Public relations people have a role that is often misunderstood. Because many of us come from media backgrounds, it is sometimes expected that we will use our network of “mates” to secure good coverage of stories that would otherwise be rejected.
No doubt, practitioners themselves have been the most guilty of promoting this myth. But the truth is that contacts are the least important aspect of successful media relations.
Journalists, like the rest of us, operate in a competitive environment and have to look out for Number One.
This makes it realistic for any organisation to secure coverage if it understands some simple truths.
Below, we have outlined some of these.
- News sells, puff doesn’t. A good story will almost always get coverage but a blowing your own trumpet without hard news won’t.
- Most organisations have news. It just needs to be found and packaged properly, in a way that highlights its news value to relevant publications.
- Relationships with key journalists are valuable but not essential. All journalists need good stories that are appropriate to their round, with the relevant facts, interviews and images easily available. If you have those, a prior relationship isn’t necessary. Of course, a relationship between the journalist and the client will mean it is more likely they will call you for a comment, or think twice before overplaying a negative story.
- Stunts don’t work (unless they are awesome). To stage a successful media stunt you generally need a lot of money, a good visual, a justifiable reason for the stunt, and good timing. They are hard work and are only appropriate for a small number of situations.
- Most publications cannot be manipulated. Metro newspapers in particular have rules and standards and they rarely bend them. They won’t run a confected story, show you the story ahead of publication, or pull a story unless it’s demonstrably false.