As an account executive on the account services team at SHIFT, my role is focused primarily on media relations as it pertains to my client roster. I work closely with reporters and bloggers to get ink for my clients, which for me are B2B technology vendors.
Although media relations is a blast, it has its fair share of challenges – the PR struggle can be very real. The key to a PR professional’s success is problem solving, trouble shooting and information sharing. In this spirit, I’ve recapped what I believe are the top challenges when approaching media relations, as well as what we as PR pros can do to solve them.
No News Blues
We’ve all been there before – partnership announcement falls through, survey data is delayed, product news pushed out to Q4. But while the client’s news may fall through, the PR wheel keeps on turning. So how do PR professionals continue to get ink when news is slow? Here are a few helpful tactics:
- – Rapid Response – Rapid response pitching is a strategy that can be used to position your client as a thought leader on a variety of topics and trends. As major news hits, PR folks that are quick enough can work with their client to develop impactful commentary and share with reporters before their articles publish. If the stars align just right, you’ve got a shot at placement. For a deeper dive into the process, check out my colleague Olivia Irvin’s blog post on rapid response.
- – Proactive Campaigns – A vital part of any PR program, proactive campaigns provide us with an opportunity to explore new topics with our clients, set up engaging conversations with reporters and, potentially, secure coverage. In a nutshell, the PR pro will first identify a trend in the news. We work with our client to develop a strong perspective, then offer up a conversation on the topic to interested reporters. Even if these discussions don’t lead to immediate coverage, the journalist will know who to call next time around.
- – Finding Opportunities – Part of being successful in PR is uncovering media opportunities for our clients. But where do these come from? You are likely already aware of services such as Help A Reporter Out (HARO), which enables journalists to request sources for specific stories. In addition, media opportunities can come as a result of strong relationships with the right reporters. Which leads us to our next media relations challenge…
Building Relationships with Reporters
In today’s world, getting through to reporters and receiving a response can be tricky. Just consider the constant deadlines reporters are held to in the news room (kudos to all my journalists out there). In order for a PR professional to develop lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with media, it’s important to be respectful of reporters and the pressures they are facing.
In an effort to strengthen my personal relationships with media, I often opt to meet in person for coffee (or another beverage) to get more background on the individual. Reporters generally enjoy a break from the news room, and it offers us a chance to connect and develop a rapport. If you’re meeting with a reporter for coffee, remember to not bombard them with client pitches. Instead, use the time to learn about them, what makes them tick, the kinds of pitches they get excited about, etc. Then the next time you have the right news item to share, you’re much better equipped and have a better shot at success for your client.
Making Time for Media
One of the most challenging aspects about media relations is time. With the flurry of client work and deadlines, it’s easy for time to get away from us. However, there are a few approaches that can help maximize efficiency and keep time on your side.
- – Group Tasks Together – A great way to increase your productivity is by grouping similar tasks together. This reduces the need to shift gears between projects and save precious time. To learn more, I recommend reading this article on task grouping.
- – Give Yourself a Break – According to a recent study, the highest-performing 10 percent of employees tend to work for 52 minutes, followed by a 17-minute break spent away from the computer. So the key to productivity is… taking breaks? I can get down with this. The Atlantic has the scoop.
- – Be a Maker – Along the same lines of task grouping, a Google employee recently shared his strategy for blocking out interruptions and setting aside “Make Time,” or time to get work done. According to the Googler, “Commit to protecting Make Time on your calendar, including the time and place where you’ll be making, and ideally detail on what you’ll be making. That way, you know, it’ll actually happen.” Check out the full story.
When it comes to media relations, it all boils down to problem solving. Whether your client has no news, you need to build stronger relationships with journalists or time is just not on your side, the challenges we face on the day-to-day can be surmounted with some creativity, smarts and a healthy amount of determination. Have more to add to the conversation? Feel free to leave a comment below.