In today’s Fast Take Friday, AHA CEO Ruth Atherley talks about how to approach an agency or organization if you want to intern or work there. (Hint: it’s not all about you.)
We all know that media relations and publicity are an important component of public relations. Prior to social media, these areas were at the heart of many campaigns. Getting an unbiased third party (a journalist) to speak positively about your organization, its services or products was crucial. Many, many hours of my PR career have been spent defining a good story pitch, specific to the media outlet we wanted to “earn” coverage in.
Fast forward to today. While media relations and publicity are still important, there are more opportunities where public relations professionals should be involved. These days, the range includes earned (editorial media coverage), paid (advertising and marketing) and owned (channels and content that you produce and share) media.
Earned media is one component of connecting with stakeholder groups and a very important part of most organizations’ communications strategies.
On the paid media side, it’s vital to realize that advertising has changed drastically. Think about some of the ads and marketing campaigns you see now. First of all, quite often the ads have a media relations or publicity component to them that outlines their creativity and shares results. Many ads or marketing campaigns also have an interactive component, asking the target market to participate in some way (create a new flavour of potato chips, for example). Some of the commercials we see on television that are shared on Facebook and other social media networks, tell a story (like a mini-movie) that doesn’t just inform us of the product or service benefits, but also engages our emotions. It isn’t just about informing you of a product anymore – it’s about creating a feeling.
Owned media falls into the area of brand journalism, where you produce content that is shared through your own distribution channels (website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.) that you hope will be shared by your followers. This is a growing area and one we are seeing more and more organizations choosing to focus on. With a solid editorial approach, creating great content means you have to think like a producer. Here you can build strong relationships with your community that are supported by earned and paid media. It has to be about creating engaging content, and can’t been seen as “selling” anyone on anything.
It’s an exciting time to be a communicator when you understand all of the opportunities we have for authentically engaging and connecting with stakeholders.
Media relations is a crucial component of your public relations efforts. It is important to maintain positive (and ongoing) relationships with journalists. This doesn’t mean they are always going to write what you want them to write (they don’t work for you, your client or your organization), but creating mutual respect and trust is valuable. Below are several guidelines that will help build a positive relationship with journalists.
- Understand what the journalist you’re pitching does. Don’t send a music pitch to the TV critic unless the song is about to be played on a hit television show and you are hoping for a small mention. (You wouldn’t believe how many PR people out there don’t take the time to do this or just spam an entire list of random media. This doesn’t work and it doesn’t build long-term relationships.)
- Don’t pitch four journalists at the same outlet without letting them know the others you also sent the pitch to. (Going into a story meeting with a good story and having another colleague pitch it to their editor isn’t any fun and they will realize and remember that they were put in that position by you.) Be transparent. The fact is, some stories cross media “sections” – let them know of everyone receiving the pitch at their organization.
- Don’t exaggerate your stats or details. (If you don’t know, it’s okay to say: “I am not certain about that; let me get back to you.” Then make sure you get back to them ASAP.)
- Do not be late for anything with the media. (Deadlines people. And live TV or radio waits for no one.)
- If you say you will do something for the media, do it immediately. They have deadlines. You have a made a commitment. If you hit a snag in getting them the information, give them an update on where you are in getting it for them.
- Be respectful of their time. Have everything prepared and be ready to go immediately.
I was fortunate; not only was I a voracious reader growing up with a natural ability with words, I also worked with some incredibly gifted writers and editors at Maclean’s. Working with some of the best in the country (I would say the world) makes you up your game. There is a much higher bar when the talent level of your colleagues is through the roof.
At AHA, we work with clients to write, review, revise and edit a wide range of documents. At some point, each project we work on involves the craft of writing – speeches, e-newsletters, web content, messaging and positioning, presentations, communications plans, video scripts, news releases, media pitches, media kits, briefing documents… the list goes on and on. And then there is the process of editing. Which is a very important piece of the puzzle. A solid edit can make a good piece great.
We are always interested in improving our craft. We take courses, participate in workshops and webinars, and read articles and books that give us tips and techniques to improve our writing skills. It is a never-ending quest for improvement.
Active voice vs. passive voice is something we look for in every document. While passive voice isn’t necessarily wrong, active voice is always right. Passive voice can be vague and it is an inefficient use of words. Active voice communicates a different energy and is more effective – it just works better. Grammar Girl has an informative blog post on it here. There is also a piece on Ragan.com that talks about cutting the fat from your writing which highlights the same approach. They are definitely worth reading.