5 Tips for Maintaining Media Relationships Under Pressure

The relationship between PR professionals and media is often seen as a necessary evil, especially by media. In my sector of tech PR, reporters rely on us to connect them with brands and keep them in the know about upcoming news. We in turn depend on them to generate the coverage that keep our clients happy. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always happen that way. Every PR pro has experienced the stomach-churning moment when coverage goes bad or a piece doesn’t run in time for an embargo lift and we scramble to fix the situation before things fall apart.
While we sometimes have to deal with these scenarios in the moment, there are best practices for anticipating and avoiding disaster. Best of all, you can keep the relationship in good standing. Based on interviews with my favorite media contacts, here are four tips for doing just that.

Do your research

Most media criticisms of the way PR pros operate have to do with poorly targeted pitches, careless e-mail blasts and apathy or ignorance about a journalist’s beat. While a well-placed mail merge can result in some good “quick hits,” PR people are ultimately doing disservice to their reputation — and the agency’s — with a tactic that is short-term at best. On the flip side, an informed pitch to a handful of media targets can get the same results or better, without causing aggravation. It may seem like an extra effort, but in the long run, it saves both time and friction.

Learn the media process

PR people often don’t understand the journalist writing processes. And while it’s common for PR teams to be under the gun for securing announcement coverage, it’s unrealistic to expect a tech reporter to agree to coverage under tight timelines. The article workflow is intense. A writer must get familiar with the news, draft a piece, wait for copy editors to flag changes, make edits and then schedule it for publication. Sending a reporter a release at 5:00 PM with an embargo lift scheduled for 8:00 AM the following day — or moving an established embargo date up — only results in frustration and destroys the tenuous trust between both parties.

Never mislead media

One of the surest ways to destroy a reporter’s trust in PR is to mislead or grossly embellish what’s considered “news” for the sake of getting coverage. While honeypotting a reporter with the promise of exclusive or ‘top-secret’ information to mask a less interesting story may sound clever, it’ll only ensure that they never trust you again. Be as honest as possible about the content you’re pitching, even if it makes finding a home for news difficult. This will result in more karma points with media and will be an education in navigating soft story outreach overall. On the flip side, see this earlier post for a few rules to break for killer media relations.

Know how to wield an ‘exclusive’

PR pros should be wary of when and how they go about using the ‘exclusive’ for coverage – meaning, we offer a specific journalist first crack at a story. The exclusive works best for a large targeted story in a high-profile outlet or to make a softer piece of news more attractive to a relevant mid-tier or trade outlet. Regardless of the scenario, a surefire way to alienate a contact is to promise them the exclusive and retract it when a bigger outlet comes knocking. Even if it’s a second or third choice, you made the pact to give them the news. Taking it back will burn a bridge, and it’s never worth it. While it may seem like “no big deal” in the short term, if or when that contact moves to a better publication, your long-forgotten mistake will come back to haunt you twofold.

Tread lightly with product reviews

Once of the challenges we face in technology PR is a bad review for a client product or service. No matter the stakes, it’s never a good idea to attack a journalist over a negative review, unless it’s factually incorrect. Instead, understand who the reviewer is. Learn the ratio of favorable to unfavorable reviews for similar products and be aware of the pros and cons of the product itself. Product reviews are ultimately reflective of the reporter’s experience. Therefore, they’re paradoxically both subjective and objective. If the content of a review is factually wrong, then PR pros have a responsibility to sensibly and courteously rebut the errors and ask for a correction. If there’s nothing incorrect, badgering a reviewer to change their take simply to appease a client will only damage the reporter relationship and ensure that that reviewer won’t collaborate again.
These are just a handful of tips for better cultivating and nurturing relationships with tech journalists and those in other verticals that we’ve seen work best here at Crenshaw. See this earlier post for more ways to cultivate better PR/media relationships.

5 Tips To Build Stronger Media Relationships In 2019

In tech PR, the story is the cornerstone of every good pitch. It all starts and stops there. Tech reporters, like most journalists, get hundreds of pitches each day. Most are ignored, even when they’re well-written. They’re like banner ads — the sheer volume makes tune-out inevitable. So, let’s face it — media relationships matter.

Building authentic rapport with a tech journalist helps a brand stand out amid a barrage of emails, DMs and phone calls. It removes the friction and uncertainty reporters encounter when dealing with an unknown brand or publicist. If you’ve provided them with a good tip or story in the past, maybe you have something good this time around. Unfortunately, building credible media relationships is harder than ever. The competition for a reporter’s time is fierce. And media are naturally skeptical about thirsty PR and comms people. As Drake has famously said, “no new friends.”

So how can tech brands build lasting bonds with media today? Here’s what works for me.

5 tips for stronger media relations

Play the long game

Real media relationships take time and effort. In the beginning, there is a courtship period. Grabbing a coffee has never created an instant friendship. But having multiple in-person meetings throughout the year, attending panels the reporter might be moderating, and interacting with him or her on social channels all work together to forge real connections over time. It’s not hard to do. After all, PR and reporters want the same thing: to tell great stories. Once that hard-earned bond is formed, it needs to be maintained over time like any other relationship. That long-game mindset is important.

Don’t be afraid of rejection

Some journalists will become your best friends. Others just won’t want to get to know you. They might even come to hate you. That happens. But one of the biggest hurdles to building relationships is the fear of rejection. If you’re in tech PR, you’ll have to overcome that fear. Ultimately, to get anywhere meaningful relationship-wise, brands and PR pros must put themselves out there. You have to make the initial awkward asks for a coffee, to grab a drink or to go to karaoke (never underestimate the power of poor singing to form bonds). See this earlier article on how to avoid media relations mistakes.

Stop selling 24/7

A real relationship never feels transactional, and PR pros enjoy real relationships with journalists. If you approach every reporter interaction as if it’s a sales opportunity, you won’t get very far. Sure, you might get some occasional coverage, but you won’t have a relationship that can deliver better quality stories with greater consistency. PR people and reporters often work in collaboration to create great stories. To get there, you need interactions that don’t always have an explicit marketing or sales benefit. Don’t grill them on what stories they’re working on; find out what’s going on in their lives. As in most aspects of public relations, salesmanship has its place, but it shouldn’t be the centerpiece of your communication.

Promote their work

Journalists today are under pressure to generate views and clicks, and we can help. It’s never a bad idea to follow the top media in your area and boost their stories by sharing them with your own social networks. PR people are natural born news junkies, consuming the morning news right after the alarm goes off and during the commute. Here at Crenshaw, we flag the biggest tech headlines of the day each morning and often share them on our social channels through the day. Another way we promote reporters’ work (and their personal brand) is by enlisting them to moderate a client’s event, like a discussion panel — which has the reciprocal benefit of increasing credibility for those clients.

Get out of the office

It’s easy to reach people through email or social media, and it’s great to stay in touch that way. But relationships take on another dimension when you run into someone in real life – at events, conferences, social outings, or a simple sit-down over coffee or something stronger. There are limits to how much rapport you can build over phone and email. There’s no substitute for looking someone in the eye. Face-to-face interactions make you (and the reporter) more memorable. So, if you’re the shy type who likes to hole up in the office, you may be missing out on fun, productive media relationships.