badly laid out and sent to the wrong journalists, you will destroy your chances of getting any coverage.
How to cater to journalists needs:
- Before sending out a press release, it is worth checking out a publications’ editorial guidelines to see what kind of content they cover and how they like to be contacted. This will help you to ensure that the story fits with their guidelines and can influence any last-minute changes which may help your story to get picked up.
- Making sure that your story is newsworthy and would be a good fit for the journalists you are sending it to is of the utmost importance. Check that your story includes facts and news that is in the public interest. Search for journalists based on the topics that they cover.
- Include contact details and emphasise that the journalist can follow up with you to discuss the story further.
- If there are interviewees or external contacts for your story, make this clear and provide their contact details in your press release. Include their level of expertise.
- Include your story in the main body of the press release. Sending your story in a pdf format or as an extra attachment creates another layer for an already busy journalist in order to find your story. Keep it to the main points and always include any necessary links or photos.
How to time your press release sends to get coverage:
Knowing the best time to send your press releases is an often overlooked but integral part of managing media relations. It is important to research the publication time and day of a show, column or newspaper and send your press release to suit that. A general rule of thumb is to send your release early in the week and early in the day.
The more the week progresses, the more complicated the media landscape gets. The average time to send a press release in order to get maximum opens is between 10 am and 11 am, early in the week. This of course depends on who you are pitching to and has some exceptions so it is worth checking with the individual journalist, producer or correspondent.
For the best results, try sending out your content between Tuesday and Thursday, avoiding Friday afternoons as you will likely get little to no traction. The same goes for weekends, unless your story is breaking news, there is a very small chance of making the news. Major events and the time of the year also have an impact on the traction of your press release. Make sure to send releases before or after big events or holidays like Christmas, as journalists are likely to be on annual leave and will miss out on your story.
Read our piece here on the best and worst time to send out a pitch.
How to measure the success of your media relations
An important part of managing media relations is measuring your success – knowing where you went right and where you could improve. Getting your story covered positively is always the best measure of success. Using PR analytics is also a great way to track the sends, opens and click-throughs of your press release, while also comparing it to the industry average of press releases sent at the same time. Using PR analytics can help to improve your media relations as it gives you access to the journalists who have opened your release and the number of times they have clicked on it.
The MediaHQ Analytics Dashboard
Seeing that a certain journalist has opened your release multiple times can be a good incentive to give them a call or a follow-up email, offering to answer any questions they may have. This in turn builds up a relationship and can act as a stepping stone to further coverage for your company or client.
Read our piece here on how to use PR analytics to get better PR results.
See how MediaHQ does Analytics below:
Tips for dealing with journalists
- Always have a story
Always make sure to have an interesting story behind your press release. If you are releasing a new product, talk a bit about the story behind it and how it came to be. Talking about the product alone will not make a newsworthy press release, but making it personal and using it to tell a story is a great way to appeal to a journalist and get your release in the news.
- Understand their job
Understanding what a journalist does and how they do their job is important as it allows you to get an edge in. Research the editorial guidelines of a publication and get to know the best time to pitch before sending out a press release.
- Always call back
Journalists have very busy jobs working towards tight deadlines and are often under time pressure. If you miss a call from a journalist, call back as soon as you can. If you want to follow up on an email, calling them is a great way to build rapport and keep your story fresh in their head.
- Make time for creative ideas
Branching out and taking time to think outside the box for your next press release is a very important part of staying relevant and catching the attention of a journalist. Take some time to think about different ways of approaching a story so that it is the most desirable it can be for the journalist who will potentially cover it.
- Pitch, pitch, pitch
Pitching to journalists can give you an edge as it is generally a story that is more targeted to them than a general press release. Do your research on journalists who cover the topic of your press release and make your pitch as personal as possible. Offering an exclusive pitch is a great way to guarantee coverage, once you are happy with the target audience.
How to use a contacts database for better media relations
Using a media contacts database for your media relations management means that your lists, access to contacts and PR analytics are all kept together in one place. Here are some benefits of using a media contacts database for managing media relations:
- Media movements are all in one place. You don’t have to scour the internet for journalists who have moved jobs and will often be notified of changes to journalists who make up your lists.
- Create lists based on topics. Putting together lists can mean a lot of manual data entry, using messy spreadsheets to keep your contacts in one place. A contacts database allows you to cut through the noise and search for journalists based on topic, add them to your lists and divide them by name and topic. These can then easily be attached to your press release.
- Keep track of bounces. Using a contacts database can be a great way to keep track of bouncing emails. It can be tough when using a spreadsheet of email addresses to know which emails are sending and which are bouncing, but using a contacts database will show you exactly which emails are bouncing and why allowing you to quickly update them and get the highest deliverability possible for your release.
- Balance several jobs at once. A contacts database allows you to build lists, send press releases, track analytics and so much more. This would all generally require separate software which takes up time and energy that could be better spent on coming up with great stories. Having access to all of these tools under one roof is highly beneficial to media relations.
See how MediaHQ works in our video below:
Managing Media Relations checklist
Here is a checklist of what you need for good media relations management:
- Research editorial guidelines
- Know what a journalist does
- Know what time and day to send a press release
- Monitor movements within the industry
- Build media lists and keep them updated
- Call or follow up when necessary
- Use a media contacts database
Looking to send your own Press Releases? More than just a Press Release Distribution tool. MediaHQ helps you find journalists, build media lists, distribute press releases and analyse results. The Ultimate PR Tool for Press Teams. Book a Demo below.
More about Ciara Byrne
Ciara is a Research Executive at MediaHQ. Ciara has a degree in Media and English from DCU and has been working with MediaHQ since graduating in 2019.