Media relations are about building a relationship with the media in an honest and interactive way so that they will convey your company’s message or point of view.
One way of building public relations is through media relations.
When people read about you in the media, they are more likely to accept the viewpoint as more credible or believable because the message is from an independent source.
The media plays a huge role in affecting people’s attitudes, values and actions. When the media comments favourably on your company, it is seen as an endorsement by a credible third party.
Media exposure helps to create awareness of your organisation, products and brand values. It can position you to enter new markets and put you in a credible light in front of decision makers. To achieve these, you need to build relations with the media that can reach your target audience.
Step by Step Guide to using Media Relations
Know the media. You can communicate with your target customers through the voice of the journalist.
A journalist writing a story will only be interested to feature a story that will be of interest to his audience - readers of his newspaper, viewers of his TV programme, or listeners of his radio station.
It is therefore important to ascertain whether the subject of your news release is something that would interest the target audience of that media. Otherwise the journalist would not be interested, no matter how good your story is.
However, you can consider this good news because you can now choose which journalist to work with, and when he is interested in your story, you can be quite confident that it will be read, seen or heard by people who are also interested in it.
The mass media includes print media such newspapers and magazines, broadcast media such as television and radio, electronic or digital media, such as the Internet. The different media may require you to work differently with them.
Act on It
Get in the news
Knowing what types of stories journalist are interested in can determine whether or not your story gets covered. Identify the possible ways in which your company can be in the news, and keep a constant look out for such opportunities.
Craft a news release. Your news release communicates key information that you want the media to profile.
A news release, sometimes referred to as a press or media release, is a printed or electronic document issued by organisations that want to communicate something newsworthy to editors, journalists, industry writers or other media groups. Journalists will write a story for publication if they consider it newsworthy, while editors control whether the story appears in a newspaper, magazine, website, or broadcast.
A news release can be one of the most important tools in your public relations efforts. It contains important facts, messages, quotes from key people and contact information for additional information. A news release has to be concise and usually runs no longer than two pages.
The 5Ws & 1H
When you craft your news release, make your story interesting and relevant to the publication and its audience. Use 5Ws 1H, the vital ingredients of all news releases.
What? Usually the hook or attention grabber in your release such as a product launch, new management appointment or an interesting event.
Who? Mention the names of all the people or partners involved.
Where? Name the location that the newsworthy event has taken place or will take place.
When? State the date and time of what has taken place or will take place. The timing of a news release is important. It needs to be just before or after the event in order for it to be considered news.
Why & How? Give a reason or explain the impact of the event to help your audience relate to it and remember it.
Using the Singapore Airlines press release, let's look at the 5W's that are in this article.
Start with the most important information.
Think of it as an Inverted Pyramid.
Remember that each media could receive hundreds of news releases a day, so the header and first paragraph may be the only things that are read before a decision on whether your story is taken is made. A weak header and introduction will result in your news release being bypassed.
1> The Header
Impactful headers are those that skillfully sum up the most significant benefit the reader will derive from this piece of news, ideally within seven words. Remember that it must be important to the reader, not to you. Use eye-catching words such as ‘announces’ and ‘new’ only if it is really true, or you could lose your credibility with that media. Use the header in your email title.
2> The Sub-header
Include a sub-header if it is useful to flesh out your main header, or include a second related news point.
Refer to the following diagram on the structure of your news release.
3> The First Paragraph
The first paragraph gives the editor all the information he needs to know to conclude what the whole story is about. Use the 5Ws 1H to capture the vital points about your announcement. You must include all key facts and figures within the first paragraph if possible; use the second if necessary. The information needs to be aligned with what you have put as the header.
4> The Other Paragraphs
The rest of the paragraphs are used to elaborate on the story. You could include insightful quotes from your management, your partners, experts or users, or back up your story with other facts and figures.
Prioritise! Due to limited space in publications and limited time in broadcasting, the bulk of the news release may not be included in the story. Also, the editor may scan through the release quickly and not finish reading everything. Consider what is the most important and put those in first – the sequence tells editors their relative importance.
5> Ending Off
Mark the end of your news release so that the editor is aware that there is no further news. Put “~ The end ~“ or “###” at the bottom centre after the last paragraph.
6> Contact Details
Make it convenient for the editor to contact you for more information or for interviews. Provide multiple ways in which you can be contacted, and make sure you respond quickly as the media work within tight deadlines.
7> Company Boilerplate
Include a succinct paragraph about your company and what you do. If there are partners involved in the announcement, include their boilerplates as well.
8> Release Date
Include the words “For Immediate Release” at the top of your news release if you want your story to run as soon as possible. If it is for prior information and you would like the media to hold the story till a later date, you can specify the release date. As a rule of thumb, hold sensitive information till the time is right for sending out, as the media may or may not hold the news till your preferred release date.
Prepare a company media kit.
A company media kit is a set of promotional materials to be given to the media to convince them to write about your new product or business.
Regardless of the size of your business, you should develop a media kit as this contains everything that a journalist would need to write a story on your company. A media kit can be viewed as your company’s calling card and serves as a compact file of your company’s achievements and activities, ready to be used when you need.
What to prepare for your media kit.
Get your story to the media. Send your news release or media pitch to the right media.
1. Send it out
Decide which local editors, journalists or freelancers should receive your news release based on your type of news or story. Send only informative and well thought out messages, otherwise you will tarnish your own credibility with the media.
If you would like to distribute to a large range of news media, you may consider using a news release distribution service. The most established distribution services charge for their services and can be quite expensive. For example, PR Newswire (www.prnewswire.com) and Business Wire (www.businesswire.com)
Today, businesses need not pay for distribution as there are sites on the Internet that will distribute on your behalf for free. When looking for such a service, simply type “free press release distribution” into your Internet browser. Once you register with these companies, you can upload your news release almost immediately. Many of these services require you to have both header and sub header, so prepare ahead of time.
>Local Media Desks
You can also send your news release directly to the relevant desk of the media you would like to be featured in. Each media may have several desk editors, such as News Desk for stories of general interest, Money Desk for stories relating to business and finance, and there is often
also an editor in charge of SME news. It may be worth your while to find out which day or time is dedicated to SME news so that you can time your news releases, as you may have a better chance of being featured there.
Separate email address for distribution
Create separate email addresses for each free or paid distribution site that you use. You can then track which site has been more effective in distributing your news release.
Visit The Institute of Public Relations of Singapore (IPRS) for a listing of local News Desks. For a complete listing of the media organisations in Singapore, you can refer to the Media Guide on SGPressCentre, the Singapore Government’s media website.
2. Follow up
Once you have sent a news release or media pitch to the media, it is useful to follow up with a phone call. However, you must first prepare yourself.
Lunches & Gifts
While it is important to establish a good relationship with the media, lunches and gifts are not exactly sought for, unless you are giving them the chance to try a new product or service, which they can then write about. The best way by far is to keep providing them with good story angles and meaty information with which they can write interesting stories.
Hold a media conference. Invite journalists to tell them about your upcoming event, provide them with new information or clarify burning issues.
Also known as a press conference or media briefing, this is useful when the news you are announcing is complex, involves many parties, offers photo opportunities or involves a sensitive issue, and as such is better announced in person, so that there is opportunity for questions and answers.
Handle the media in a crisis with sincerity, integrity and promptness. It will win you their respect.
If you know bad news is about to break, it is important that you bring it to the media first. When your company breaks the story, you are in control of the message. The goal is to stay ahead of the game. Be aware of any issues that could turn into bad publicity for the company.
How to handle the media in a crisis