Having a good relationship with people in the media can be a great way to get free publicity and exposure for your business. But it’s not a one-way street. Sure, journalists are after a good story and they are after the truth. But there are plenty of people ready to take over your relationship with a journalist if you get a bit stale.In order to develop effective relationships with the media, think of how you can be of value to THEM – regardless of whether your business gets coverage. Creating a strong relationship that is valued by both parties will mean extra exposure for you in the long term.Here are some tips you can start using in your business today.1. Promote yourself as an ‘expert’ in your field. Let’s face it, who is to say you or someone else is the biggest expert. Unless you are Dr Stephen Hawking or Oprah, you can develop yourself as an ‘expert’ because you have a unique body of knowledge to bring to the table.Initiate contact with the media by providing background information on yourself, your business and its products and services. If you have unique, interesting, or recognised expertise, qualifications and experience, then let the media know.
Local media, particularly, look for reliable sources of information and readily available spokespeople. Where I live, we have a very proactive real estate agent who has for years maintained good relationships with the media. He doesn’t know more about property and real estate than some of the other successful agents around town, but he DOES cultivate and keep the best relationships. Therefore, when a journalist needs information or a quote for a story they ring him first.2. Develop a sense of the kinds of stories in which the media are interested. Talk to journalists. Ask them what they are looking for. You might be surprised. In doing so, you will develop a rapport with journalists and feel more comfortable approaching them. They will also become more comfortable accepting your calls knowing you have good information for them.Part of this process is to engage with their media; read the articles they write, listen to the interviews they broadcast, watch their news stories. Understand how the journalist views a story, how they report on a story and, very importantly, who THEIR audience is.3. Be aware of breaking news. Keep up with the latest news at all times, bearing in mind any possible tie-ins (piggy-back marketing) to the issues your business seeks to promote. Journalists are usually deadline focused and looking for reliable means of gaining information. Have their contact details on speed-dial and actively promote your ability to contribute to a news story they may be preparing. Don’t wait for them to ring you.4. Pitch substantive stories. Do not suggest ideas that are broad in concept with little direction or value. Give as much background information and solid ideas as possible. Link story ideas back to relevant & topical news items or the anniversary of a news item they covered. Don’t pitch stories that are a blatant promotion of your business unless the idea is very interesting to THEIR audience.5. Make yourself available. Provide your relevant contact details and ensure you are readily available if called upon; this will increase your credibility as a resource. Once you are identified as a resource, prepare to be called upon to provide comments, insights and possible additional resources when relevant topics hit the news.
6. Know the rules of the media. A media resource increases their value to journalists when they are familiar with media cycles, deadlines and workloads. If you agree to get back to a journalist, ensure you do so in a timely manner even if not all the promised information is at hand. Keep journalists informed and respect their deadlines – this will work in your favour in the long run.7. Be dependable. A source is an expert the media contacts for his/her knowledge on a subject. A resource is one who consistently demonstrates all the qualities listed above, which sets him/her apart from other sources available to journalists.If you think about them more than you think about yourself, you will cultivate strong, reliable and on-going media networks.