Building a strong network of media contacts is a crucial element to public relations and business. With 2019 well underway and communications strategies being finalised, establishing a connection with journalists personally or through your business should become a priority.
Earned media is vital to reaching millions of readers
According to research by Roy Morgan in 2018, 16.1 million Australians over the age of 14 (that’s almost 80%) now read or access newspapers in an average seven-day period via print or online platforms. Although it is true that print readership has steadily declined over the years, there are still 7.3 million Australians overall who read print newspapers, including over 5.2 million who read weekday issues, more than 4.4 million who read Saturday editions and nearly 4 million who read Sunday titles.
Online platforms are making it easier for people to access news, and journalists are the gatekeepers to this audience. Creating a solid news story that can be passed on to a reliable contact in the media means your name, business and content has the chance to be passed on to millions of people.
Some journalists write for multiple publications
Having the right media contact can result in your story being seen by thousands of extra readers across several suburbs, regions and even states. Many papers and news outlets belong to the same media group, resulting in a story written by a single journalist finding its way – word for word – on more than one platform. Distribution and residential boundaries may result in some journalists, especially editors who still write stories for their publication, taking charge of a whole region and the multiple local papers that circulate within it. At minimum, newspapers today also post stories on a dedicated news website, so a story in the paper typically means it will also be available to an online audience.
Trust increases likelihood of publication
Journalists also need a strong list of contacts and will pay close attention to those who provide them with interesting, news-worthy stories. Unless your story is ground-breaking, exclusive and undeniably engaging, it is difficult to cold-contact a journalist with instantly positive results. A journalist you contact regularly will be more likely to run your stories if they recognise your name or company to be a reliable source of quality content.
Media contacts improve crisis communications
When word of an incident or sensitive information finds its way into a journalist’s hands, it can lead to the production of a negative story which can damage a reputation. However, it is a general rule for journalists to be impartial, which often means the damaged party may be contacted for a right of reply. If the journalist has your contact information close at hand, they will know to come straight to you, giving you a chance to share your side of the story and hopefully minimise any further potential damage.
How to build a strong relationship with your media contacts
Deliver quality content that is worth their time. Put heavy consideration into a story’s impact on its audience – is this important to readers, or is it advertorial and self-serving? Also ensure your content is well-crafted and engaging, rather than shallow or poorly written.
Communicate consistently, not persistently. Show your media contacts that you are reachable, cooperative and a reliable source for quality news. You don’t want to be thought of as an email spammer and end up in their junk mail, so avoid diluting your relationship by pestering them with inane updates, constant follow-ups and check- ins or weak stories.
Provide your media contact with all the resources they need. Sometimes this isn’t possible, but you increase your chance of a story being run if there is sufficient material for the journalist to use. Some journalists receive media releases attached to an email that reads ‘image upon request’. This might sound like a viable strategy to gauge interest in the story, but it’s a bad habit to get into. Accompanying a quality media release with high resolution imagery and some background context as to why your story is newsworthy is always a step in the right direction.