Building Good Media Relations Can Grow Your Business

By Pam Lontos

As a speaker, you’ve probably heard media exposure can greatly help your business, especially during tough economic times when marketing budgets are low and competition is high. The truth is, learning to leverage the power of the media can help you stand out from the competition without expending your resources. If you are new or inexperienced in dealing with editors or reporters, you might feel intimidated. But there’s absolutely no reason to believe you must have superpowers or be famous in order to approach the media.

People interview people they like. If you can develop a good rapport up front, that’s half the battle. Media professionals, like everyone else, gravitate toward someone they enjoy talking with. You can adopt strategies that will cause interviewers to come back to you time after time.

Here are a few ideas to help you relax and make sure editors and reporters accept your articles, book you as a guest on shows or interview you for pieces they are writing or videotaping.

1. Become familiar with the journalists you would like to cultivate relationships with. Follow their work, and let them know when you enjoy something they have written. Comment on something specific. Watch the TV broadcast or the talk show. Read the magazine, newspaper or blog. Listen to the radio show or podcast. Familiarize yourself with the content.

Once you become familiar with the audience, you will understand what the audience wants. This will allow you to tailor your content, making it more valuable to the reporter or editor. You can also ask the reporter or interviewer if there is anything else you need to know to better understand his or her audiences. That way you can fashion the content of your remarks as you prepare for an interview or, if you are writing an article, you can strike the appropriate tone.

2. Be observant during conversations and pick up personal details. If the reporter is heading out the door to pick up children from soccer, make a note of it. You can e-mail or mail the reporter a parenting article about involvement in children’s sporting activities, for example. This costs nothing, and therefore there will be no breach of ethics on the reporter’s part to accept it. At the same time, he or she will appreciate your thoughtfulness.

3. Reporters and editors often spend most of their time in the world of ideas. They like to think and talk about challenging ideas. When you are engaged in conversation, remember to bring up the topic they like to talk about. In a similar vein, if you see a subject come up in the news you know will interest a reporter with whom you are developing a relationship, copy and send it to him.

4. Don’t let months pass without contact. If you stumble across an event or idea related to an area of the reporter or editor’s interest, call and leave them a quick voicemail about it.

The goal is relationship building. If it’s all about you, if you’re in the game just to advance yourself, this will become all too readily apparent, and you will alienate the very people you are trying to impress.

5. When you are interviewed, give good quotes. Strive for simple, declarative sentences. Use concrete images. Answer the question. Remember the reporter is working hard to gain the knowledge he or she needs to write a good story. Help the reporter do a good job, and once again your effort will be appreciated.

If you’ve written a book on the subject you are being interviewed about, offer to send it. This will help them learn more about the topic they are researching. You can also offer, say, five books as giveaways if your interview is with a radio reporter.

At the end of an interview, ask about other stories the reporter is currently covering. Explain how you may be able to contribute and offer a unique angle that may interest their audiences. Always remind the journalist that he or she can call you back with questions. And make it clear that you’re eager to be an accessible source of information in the future.

Don’t forget to maintain your relationships once they are established. Sometimes the reporter will call you as a source, but you just aren’t right for that particular subject matter. You can steer the reporter toward a more productive source of information.

Effective media relations is all about relationships. If you develop, nurture and maintain good relationships with reporters and editors – you will become the expert source they seek out time after time, which will help you stand out from the competition and boost your sales.