Media relations is a popular public relations (PR) tactic. So much so that for many people it’s become synonymous with PR itself. If you read my article from a couple of weeks ago you know that this isn’t true but still the myth persists. PR has changed dramatically over the last decade but media relations remains a valuable piece of the puzzle for PR practitioners. Let’s look at what media relations is and why it’s important.
The focus of media relations is getting a story covered by a media outlet. It could be a local newspaper or television station. It could also be a national outlet such as the Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, or Good Morning America. Simple right? In theory, it is. The reality is much different.
For some companies like Apple, Facebook, and Google, the public and media fixate on them. This means that often the media is coming to them for stories. It’s an enviable position but this isn’t going to be the case for most organizations. This means that we, as many organizations are, going to the media with the goal of getting them to run a story. We will send a press release along with a pitch. The press release is key information: who, what, when, where, why, and how. The goal of the pitch is to get the result we want. In this case, running our story. I’ll discuss pitching in more detail in another article.
Why media relations is important
There are several reasons why we would want a story covered. The first reason is awareness. We want them to know about a product or service our company provides. For a non-profit, we would want the public to be aware of its efforts or fundraisers.
Let me give you an example. I worked with a non-profit that focused on funding music and sports programs in its state. They wanted people aware of partnerships they had in the community. That gave them credibility. They also wanted the public to know how much money they granted and to whom they gave it. This gave awareness to them and their cause.
I’ll give another example. Recently a new burger franchise opened in the city where I live. I’ve seen them in the newspaper a couple of times. The first was an announcement that the franchise planned on expanding to our city, where it would be located, and gave some background on the company. The second was a more detailed article with the owners of the franchise. It talked about the menu, cost, and when they would be opening. The articles generated awareness but they also did something else. They gave this new burger franchise, who only has five locations, some credibility.
The second reason media relations is important is for the third party validation. We can talk about how amazing our organization is all day long but is that going to convince people? Maybe, but most people want to hear it from a third party source. The media is one of those sources. The local news covering a story about your company gives more weight to your credibility than you talking about your organization.
Back to our burger franchise. When I saw the first article in the paper I was curious. I had never heard of them. Not surprising since they only had four locations with the closest being eight hours away. The first article generated awareness. The second article gave them some credibility. It compared them favorably to Five Guys, a company that has received high marks for their burgers.
They opened last week and sold over 2,500 sandwiches in the first two days. And yes, I went and the burgers are pretty good. Not quite as good as Five Guys but much better than the McDonald’s and Wendy’s down the street.
Media relations is a valuable PR tactic and shouldn’t be ignored. Whether a story runs in a newspaper, magazine, on television, or an even on a blog, it helps build awareness and provides third-party validation. Times have changed but the importance of media relations has stayed the same.