Media relations is often confused with the term public relations.
And while the two are very closely related, they are different.
Think of it this way.
Media relations is actually what you probably mean when you say ‘public relations’ (PR).
In this article, I’m going to explain exactly what we mean by media relations and why it should be at the heart of your broader marketing strategy.
I’m also going to give you 16 proven media relations tactics that are working great right now in 2022.
Let’s get to it.
What is Media Relations?
Put simply, media relations is the art of persuading a journalist to write a story about your brand/business.
This media coverage will be the vehicle that conveys certain key messages about your product to your target audience.
Media coverage can include news stories, feature story examples, comment/opinion pieces, media interviews, reviews and even product placements.
When media relations strategy works well it can be an incredibly effective tool to give your brand both awareness and credibility.
The endorsement that comes with being featured by the right media for your target audience can do wonders for trust levels in your business.
That’s why so many businesses have a list of the media that have featured them front and centre on their home page.
Like SEO expert Backlinko.
There are also significant SEO benefits to a media relations strategy – securing powerful backlinks – but I’m not going to go into that today.
This is for the media relations purists who want to know how to secure high impact mainstream media coverage, fast.
So media relations is basically just public relations then, right?
According to the UK’s respected Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) public relations is this:
Public Relations is about reputation – the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you.
PR or Public Relations is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.
The media just happens to be one of the most effective ways to build a positive reputation with a brand’s ‘publics’.
Pro Tip: Your publics are customers, employees, shareholders, regulators, critics, pretty much anyone who engages with your business in some way.
Of course, positive media coverage is not the only way to build a reputation.
In 2021 public relations jobs include many elements – from social media, influencer marketing and SEO, to stakeholder management and crisis communication.
This will give you a good overview of the many elements of an effective public relations campaign.
But today we are interested in media relations, and how to do it well.
Why You Need A Media Relations Strategy
You can say how great your business is until you are blue in the face.
If you’ve got the budget you can take out all the Facebook and Google ads you like to shout about the features and benefits of your business.
And that’s great.
But it’s not enough if you want to build a reputation that will create trust in your brand and drive sales.
This is where media relations comes in.
When a trusted media outlet writes about your business, on the merit of your story, it brings huge credibility to your brand.
Credibility = trust.
Trust = sales.
Think of it like this.
I am one of your customers and I read the New York Times on a daily basis.
One morning I read an article on their website that talks about your business as an innovator.
Suddenly you’re on my radar and crucially I’ve heard about you via a media source that I trust.
What’s the next thing I do?
Well, I’ll probably go and check your website and see what you’re all about – if your business is doing something that is relevant to me.
In this era of a billion tweets getting information through trusted sources carries real weight and is more important than ever.
This is why having a media relations strategy is crucial if you want credibility from a third-party validation.
Sure you can buy awareness.
Google ads and Facebook ads will do that for you.
But they ain’t cheap.
A clever and creative media relations campaign can get you featured on websites, in press, on radio, TV and on podcasts that reach literally millions of people.
That’s huge awareness for your brand right where your target customers consume information.
And not only do you get the uplift of the initial coverage, in the digital age that favourable media coverage stays online potentially forever.
Your reputation has a digital footprint.
Also, (and I did promise I wouldn’t go into SEO but these disciplines are so blurred nowadays), your search profile will be hugely improved by securing meaningful media coverage.
If the first page of Google has several pieces of positive media coverage about your business, from credible publications, people will trust your brand more.
And if you can secure backlinks with your media coverage it will improve the visibility of your own website.
3. Lead generation
Ultimately this is the objective of your media relations campaign.
To generate leads.
And to sell more or fundraise more. To get more people to back your campaign.
The combination of the awareness and credibility that your media relations strategy will create will drive lead generation.
If the strategy is right it can’t not.
Your job is then to measure the effectiveness of the campaign so you can show a direct line of sight between the media coverage you have secured and the bottom line.
There are lots of ways to conduct measurement and evaluation so you can make the case for future investment in media relations.
16 Proven Media Relations Tactics
It’s clear that a media relations strategy will add huge value to your marketing communications strategy.
Here some of the best media relations tactics to use in 2019.
1. Create a news watching brief.
2. Respond to media opportunities with Help a Reporter Out (HARO)
3. Answer Press opportunities from Response Source (if you are in the UK)
4. Use the #journorequest on Twitter
5. Compile a media list
6. Create a PR Stunt
7. Offer Comment and Opinion
8. Make sure your pitch is newsworthy
9. Target Local Press and Local TV
10.Think About Images
11.Go Against A Trend
12. Produce Kick-ass Case Studies
13. Don’t Forget Your Trade Press
14. Be Polite and Helpful
15. Awareness Days and Anniversaries
16. Make Yourself Available as a Talking Head
1. Create A News Watching Brief
This is essential for any media relations specialist.
You understand your business and the sector you work in so you need to start forward planning to know when there will be opportunities for you to add your voice to the media.
To make sure you don’t miss an opportunity you can use a paid-for forward planning tool such as Gorkana or Kantar Media to do this – or bootstrap it with some clever Googling.
This will allow you to know what reports, white papers, company results, legislation changes and the like are coming up that could affect your business.
Use this information to create a calendar for the next three months so you know when the news opportunities are coming.
Contact journalists at your target media ahead of time to offer comment and opinion on these upcoming news stories.
Make sure you know how to write a media pitch first.
They may invite you to write a blog, give a media interview or simply provide a quote.
These are all valuable ways to make your brand relevant to your customers.
2. Answer Media Opportunities With Help a Reporter Out (HARO)
What is HARO?
HARO is a simple, and free, way to connect with thousands of journalists from major media outlets around the world.
When you sign up to HARO you’ll receive daily emails with journalists looking for quotes, expert opinion, case studies, feature story examples and spokespeople for their stories.
It’s perfect for businesses like yours who want to be heard – it’s an essential media relations tool.
Crucially, by helping to give a journalist the information they need when THEY need it you have a much better chance of getting media coverage for your business. This is free PR.
How to do HARO
Firstly head over to the HARO website (it’s run by a company called Cision – don’t worry you are in the right place) and register an account as a media source.
Choose the “BASIC Free!” package – there will be more than enough media opportunities there to start with.
Once you have an account you’ll be able to select the types of media requests that are relevant to your business.
Choose wisely as you will get as many as 50 requests from journalists under each category.
Make sure you only select categories that are directly relevant to your business and its speciality.
Going forward you’ll receive three emails a day at 5.35am, 12:35pm and 5:35pm EST Monday through Friday.
Look out for source requests relevant to you and your industry, expertise or personal experience.
Your emails will look something like this:
It can be a little overwhelming to face so many media opportunities so only chose the ones that are fully relevant to your business.
For a full guide on how to get the most out of Help a Reporter Out go here.
3. Answer Press Opportunities From Response Source
What is Response Source?
Response Source is a lot like HARO but this is a paid-for service.
It’s still a lot cheaper than hiring a PR agency and will provide you with daily media opportunities relevant to your business.
Reporters are always looking for experts, case studies, thought leaders and insights to use as part of their work.
Response Source is the place where they can post those requests.
It’s a goldmine for people like you who have industry insights and an expert perspective to share with the world.
As soon as a journalist posts a request about a story that is relevant to your experience, you can respond and offer your help.
What’s great about Response Source is that you will know exactly what the journalist needs, rather than sending a story you hope might be of interest to them.
It’s also a great way to build relationships with writers working in your sector.
How to use Response Source
Click here to go to Response Source’s website and you’ll arrive at the home page. You’ll notice at the top of the page there are sections for either PR Services or Journalists.
Choose PR Services. Click on there and you’ll arrive at a page where Response Source invites you to ‘Reach the media.’
Select Journalist Enquiry Service as this is the place where you can start connecting with UK journalists to get the media coverage your business needs.
There are literally thousands of reporters posting requests. They are covering national press, consumer titles, trade publications and local news too.
Here is our full guide on how to use Response Source.
4. Use #journorequest On Twitter
Journalists all over the world use this hashtag to make requests for interviews and case studies.
Compile a media list of the journalists who work on your target media and then cross-reference them with #journorequest.
Use a platform such as Tweetdeck or Hootsuite to set alerts for #journorequest so you don’t miss easy opportunities to get media coverage for your business.
Opportunities will look like this:
When you reply to the journalist with your pitch keep it short and emphasise why you have a story.
Don’t fall into the trap of overloading them with advertorial information – they won’t care.
The journalist just wants your story.
5. Compile A Media List
Make sure you cover the basics of your media relations strategy.
That means having an up to date media list so you know which journalists to pitch to.
This is how to create a media list:
- Think of your customers, which media are they most likely to read?
- Get online and study these media platforms – magazines, newspapers, blogs, podcasts, TV shows. Get a real sense for the types of story they are after.
- Look at any stories they may have run that are similar to what your business does.
- Find out which journalist created that story.
- Dig out that journalist’s contact details (our free PR course gives you lots of tips on how to do that).
- Create a Google sheet and record all of the contact details for each journalist – email, telephone, twitter handle, most recent articles, what their favourite subjects are.
- Keep this list up to date – journalists switch jobs all the time.
- Then when you’re ready to pitch them make sure you know how to write a press release and use the best press release template.
6. Create a PR Stunt
PR stunts have had some bad, er, PR in recent years.
When they are blatant and forced the media tend to avoid them like the plague.
But there is still a place for a truly creative, imaginative and informative PR stunt – your media relations strategy should include one.
Take a look at these public relations examples for some superb PR stunts.
Golden Rules of PR stunts
- They must be authentic to your brand – don’t do something shocking that is out of line with your brand values just for the sake of it.
- Think of the headline you want to appear in the media and work back from there to form your PR stunt.
- The PR stunt is for the media, not for your customers.
- Having a truly creative – and often humorous idea – will get you a long way. A budget can also help – but money alone won’t do it.
- A PR stunt must push boundaries in some way, otherwise, the media will not care.
- Think visually when it comes to a PR stunt – the pictures will almost always be a big part of it.
- Be clever in your thinking and fast to react to current news trends.
PR Examples have some great, ahem, examples of PR stunts here from 2018.
7. Offer Comment And Opinion
One of the surest ways to build trust in your brand is to be seen as THE expert.
You want to be the ‘go-to’ thought leader for your industry.
And you want to take your expertise beyond your own blog.
That means writing opinion pieces and blogs for major media and your trade media.
It means appearing as a talking head on rolling news panel discussions.
How to offer comment and opinion
Study the trends and the patterns that are important to your business and offer a journalist a contrary view of these trends.
Research your target media and KNOW which are the slots where they accept comment pieces or blogs.
When you make your pitch present it in a way that will match this opportunity.
Here’s an example.
If you are a luxury food business, say a chocolate maker, and you have an idea for a comment piece about how climate change will affect chocolate prices, pitch it in a way that is relevant for say The Washington Post.
Use your news watching brief (See section 1) to get to journalists ahead of time with your blog and comment ideas.
If you can tip them off about an upcoming story that they not have known about they will love you for this.
It helps them look even more informed in front of their editor.
Have an opinion!
There’s no point in pitching a comment piece that is bland and boring.
Be unafraid to stand for something and to argue a case.
The media doesn’t do boring.
8. Make Sure Your Pitch Is Newsworthy
This may sound obvious but whatever you’re doing in terms of media relations make sure it’s newsworthy.
If you’re replying to HARO, if you’re offering comment on a rolling news story or if you’re pitching a story about your business – all of them must have news value – otherwise, you’re not doing media relations.
If you’re hosting an event, make sure you know how to write a press release for an event – one that contains a news story.
You must ensure your PR plan is grounded in news – that is the secret to a winning public relations campaign.
9. Target Local Press and Local TV
When you start your media relations work it can be tempting to focus on the big media brands.
But getting coverage in the likes of The Times, The Guardian, The New York Times, TechCrunch, The Evening Standard and Entrepreneur is hard.
It can take time to build up enough PR merit to be taken seriously by the national media.
In the meantime figure out how to get a story on the local news.
Getting local media coverage is vital for smaller, or regional businesses, whose customers can often all be in one geographic area.
Working with the local media you’ll discover that the bar for what makes a story newsworthy is much lower than the national press so you’ll have a much higher hit rate.
This can build your confidence and actually get you some great online coverage that the nationals will see when they come to think about covering your stories in the future.
Think of getting local media coverage as a stepping stone to the big league.
Everything you need to know about how to get a story on the local news is in this guide.
10.Think About Images
When you’re developing your media relations strategy make sure you think about the visual aspect if it.
Most news coverage features powerful images – the words are just half the equation.
You can have the greatest story in the world but if the images suck then you may miss out on the media coverage you are after.
That’s because in print (magazines and newspapers) the images you provide will dictate how the page is laid out by the sub-editor.
And online images are vital – no one wants to look at an endless slab of text.
The types of images to include will vary from a simple profile shot of your company spokesperson to a product image, company logo or a dramatic shot from your PR stunt.
The main thing is the quality needs to be high.
Axia Public Relations have a great guide on how to take photographs for the press.
11. Go Against A Trend
Much media coverage follows particular trends…
An explosion in vegan food.
Growth of mindfulness meditation.
The latest tech business to revolutionise how we exercise.
Society’s move to low-carbon living.
The role artificial intelligence will play in healthcare.
As a business, you can either try and jump on the back of one of these trends with a story of your own – or even better look to contradict it.
The media is always interested in the exception to the rule. That’s what makes news.
So in your next media relations strategy think about how you can swim against the tide.
12. Produce Kick-ass Case Studies
This one sounds simple – and it is – but most media relations campaigns fail because they don’t cover the basics.
Journalists, particularly feature writers, need case studies to illustrate the trends or patterns they are writing about.
Whether they’re writing for the national press or for your monthly trade magazine all journalists need vivid case studies.
If you can provide them with a well-written, detailed (full of colour) case study with great images they will love you.
That way when a journalist using HARO, Response Source or #journorequest puts out a request for a case study you can be the first to reply.
Often the first to reply is the one that gets used.
What you need in a media case study
- Full names of all the people included
- Detailed quotes on how your product/service has impacted them and improved their life
- A human-interest element that gives your case study an emotional hook and will make the reader keep reading
- High-resolution images of anyone quoted in the case study.
Examples of media case studies
==> An electric bike company: an interview with someone who bought your bike and now commutes to work and has transformed their health as a result.
==> The oat milk business: an interview with a customer who was dairy intolerant and whose life was improved by discovering your oat milk.
==> A law firm: a customer who managed to protect the intellectual property rights and make a success of their business.
13. Don’t Forget Your Trade Press
No matter what your business does there will be trade media that covers it.
From Health Investor and food industry bible The Grocer to fashion news outlet Drapers and PR Week – every sector has its own media.
Do not overlook these.
They may not speak directly to your customers but they will build your authority as a thought leader.
Your investors may well consume this media too.
Trade media will want:
- Stories about your new products
- Insight about customer trends (look at your customer data to identify these)
- News about senior appointments
- Comment/blogs on industry trends
The newsworthiness your business needs to get in these types of media is much less than the mainstream press so make the most of these media relations opportunities.
14. Be Polite And Helpful
Not so much a media relations tactic, more of an ethic.
Journalists are human too and you’re trying to build a relationship here.
It’s highly likely that your media relations work will require you to go back to the same journalists on repeated occasions – so play nice.
If you’re helpful and not too pushy they will be much more likely to use your stories.
But if you approach media relations thinking the journalist is there to do YOU a favour you won’t get far.
Journalists are getting at least 200 email pitches a day so make sure yours stands out but that you also do it with a smile.
Everyone wants to work with people who make their lives a little better.
15. Awareness Days And Anniversaries
Every media relations campaign needs a news hook.
It doesn’t matter how big or small your budget is the media will only cover your story if it has a news angle.
Awareness days are a tried and trusted way to make a campaign newsworthy.
And while it’s true that the media may be a little wary of the more contrived awareness days they are still a proven method to get free PR.
Awareness days have been constructed by organisations to give journalists a reason to write about a specific industry, cause or thing on an agreed date.
In their most serious form, awareness days help raise the profile of issues such as dementia, diabetes, road safety or cancer.
The education world uses them to promote literacy – think of World Book Day or Learning Disability Awareness Day.
Fun ones like National Lost Sock Memorial Day strike a very different tone!
As a marketing pro, awareness days can be an open goal and a brilliant opportunity for you to secure an attention grabbing headline.
This is how you can use awareness days in your media relations strategy.
16. Make Yourself Available As A Talking Head
Media relations isn’t just about the written word.
Think about how you can get your brand on TV, radio and podcasts.
The exposure and credibility you can get from regularly appearing on local and national broadcast platforms is huge.
One of the best ways to do this is as a talking head (no, not the band).
TV rolling news is full of panel discussions and opportunities for you to give an interview as an expert.
Here’s how you do it:
Set up your news watching brief (see section 1) so you know the media opportunities that are relevant to your business weeks before they happen.
Make sure you’ve had some basic media training so you’re ready for all types of questions. Then…
- Research – know your interviewer and their media platform
- Prepare – know the questions you will face, even if it’s just for a simple awareness days type interview
- Key messages – know what YOU want to get across in the interview
- Facts – be armed with stats to back up your argument
- Skilful answers – acknowledge the question and give the answer YOU want to give
- No ‘no comments’ – don’t ever do this
- Camera etiquette – smile, look at your interviewer, give clear, concise answers
- Dress to impress – the right threads for the right occasion
That’s Your Complete Introduction To Media Relations
Now it’s your turn.
Have a think about how you can build a media relations strategy for your business that will get the media coverage you are after.
Try combining a few of our 16 media relations tactics.
But if you do just one – create that news watching brief.
Knowing the news that is coming up in your business sector and contacting journalists ahead of time with story ideas is KEY to your media relations success.
And if you’re ready to take your PR work to the next level grab our PR Starter Kit.
Our must-have kit has every template, script, strategy and guide you’ll ever need to do PR – all in one place.