Talk the Talk: Media Relations 101

Media relations graphic

Picking up where we left off in Public Relations 101—if public relations is the destination, then properly executed media relations adds safety and comfort to the voyage. First off, let’s level set. Public relations refers to a stakeholder’s relationship with the general public. Media relations is an aspect of public relations, but focuses in on a specific outlet:  the media.   

All in all, media relations is an effort to develop and maintain relationships with members of the media who support your marketing goals. But it also includes things like: 

  • Press Conferences, press releases, press briefings 
  • Media training 
  • Creating press kits 
  • Arranging interviews 
  • Media tours 
  • Publicity 
  • Media audits 
  • Article monitoring 

Another critical part of media relations is learning how to effectively engage with reporters, especially during times of crisis or controversy. To execute a successful media relations strategy, you must understand some terminology and adhere to industry-standard protocols. Here are some other important terms and practices to be aware of: 

  • On the background: This term is used when you would like to set an ideal context in which to frame your story, but you do not want to be directly credited with providing that information. For example, you may think there is some significance to the demographics where your story takes place. When you tell the reporter that the information you are providing is, “on the background,” it is understood to be context for the main events of the story. If the reporter feels that the information you have provided needs to be verified by outside sources or experts, he or she will obtain that verification on their own before publishing the story. You have simply pointed the reporter in the right direction for what you seek to achieve through editorial coverage. 
  • Not for attribution: When you tell a reporter something is “not for attribution” you have gone “on record” but as an anonymous source because you have told them not to use your name. You’ve seen these direct quotes published attributed to an “anonymous source” or to “a source working inside the company.”   
  • Embargo: This is an agreement with a journalist or group of journalists that gives them access to information on a topic before the official news release date. Although they cannot report the information before your official release date, you have given them a head-start on breaking the news before the competition. This is relationship building tactic is ideally used with members of the media who support your core initiatives and you would like them to chatter about you again in the future.  
  • Exclusive: An exclusive is when you offer a key news item or interview to a single journalist with the understanding that he or she will be granted the privilege of publishing it first. After they publish the story you can send it to anyone else you like to. Just like an embargo, an exclusive can bolster your relationship with a key media outlet. Generally, you create a ranked wish list of media outlets or reporters you would like to see cover the news first. If the news you offer during an exclusive is deemed important enough, this outlet may consider you a top source moving forward. Exclusives may also offer increased control in how your story is told. There are never guarantees when seeking editorial coverage—however, working closely with a reporter to publish an exclusive interview or story helps ensure all important details are conveyed.  

One of the most important things to keep in mind when engaging the media is that, like you, reporters have a job to do. Nothing is personal. Keep it professional, use their lingo and protocols appropriately, and consider your larger media strategy to increase positive sentiment with audiences most likely to take interest in your story.  

In future blog pieces we’ll address specific tactics employed by public relations professionals to achieve their client’s goals—such as media events and public awareness campaigns. So stay tuned!  

Until then, don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or public relations needs. 

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