13 Tips for Building Relationships with the Media

Everyone has heard the old saying… “This is really a people business.” This is certainly true with reporters and bloggers, who can be your best friends, and should be treated as such. If you think about a reporter as a customer, then you will be fine. Getting your message out is critical to your success and the media can be your key publicity vehicle.

Just like with a customer, building a good relationship up front with someone in the media is the best way to create good outcomes down the road. The annual NRA convention, like any industry show or convention, will present many opportunities for us in the outdoor, shooting, and hunting industries to make valuable connections with media members of all types. Here are some tips for building and maintaining good relationships with the media to help you capitalize on this opportunity and maximize your investment at the show.

  1. Treat reporters with professional respect. Your relationship should be of a business nature and that of two professional people doing their jobs.
  2. Now that being said – remember that a reporter is a reporter. Even if you are in a social situation with him or her, remember that a reporter is never completely off duty. If you say something that is newsworthy, even in a social environment, you may end up reading it in the newspaper or online, or hearing it on the air the next day.
  3. If you are working with a print reporter or blogger, offer photographs, graphs or other illustrations that would be appropriate and would heighten reader comprehension and interest. This also helps the reporter make the article more interesting and reflects well on them.
  4. Always provide good background material for reporters who are not familiar with your organization no matter what the situation. If applicable, hold a writer event and do product demonstrations. While it may seem expensive, make sure you send the writer home with the product to test and carefully evaluate.  It will pay off with accuracy and exposure most of the time.
  5. Do everything you can to make reporters’ and bloggers’ lives easier. Have media materials readily available and easy to access. This can be in the form of an online pressroom or media kit. The pressroom should contain information about your company, bios of key executives or team members, product information and photography and logo files. If media members have to jump through hoops to get information about your company, they may not. They could move on to their next story and you could miss opportunities for coverage.
  6. Don’t ever try to buy the coverage you want with gifts or bribes. Good reporters can’t be bought, and even the attempt will always backfire.
  7. VERY IMPORTANT. By the same token, don’t try to influence them, (or even worse, intimidate them) by pointing out that your company is an advertiser in the publication or media outlet involved. The resentment caused by such strong-arm tactics can cost you dearly in terms of how your stories are handled. Also, the reality is that most editorial departments are totally separate from the advertising department, so this threat doesn’t work anyway.
  8. Make an effort to understand the special interests of key reporters and notify them in advance about a story that might appeal to them (even if it’s not a story about your organization). They will appreciate your thinking of them in a situation where you don’t need them for something.
  9. If certain reporters cover your organization as part of your regular beat (and at some of the newspaper and television stations, this is the case), make an effort to get to know them on a personal level.
  10. This one is hard to resist, but don’t ask to see a story before it is printed or aired. This request is extremely insulting to reporters, and they will usually not do it. However, it is appropriate in some circumstances to offer to review any technical material for accuracy prior to publication; but again, do not insist on it if the reporter does not seem receptive to your offer.
  11. As you work more closely with the media, learn to use a reporter’s instincts in judging what is actually newsworthy. Don’t expect them to think something is newsworthy just because you do, and try not to become defensive or uncooperative if your story ideas are rejected. In other words, try to be sensitive to how reporters think.
  12. Developing a good working relationship means providing reporters with feedback when it’s appropriate to do so. Don’t be afraid to correct factual errors after a story appears. Those errors may be repeated in future articles if they are not corrected. If there is a mistake that can help or at least not embarrass the reporter, they will thank you later.
  13. Compliment a good story. Reporters enjoy honest praise as much as anyone else and they don’t get it very often! Give them a call or send them a nice note when they’ve done a particularly good job on a story. Even consider sending a note to the reporter’s boss if you really want to endear yourself.

Successful media relations can pay off now and in the future for any business. Gaining earned media compared to paid media, by most accounts, is more valuable because it has a third party endorsement – the medium or the reporter. It is important to view the media as an opportunity to promote your business, position it in the best light and gain a leg up on your competition. Developing good relationships with these influencers is a good first step and it costs nothing. As with any business strategy, you must be prepared, professional and do the basics to maximize any business situation.