Establishing relationships with Media as a PR and Media Practitioner

PR-Skills to apply for future success!
April 5, 2017
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Establishing relationships with Media as a PR and Media Practitioner


Media Relations can be described as the relationship that a company or organisation develops with various media that is made up of Editors, Journalists, Writers, Bloggers, Vloggers and Photographers. Public Relations is the way you communicate a specific message with the public and media on behalf of the companies and organisations to a targeted audience. However, when it comes to media, whether you are a PR Practitioner or a Media Practitioner, the ground rules and fundamentals remain the same.

Having a solid relationship and knowing your media is a significant factor. It is crucial that you understand what stories would work for which media – there is nothing more uncomfortable than sending a press release to a whole list of media contacts, hoping that they use your story and then the story end’s up not being relevant to their audience. We call this Spray and Pray, this has given the PR industry a bad reputation with media.

How to begin the relationship with the media?

“A firm, hearty handshake gives a good first impression, and you’ll never be forgiven if you don’t live up to it”, said P. J. O’Rourke, words to live by in the Communication’s Industry.

The longer you work with your clients the more you will realise that there are strategic media most of your press releases will go to. These strategic media contacts must be your priority to build a strong relationship with. This can be done by meeting with them in person but is not essential (although preferred), a Skype Meeting or a FaceTime Call is borderless and don’t have as much traffic as the M1 in Johannesburg on a Monday morning. A coffee or lunch is perfectly acceptable for the first meeting, but prepare before you meet. Ask yourself as a Practitioner and representative of your company the following questions:

  • What is the purpose of this meeting?
  • What can be achieved in this meeting that cannot be achieved through an e-mail or a telephone call?
  • What are the key points for discussion?
  • Is this person you are meeting with the correct person based on your points of discussion?
  • What will this member from the media be taking away from this meeting (will it be a story, the promise of focused press releases)?

How do I maintain the relationship with the media?

Once you have met with the media, it is important to maintain the relationship. Give them a call before you send a press release to inform them that a story is coming their way. This ensures continual communication and almost instantaneous feedback once the release is in their inbox. When a few weeks have past and you haven’t had anything relevant to send the media, give them a call to check in and hear what hot topics they are working on. This will give you an indication of possible opportunities for a story or expert quote to accompany their story. It is imperative to remember that you are there to help the media as much as they are there for you and your client.

“The relationship between PR practitioner and journalist is a symbiotic one. There is immense value in nurturing PR contacts as they can often mean the difference between meeting a deadline or apologising to an editor. The same works in reverse. That said there is a need to respect the boundaries and professional skills of both. A PR is not just a client monkey and has constraints they have little to no control over. A journalist has constraints of their own. While a journalist should never accept a client demanding to read the work or edit the words, a PR should never accept abuse either. I value my PR contacts enormously. I can be an ass on deadline, but they’ve saved my skin more times than I can count”, said Tamsin Oxford, Director of Coffee Content and a well-known Freelance Journalist in South Africa.

Houston Chronicle perfectly captures the sensitivity of the relationship by saying that relationships between PR Practitioners and media professionals are built on mutual respect and common goals. “Both groups want to reach the public with good stories and information people can use to improve their lives”, suggests Rosanna Fiske, CEO of Public Relations Society of America, in a 2011 article for PR and media professionals share the goal of educating, entertaining and expanding their audiences. Through honest and continuous communication, the relationship can be mutually beneficial”,

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