Let’s talk about media relations. It’s often what companies seek help with because they want to earn media coverage – which can help them build and maintain their reputation, increase visibility and draw new prospects and customers their way.
While media coverage can be a powerful marketing tool for any business, earning it can be a challenge.
When you’re pitching news and stories to journalists, some practices will help you earn their trust – and in turn, garner the media coverage you seek.
On the other hand, there are some practices – shall we call them myths? – that will only hurt your cause.
Here are eight media relations myths to watch out for as you work with journalists:
8 Media Relations Myths
Myth #1: Everything that happens at my company is newsworthy
As you consider which stories and news to pitch to reporters, keep in mind – not everything a company does is newsworthy. You may think it’s newsworthy – but before you pitch it, ask yourself if a journalist would consider this worth covering. For example, if your company has won an award, share it internally because you want your entire team to know. However, if a publication gave the award, you can see how pitching that to another publication might not lead to any coverage.
If you doubt whether or not a piece of news is pitch worthy, ask your PR counsel for advice. And if the answer is no, there may be other ways to get the word out, for example, a blog post, social media posts, and so on.
Myth #2: Journalists prefer that you review an article before it’s published
I’ve had clients ask if they’ll be able to review a story written by a reporter before it’s published – you know, to make sure it’s “accurate.” “They’ll appreciate the extra set of eyes,” a client once suggested. The truth is, most journalists would be offended by such a request.
With media coverage earned through PR, companies can’t approve a story before it’s published. Every once in a while, a journalist might ask if you want to review a quote or a section of a piece to ensure it accurately reflects what you said. But this isn’t the norm.
If you want complete control over the contents of what is said, you need to buy an ad.
Myth #3: It’s standard practice for a journalist to share the questions they’ll be asking before the interview
When you agree to an interview with a reporter, they’re not under any obligation to share a list of questions they’ll be asking prior to the interview.
While it’s now more common for some reporters to conduct interviews via email versus phone or in-person – in which case they would send you the questions – don’t assume you’ll know what they’re going to ask if you’re speaking with them. Instead, be prepared to answer the questions you anticipate them asking.
For example, if you’re speaking with a business publication, they’ll ask questions related to your business, e.g., financials or hiring plans. If you speak with an industry trade publication, they may ask about your upcoming product plans.
Myth #4: When it comes to media relations, it’s all about who you know
There are some who believe you must have an established relationship with a reporter in order to gain any traction. This is simply false. Reporters DO read and use “cold” pitches. Sometimes, this can even be the start of building a relationship with a journalist.
Conversely, just because you have an established relationship with a journalist doesn’t guarantee they’ll cover your (or your client’s) news.
So, if you don’t know a reporter, don’t let that keep you from pitching. As always, make sure your pitch is as targeted as possible and use care not to waste their time.
Myth #5: Press releases are dead
From time to time, you may hear someone refer to the death of the press release. Fear not. Press releases are alive and well and are still often requested and used by journalists.
Do you always need to write a press release when pitching reporters? No. But they can be effective when used judiciously. Don’t forget about this valuable tool in your PR arsenal.
Myth #6: If you don’t get a response to your pitch in 24 hours, give up
Often, reporters won’t respond to the first email you send. They may not even read it the day you send it.
I’ve received replies days (even months!) later. Sometimes, reporters file your pitch for later use and may not respond to it when they first read it. Or, they may need a follow-up email, if they didn’t see the first one. After all, some receive hundreds of email pitches each week.
Sending one email and then giving up won’t get the results you’re looking for. Instead, be politely persistent—which doesn’t mean being a pest.
Also, remember that journalists don’t owe you anything. If they do express interest in your pitch, that’s a positive sign that you have a newsworthy story. But by no means are they obliged to respond to you. Just because this pitch didn’t land doesn’t mean a future one won’t – so you’ll want to do all you can to foster a positive relationship with reporters.
Myth #7: If you miss a deadline, that’s OK
Reporters work against deadlines, so when they need something, you need to deliver. Be sure to have whatever you may need—stats, data, images, customer references, etc.—lined up before you need it. That way, you can send it right over when the reporter responds to your pitch requesting more information.
Myth #8: Journalists are out to get you
I can promise you – reporters are not out to get you. Often, I find that clients are petrified of speaking with a reporter. It may help to know that journalists are working to get to the truth – so if you are truthful, you have nothing to fear.
Not every interview is like a 60 Minutes segment where the reporter is digging to uncover some unsavory element of your business. You should always prepare in advance when speaking with a reporter – and remember that anything you say is on the record – but don’t fear media interviews. Instead, view them as an opportunity to tell your story.
Effective Media Outreach Starts with Understanding How Journalists Work
Don’t allow these myths about media relations to trip you up as you work with journalists to earn media coverage. Understanding how reporters work, providing what they need, and being responsive can go a long way toward helping you reach your public relations goals.
Need assistance determining if your news is truly newsworthy? I work with B2B clients to help them earn more media attention for their stories and content.
About the author: You’ll find Michelle Garrett at the intersection of PR, content marketing and social media. As a public relations and communications consultant, Michelle’s articles and advice have been featured in Entrepreneur, Muck Rack, Ragan’s PR Daily, Attorney at Work, Freelancers Union and more. She is the co-host of #PRLunchHour on Twitter Spaces and is the founder and host of #FreelanceChat. In addition, Michelle was named among the top 10 most influential PR professionals by Commetric in 2021 and ranked no. 3 on the PR Measurement Twitter Influencer Index in 2021. She was named one of The Most Influential Tech PR Professionals in the World 2021, and a Top Digital PR Leader in 2020.