Last week I covered media relations from a PR professional’s point of view. This week I’m going to share some insights I gained from talking to Tom Ninestine, Breaking News Editor at the Pensacola News Journal.
A lot of what I’ve learned from Tom is parallel to what I learned from talking with Jeff last week.
When I asked Tom his thoughts on media relations he said this:
“[Newspapers] rely daily on a variety of sources to provide us with information. They all have news and information to share and we need that two-way communication open so that the information can get to the consumer”
Which brings us to the two-way communication that is public relations, the conversation. Tom is our middle man, our channel to reaching our publics, and he looks to us for information because he has people looking to him.
Building that relationship.
So, where do we start?
“Picking up the phone and introducing yourself is the easiest way to meet someone” says Tom.
He also encouraged putting a face to the voice on the phone. Ways to do this are by inviting the reporter or editor to your organization for a media tour or by inviting them to lunch.
The lunch allows for an informal meeting of getting to know one another both professionally and personally, or in Tom’s words, seeing each other as “real people.”
*ETHICS NOTE: It is important that each individual pay for their own meal. It ensures that there is no hint of bribery. Also, according to Tom it is a practice of newspaper reporters to not accept gifts.
I asked Tom for advice for those of us entering the field. What he had to say:
- “Establish a relationship.
- Be honest when providing information. If you intentionally deceive us, we’ll be skeptical about future dealings.
- If you don’t know something, say so. It’s OK.
- Make it clear to your bosses that if your organization decides to not comment, we will still do a story. We will print the story with or without you; we would rather have you in the story.
- Be available. The newspaper prints seven days a week and is online for more than 18 hours a day. We rarely badger someone, but be willing to be available during off hours.
- Remember that the people who get quoted most are those who make themselves available.”
I tried to summarize his words, but there was so much helpful information it was impossible to.
It all goes back to the relationships you build with the media as to how effective your media relations is going to be.
Building trust by being honest forms that friendship that I talked about in my last post.
Things to Remember(or to learn):
Respect the reporter: they’re busy too. Learn their deadlines and how you can help them, help you.
Write like them: The less that have to fix, the better. Learning AP style will pay off for you when working with them.
Be honest: A point to remember is what Tom said: “it’s okay to not know something.”
Be genuine: Public relations in all aspects is about building mutually beneficial relationships. Remember that and you’ll be able to make it in this field.