Fresh eyes

How to create a modern media relations strategy

Modern media relations strategy

Written by Michael Gregory,
Director at Freshfield

Back in the relative ‘dark ages’, when I used to have to physically post a press release to a journalist, a media relations strategy was pretty straightforward.

Get to know the publications read by your client’s customers, get to know the journalists at those publications, give them the right information (on time) and wait for the deluge of media coverage.

Know what they want, how they want it, and when. It was a simple but powerful mantra. Not forgetting to thank them too as etiquette was (and still is) an important aspect of developing powerful relationships alongside the great media coverage.

Different world, same rules

Though these basic principles still apply, the social media revolution, the explosion of user-generated content and the rise of the ‘marketing influencer’ have clouded the issue.

The media is not simply print or broadcast. We must consider social media, bloggers, vloggers, forums, discussion boards, bookmarking sites and specific interest networks.

Even when it comes to managing an organisation’s reputation in the so-called traditional media, the considerations are more complex. For example, will your target publication run a story that’s already been covered elsewhere online? Is it best to publish content on your own website first or offer an exclusive to a media outlet?

‘Owned’ versus ‘Earned’ channels

We’re in an age where the biggest brands, like Apple for instance, don’t bother with a traditional media relations strategy at all. They break the news themselves and then let their millions of fans create content for them. When so many speculate about the company’s next product online, they do Apple’s marketing for it.

Of course, not every business is Apple, but even many smaller businesses are shunning third party media altogether and having an ‘owned channels’ first policy when it comes to broadcasting their news and content. They’d rather pay to sponsor their own content, using social media to target a highly-engaged follower base and get their content seen by the right people.

That said, other businesses know their target audiences still read printed newspapers and magazines and that they must still engage with the mainstream press to reach that audience.

There’s not always a right or wrong answer. It depends on the business, who their audience is and what they are trying to achieve. Most successful campaigns will use a range of channels and tactics.

Six steps to getting the basics right

So, with all this going on, how do we create a modern media relations strategy? Well, as I said earlier, this is where the ‘old’ rules apply.

1. Define your objectives

What do you want to achieve from your media relations activity? Is it to garner support for a cause, highlight an important issue, change behaviour, create anticipation, raise awareness of a product, stimulate purchasing activity or drive traffic to a website? Once objectives have been defined, this will most likely shape your strategy.

2. Develop your messages

What messages do you want to communicate through your media relations activity? These need to be simple, impactful and compelling. Refine and sharpen these so they resonate with audiences. Think how many times Theresa May’s recent Brexit speech mentioned the words ‘Global Britain’ and you’ll see how this simplicity and repetition can be achieved.

3. Determine who you most want to reach

Once objectives and messages have been confirmed, you need to find out which are the best publications, journalists, and influencers to help you. There are various online resources to help you define and contact the people you need to build relationships with.

4. Build relationships

Find time to talk to and understand your prospective contacts. Remember though, that journalists in today’s digital newsroom are time poor, so a blanket email or phone call out of the blue asking them to cover your story won’t cut it. Invest time to find out how they operate, when and how they prefer content and, more importantly, what really interests them. Be to-the-point, but also approachable, responsive and helpful. Otherwise you’ll get the phone slammed down on you like this.

5. Provide quality content

Sounds obvious but different media outlets and marketing influencers will want information in different shapes and forms – it could be audio, video, images, infographics, or simply product samples. The one constant will be quality. If you’re not providing well-written copy, great images, quality video or well-designed artwork, don’t bother. Tailor your content to the recipient too.

6. Measure

The final piece in the jigsaw, which is the same with any PR and marketing strategy, is to measure and evaluate. A number of evaluation techniques can be used including metrics like key message penetration, positive or negative sentiment, number of shares, number of views, number of comments, number of backlinks, increase in website traffic and so on.

These six steps will give you the basis to build a strong modern media relations strategy depending on the nature of your project or campaign.

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