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media relations

By Emma Smith

Media relations—the cultivation of a mutually beneficial relationship between a company and journalists—is an instrumental part of a well-oiled public relations campaign. According to research by Cision, “Audiences view earned media as the most authentic form of marketing.” Indeed, for many firms, a strategically placed article can lend invaluable third-party validation and credibility, which may ultimately result in a boost to their bottom line.

It comes as little surprise, then, that some 75% of companies over the next five years plan to increase overall spending on public relations, an investment that can yield tremendous ROI. However, and it can be easy to overlook the work—the blood, sweat, and tears—that goes into a media relations “win.”

Any seasoned PR pro will tell you it takes much more than the dissemination of a press release to get killer coverage. For the most part, there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes, and a great deal of strategic posturing, persuasion, and persistence.

Unfortunately, every now and again, a client emerges who has the potential to unravel all that effort by failing to recognize a few key fundamentals of media engagement. This overstepping of boundaries can present a significant threat to the credibility of their company and their PR team alike.

With that, here are some media relations mantras—rules of engagement—to be aware of:

Reporters do not owe you anything

Like many PR professionals, I have developed longstanding media relationships that were established and built on a foundation of mutual trust and respect. My reporter contacts understand I will do everything in my power to preserve my clients’ best interests, while also ensuring my clients deliver valuable content that is original and factual in nature.

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In turn, I respect journalists’ need to present an objective viewpoint and produce content that delivers value to their readers. I am therefore cognizant that not every article is going to be a glowing endorsement, full of gushing praise for my clients and their services; that is simply not how this process works. For anyone intent on retaining tight control of the narrative, advertising is probably a better fit.

It’s also important to realize that reporters will often talk to alternate sources as a means of adding depth to a story, and this can result in the inclusion of a viewpoint that may be contrarian to your own. A third-party source might even cast aspersions on your stance, sometimes undermining your strategic vision or calling into question the validity of your product offering.

Unfortunately, every now and again, a client will request—or worse, demand—that a reporter make substantial edits to an already-published piece. This is acceptable when there are significant factual inaccuracies to be addressed, and most media sources will quickly address the oversight and appreciate the clarification. However, if the objective is to manipulate an article so that it reflects more favorably on you and your brand, you will likely receive a dismissive response.

You need your press contacts more than they need you

In 2016 alone, per the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, more than 25 million Americans were estimated to be starting or running a new business. That’s 25 million firms that are likely looking to elevate their brand and make their presence known.

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