Partner with the Media

Developing a great relationship with editors and reporters is tricky. The average reporter receives dozens of emails every day from companies hoping to promote their products. That doesn't mean you can't build a great relationship with media professionals – and as a result receive free publicity – but it does mean you have to take the right approach.

The key is to focus on the right media outlets media professionals. To create a win-win partnership, first look for individual reporters who cover topics and issues relevant to your company.

Read their stories. See what they tend to be interested in. Get a feel for the angles they take. Most reporters will not write about new products just because you ask them to if no real news is involved. Your goal is to become a source they can rely on for quotes, background information, opinions or even breaking news.

When you consider contacting journalists, remember:

  • Information sent to journalists who don't cover that subject will be ignored.
  • A non-targeted "pitch" will be ignored. Don't send the same information to hundreds of journalists. Do your homework and tailor your message to the individual journalist and his or her publication or media outlet.
  • Journalists might find you even if you don't contact them directly; make sure you're listed on your company website and also on other industry sites.
  • Focusing on what your product does will not get a response. Show how your product solves a customer's problem and you may provide a great angle for a story.

Make the Approach

Getting mentioned in the news or in the right publication is not just great public relations; it is also great marketing. Media coverage confers legitimacy and prestige upon your company and your products. So take the time to finesse your approach to reporters, editors and other media sources. Follow these steps:

Step One: Tailor Your Message. Read the publication; identify the right reporter, and create a unique pitch. One size definitely does not fit all. Show you know the publication and the reporter’s work by mentioning similar articles. If you can't find a way to tailor your message, you're pitching the wrong reporter or media source.

Step Two: Make the Reporter's Job Easier. Don't just describe your product, service or news – show how it fits into a larger context. Help the reporter understand market trends or consumer trends. Provide context for how your story is relevant to a broad audience. Provide facts and figures that make subsequent research easier.

Step Three: Show How the Other Half Lives. A great story has depth and balance. Help the reporter understand how customers can or do use your product. Offer to set up customer interviews. Provide case studies if you have them. The more information you can provide, the easier the reporter's job. Reporters are busy people, too, so making their job easier boosts the odds for success.

Step Four: Save the Attachments for Later. Most people don't open attachments from people they don't know. Provide enough information in the body of your email to attract interest. Once the reporter responds you can send other materials.

Step Five: Follow-up. Don't continue to contact a non-responsive reporter. If one does, follow up on any commitments you make to provide information, interviews, etc. You need the reporter more than he or she needs you.

Plant the Seeds

Even if you don't have compelling news to share, you can become a valuable media contact. Reporters need sources to provide information, reactions or opinions about the topics they cover. Do your homework and find the right media outlets and journalists; then send your contact information along with a brief list of subjects about which you can provide knowledge or insight.

Journalists need good sources, and while they may find you, why not give them a helping hand? The relationship you establish today could turn into valuable press down the road.