Remembering the "R" in PR

With the ready availability of mass communications, it has become very easy to reach the media on a large scale through email blasts, media alerts, and wire services. But just reaching them isn’t enough – you also have to reach them effectively and catch their attention in order to get coverage. We sometimes focus so much on the “P” – Public(ity) – that we forget that the “R” in PR stands for Relations(hips).

Rather than writing press releases, it is far more powerful to build a relationship with a journalist before you want the coverage. Your goal should be to end up in their contact book as a source: someone they can rely on for responses, facts, contacts and ideas.

When a journalist writes a story in your area of interest, send him or her an email of congratulations and perhaps offer additional story ideas, leads, or resources. Journalists are almost always interested in story ideas relevant to their coverage area.

Remember to focus on the journalist’s needs, not yours. Not to paint them as insensitive, because they’re not, but they really don’t care that you have a book, or a website, or whatever your business is — their primary interest is creating an interesting, helpful and credible story for their audience. When a reporter calls you, of course you should be courteous and helpful. If you don’t know the answer to a question, just say you don’t know, but will get back to them with an answer or the name of someone else who can assist. They very much value fast response to their requests. Even more so than most other people, a quick response to their emails carries a lot of weight, because they are always under deadline. The very best way to build a relationship with a journalist is to provide a lead for a hot story, particularly an exposé. These appeal to the crusading spirit of many journalists.

Writing a regular column for your trade publication has tremendous exposure benefits, and will build your relationships with the media community. The media also appreciates invitations to events; they like networking with your friends also! Invite journalists to join a board or committee, ask for advice, ask them to present awards, or to sponsor an event.

The media really appreciate knowing that they have changed your life. If their coverage helped you, let them know. Perhaps you got some new sales leads, or perhaps your mom was simply very proud of you. Either way, you’re building a relationship at a personal level, even if you never meet them face-to-face.