PR Start by Nick Lucido

How to start in the public relations industry.

Good Media Relations

Last week, I had the chance to listen to Lorri Rishar Jandron, president and CEO of Edge Partnerships. She is a PR practioner who used to work as a reporter, so she has a pretty solid grasp of media relations. She had some solid  tips I wanted to share:

  1. Be honest
  2. Know the subject
  3. Don’t speak off the record
  4. Accept media requests
  5. Stay focused, stay brief
  6. Answer the question you want to answer
  7. Stay cool
  8. It’s quality, not quantity
  9. If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it
  10. When all else fails, return to #1

I feel that media relations is one of the most difficult parts of PR to teach. From my experience, I have seen that the best of kind of media relations occurs not on a cold call or when working down a huge list of contacts. It occurs over time through mutually beneficial relationships between PR practitioners and journalists. But how do you teach that in a classroom? And how do you teach good media relations through a 12-week internship? I think starting with the basics and learning as you go is the best kind of approach. Also, I like the Catching Flack blog – it has some pretty good media relations tips.

phone

As far as principles to remember, here’s what I’ve come up with: Good media relations starts with attitude. If you have a couple of reporters to call, make sure you don’t rush the calls and thoroughly review the material you’re pitching. Keep your cool and don’t get annoyed. Any position that requires a lot of phone time is really helpful in media relations and in your PR internship, especially a sales position.

After you figure out how to develop a good attitude, becoming an expert in the appropriate industry is important. Chances are, if you’re on the phone with the reporter talking about a news release, they will probably want information that’s not on the release. Keep up with the appropriate industry publications and news and you should be able to hold your own and answer questions. I also like to have a list of the key messages right next to me just in case.

One other thing to remember is the fact that newsrooms across the country are shrinking. Journlists are getting cut left and right, and beat reporters aren’t necessarily experts in that industry. Reporters like to say their deadline was yesterday (with pretty much everything they do), so they are extremely crunched for time. This is such a great opporutnity for PR practitioners to step in and help out, btu also keeping in mind what each media outlet sees as news. For more commentary on the shrinking newsroom, check out a post by Mike Cherenson on PRSAY.

During my internships, I had the chance to do a lot of media relations. I made some mistakes and had some shining moments, but I would never get on the phone and treat a journalist like crap. Too many times I’ve seen articles that talk about “dealing” with the media. Seriously, deal with the media? Lorri talked about this and how she will never say she “deals” with the media. They’re not stupid and they have their own job to do. Part of our job as PR practitioners is to work with them and help them with their job. By saying part of a job is to “deal” with the media, it’s pretty much demeaning their profession and that’s a bad attitude. PR folks work with the media, and it should be left as that.

For me, it brings up the question: are we being trained to hate the media? I don’t think so, but I think new student PR practitioners have a very unrealistic perception of what real media relations is. Getting solid experience in working with the media will help you prepare for a career in public relations.

What else? Sure, it’s easy for me to comment about media relations education, but what do you think is the best way to learn media relations? Any tips for students or new practitioners?

Photo by mezarc on Flickr.

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Filed under: Professional Development, Public Relations, , , , , , , ,

3 Responses

  1. Great post, Nick. I think media relations is hard to teach too. I don’t know much about it and I only have a year left of school, which is a little scary. But, I have found that jobs that require to call people give you the experience you need using tact and being patient.

    I’ve heard a lot of people say that working as a journalist prepared them because they understand what the journalist is going through when they call as a PR person. Other than that, I think just getting out there and getting the experience is the best way.

  2. Ari Adler says:

    The biggest issue for me is that media relations is seen as some kind of extra task that public relations people have to do. The reality is that media relations deserves a capital M and R just as much as public relations gets the capital P and R.

    I often describe myself as a media relations professional– I’m a specialist within the broader field of public relations.

    If media relations is done properly, the overall work of public relations is that much easier.

  3. Becky Johns says:

    Media Relations is kind of like sales; some people are cut out for it, and some people just aren’t. It can be scary for young PR folks to pick up the phone and pitch stories or answer questions from journalists, but with a simple understanding of what’s happening on the other end, the process can be much easier.

    If someone interested in PR hasn’t had any experience with media relations, or even any experience dealing with the media at all, a good place to start is to pick up their own writing assignment. I can be freelance, for an industry or organization publication, really anything that requires them to research, interview and report on a deadline. I was lucky enough to be involved in journalism in high school and write some freelance articles in college. There was nothing more frustrating than interviewing someone that didn’t have answers, opinions or the attitude they wanted to be interviewed.

    It never hurts to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. In the case of media relations, I think it’s the best way to learn what is good practice and what is bad.

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