What Communicators Need to Know: Media Relations During COVID-19

Sandra Fathi, President, Affect

When a major disaster hits, whether it’s COVID-19 or another event that puts people, property and businesses in peril, it’s often difficult to understand the best path forward to approaching the media. Although companies may have information or announcements that can benefit the public, there is a sensitive line between providing helpful and valuable information and being seen as trying to profit on the back of a tragedy. It’s important to understand when, how and with what type of information to approach the media as well as employees, customers, and other stakeholders. In this article, we’ll examine the current media climate and help communicators evaluate how and when to approach the media with crisis-related, and non-crisis-related messages to ensure a receptive audience and productive approach.

Understanding the Crisis

Having worked in this industry for more than 20 years, I’ve seen my share of crises. Some we anticipated – like Y2K or Hurricane Sandy. Others, we did not – 9/11 and the 2008 dot-com tech bubble. Coronavirus is somewhere in between. For those with global clients or business operations, you may have heard the soft warnings coming out of Asia late last year or early in January. However, COVID-19 seemed to only hit crisis levels in the U.S. media, as of last week. No matter what the crisis is, understanding its immediate and long-term impact will help you navigate the media landscape. Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Is this a human or economic tragedy, or both? Whenever we are dealing with severe physical injuries and loss of human life, it is a much more sensitive time than economic impact alone. Certainly, in the current crisis, we don’t know who may be grappling with a devastating situation of themselves or a loved one with a severe reaction to the virus or just overall anxiety around the potential gravity of our circumstances.
  • Is this an acute crisis or ongoing event? In an acute crisis, it may be best to wait until the event passes or the media cycle has moved on. However, if it is an ongoing event, such as we are facing now with Coronavirus, your business may need to move ahead with plans in order to ensure business continuity.
  • Is this a local, regional or global crisis? Does it impact all markets/sectors/segments of society or is it limited? At the moment, no one is immune to the effects of Coronavirus, which makes it a unique, global crisis that impacts every walk of life and every market segment. However, it has impacted certain sectors more, such as travel and hospitality, while others less, such as cybersecurity. Depending upon your company’s industry and target audience, the media may be more open to covering non-crisis-related stories.

    Anticipating Media Reception

    Prior to pitching your news, it’s important to take the temperature of the media landscape in order to determine receptivity to your message. This can also help you guide your executive team to understanding what can and cannot be achieved from a communications standpoint during a crisis. A few actions you can take include:

    • Conduct a quick media audit. Just taking a look at the headlines on some of your target outlets or publications will give you a good indication of the percentage of news that is crisis- or non-crisis-related. If you review the home page of a publication’s site and you see that more than 50% of the news is crisis related, you still have 50% of reporters writing about non-crisis news. Try to evaluate the types of topics and stories they seem most open to.
    • Monitor journalist queries and social media sites. Free services like HARO and Qwoted allow journalists to send out requests to PR people for leads and sources for stories. We are still seeing ones that are not Coronavirus-related at the moment. In addition, if you are connected with or follow journalists on social media, many of them will share the types of stories they are working on or sources they are seeking.
    • Ask. There is nothing wrong with asking journalists, especially those you may work with on a regular basis, if they are open to non-crisis stories at the moment. Be human about it – ask about them, their health, their family and if they are impacted. Many journalists are also freelancers these days and they may be concerned about their own livelihood. A word of support and understanding can also go a long way to building a relationship for the long-term.

    Evaluating Company News & Value

    During normal times, it’s important to be able to look objectively at a company’s message and evaluate its ‘newsworthiness’ before approaching the media. However, sometimes management, stakeholders or even regulatory requirements dictate the need for specific press releases or media outreach even when communicators would typically advise against it. During a crisis, it’s all the more focus on relevant, valuable and timely news.

    • Provide educational insights, unique perspectives or informed predictions related to the crisis. If your company has the ability to educate the public on an element of the crisis, provide insight into how customers or consumers are grappling with pertinent issues or you may have access to proprietary data that can help identify trends or movements in your industry or market — these are valuable news stories for the press. In the current COVID-19 crisis, people want to know how companies are faring in China now that it seems to be on the downslope of the viral infections, while others who have yet to feel the full impact might want to know best practices to prepare their businesses.
    • Share your company’s plan to help your employees, customers, community or your own business through this challenging time. Media want to help others overcome a crisis by reporting on best practices from other companies. Perhaps, your organization can pivot its resources to assist in crisis mitigation – from restaurants offering food for the homeless, seniors or those in quarantine to videoconferencing services offering free access to K-12 schools, there are thousands of companies doing good even in the worst of times.
    • It’s not the time for a hard sell. During a crisis, there will still be companies and media outlets that are forging ahead with business as usual. They are planning next month’s product launches and next week’s publication. Media need non-crisis-related news to fill those pages and that airtime. We just need to tread with caution and be mindful of the toll of the crisis at large. I’ll never forget in the early afternoon of September 11th when the whole world was glued to the TV trying to comprehend the magnitude of the day’s horrific events, I received a call from a local car dealership to let me know about a sale on the new models. Needless to say, I was so infuriated that I still think about it every time I pass that dealership and I have never set foot in there since.

    For every business, this is an especially challenging time and one in which public relations may be one of the few lifelines to sustain their business and drive demand for products and services. We have to consider both the immediate and long-term needs, of our organizations as well as the media and the public, when conducting outreach. In any crisis situation, there is tremendous fear and uncertainty, but there is also an opportunity to demonstrate compassion, humanity and leadership. This applies to working with media as well as within your own organization, your customers and your community.

    Written by Sandra Fathi, President, Affect. This article originally appeared in Business Wire’s blog on April 1, 2020.
    If you need any assistance on COVID-19-related crisis communications, Affect is offering limited crisis services free of charge to assist organizations in need.

    2019 PRNEWS Media Relations Conference

    Live Event: December 12 & 13, 2019 • Washington, DC

    Join us for the 2019 PRNEWS Media Relations Conference at the Washington Marriott Georgetown on December 12-13. Soledad O’Brien will be keynoting and you’ll hear from influential journalists across a variety of media outlets. We’ll find and share new ways to successfully meet your biggest media relations challenges, including coping with shrinking newsrooms and fewer beat-specific reporters, media relations measurement, the ROI of brand newsrooms and as always, getting journalists to open and read your email pitches.

    Measure Media Relations for Outcomes, Not Outputs

    Measure Media Relations for Outcomes, Not OutputsEric Koefoot, President & CEO, PublicRelay

    In December, I spoke at the PR News Media Relations Conference about the importance of aligning your media relations KPI’s to the goals of the C-suite. Often in communications analytics, people get bogged down counting keywords – or worse, relying on largely discredited AVE’s.  But basing your media relations strategies on these metrics are misleading and do not show your executives how your team contributes to the goals of the business.

    CEO’s and the rest of the C-suite care about outcomes, not outputs. Outcomes are results that move the business forward, while outputs are the tasks media relations pros execute everyday like press releases, pitches, and social media promotion. Outputs are important to your team and necessary to achieve those business outcomes, but your CEO does not need to know the tactics executed to get there. When determining your media relations KPI’s, you should base them on the business outcomes you want to achieve. If your organization’s goal is to be known as an innovator or thought leader in the industry, these goals become the basis of your metrics.

    Two important areas that media relations can create business outcomes are message penetration and influencer conversion.

    Message Penetration

    Amplifying key messages is one of the most important ways communicators can contribute to the reputational goals your C-suite cares about. Measuring which topics are pulling through in your coverage and their sentiment in relation to your brand or position is very important to measure progress on your reputational goals. Knowing which messages resonate with your top tier authors and outlets, as well as how certain messages perform on each social platform is also key to maximize message penetration. Repositioning your brand, changing opinions, or even affecting stock price are business outcomes your CEO will care about that result from increasing positive key message penetration.

    Measuring message penetration can also mean identifying gaps in industry coverage, or whitespace opportunities. Industry whitespace is a great opportunity for your brand to establish thought leadership and own a new conversation, again creating a measurable business outcome.

    Influencer Conversion

    Engaging the right influencers will amplify your messages and lend credibility to your brand. But what makes an influencer right for your brand and how can you identify them?

    Understanding an influencer by topic, sentiment, audience, and social reach will help you identify your top influencers for a particular message. It’s not just about the “beat” that they cover. Instead of sending a mass email, target your outreach to influencers who you know have written about your topic favorably in the past. Understanding an author’s social profile and reach will also help you refine your pitch. Do they have more sharing on a specific platform when their stories are positive about a topic or negative? . This will dramatically increase the chances they engage with your message. In fact, a large professional services client successfully and positively engaged 81% of their top 50 influencers with targeted outreach based on researched data points.

    Incorporating third-party influencers into your influencer strategy also lends credible, unbiased support to your brand message or position. Third-party influencers like academics, industry experts, and political pundits are important brand allies. Strategic engagement will yield measurable outcomes that your CEO and board truly care about.

    Build Credibility with Measurement

    Setting your media relations KPI’s based on business outcomes will make your efforts measurable from the start. Use data to optimize your strategies throughout campaigns to achieve the desired outcomes, then use it again to demonstrate the business impact of your efforts to the C-suite. Delivering consistent, measured results will build your credibility and ensure you’re seen as a strategic partner to the business.

    About the Author: Formerly the CEO of U.S. News Ventures, CEO at Five Star Alliance, CFO and later VP Global Sales at Washington Post Digital, Eric brings substantial media experience and understanding to the team at PublicRelay. Eric holds a Bachelor’s in Engineering from MIT and an MBA from the Sloan School at MIT. 

    Three Tips for Managing Media Relations During a Crisis

    Three Tips for Managing Media Relations During a Crisis - Ronn TorossianRonn Torossian, CEO, 5WPR 

    A good crisis management strategy will help you educate your audience and retain brand trust. Convention PR tactics might push you towards keeping a low profile and focusing on internal issues, however this may not always be the best way about a crisis situation. While it’s important to keep your cool and not make any rash decisions, it’s also important to engage your audience and the media so that everyone is on the same page. Here are a few tips on how to manage media relations when things are going sour:    

    Make the best use of your industry media contacts

    In the event of a crisis, it’s crucial to use the relationships you’ve built with industry media contacts. They’re the ones who understand better than most your industry and how your organization fits into the industry at large. 

    You will be thankful that you don’t have to go through the whole process of explaining your company and your industry, especially when you’re already spending so much time trying to mitigate a crisis. If you’re working in a complex industry that deals with a lot of regulatory issues, then they’ll help you tell the story in a clear way. 

    Use these contacts to educate general interest reporters. It’ll help them play catch up with your industry. This is why having strong relationships with prominent journalists that cover your industry is so important! 

    Start building a brand voice from day one

    Make sure you are focused on building your brand voice from the get-go, so it’ll come in handy when you need it the most. The importance of having consistency and authenticity couldn’t be stressed enough – even in a crisis. Be vigilant in keeping everyone in the organization on board with the brand messaging, especially those in the spotlight. 

    Consistency in brand voice during a crisis will drastically improve optics and help you retain trust when it’s the most important. Communications should never be an afterthought – it messes up the entire brand narrative. Instead, create communications that is consistent with your company reacts and what its values are. 

    Delegate talking points in your crisis plan 

    Even if you have a media spokesperson, there might be many voices and people involved during a crisis. Therefore, when you make your crisis plan, have people across the company prepared with what to say in different situations. A document that reads ‘if X happens then X’ is all you need to make you seem calm and organized when your organizations speak on your crisis to the press or public. 

    This document should be fluid and always evolving, since there can be many different variations of a crisis. What’s important is there is a clear and consistent message being sent out that is in line with the brand’s values.  

    Additionally, having such a plan in place will help you improve the speed in which you deliver messages externally, and we all know that speedy responses can make all the difference in a crisis.

    About the Author: Ronn Torossian is CEO of leading US PR agency 5WPR.


    Unbeatable Media Relations Pitches

    To learn the fundamentals of the PESO model, download PRSA’s new “An Introduction to the PESO Model” Thought Leadership Report, by Gini Dietrich. https://www.prsa.org/peso_booklet/



    Gini Dietrich, Founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich

    Now that you understand what the PESO model is and how owned media fits into it, it’s time to move on to earned media—the backbone of every communicator’s job.

    This isn’t going to be your grandmother’s media relations, however. Your sole goal for marrying owned and earned media is to gain a link to your website.

    That means you will pitch blogs and media outlets—those that have slightly higher domain authority than your own.

    And you will not pitch interviews or features or stories about your organization. You will create contributed content.

    It’s very, very important you pitch it this way. Earned media is where you’ll get the high-quality link back to your site that Google values.

    If you don’t get the link (or links), your content will probably just hang out on page two of search results and not work for you while you sleep. But if you marry owned and earned media, Google will see you’re not only an expert on the topic, other highly valuable sites do, too.

    I’m going to repeat this: it’s very, very important you pitch it this way.

    Craft Your Media List

    Head over to Google and do a search for your priority keyword—the one you put in your main hub of the content map you did last week. Which media outlets and blogs show up on the first page? What about the second page? I’d even venture to the third page of results for this exercise.

    Let’s use “earned media” as the example.

    When I do a search for that term, there are lots of blogs and media outlets on the first page. For example:

    ●      Inc.

    ●      HubSpot

    ●      Forbes

    ●      Content Marketing Institute

    ●      AdWeek

    When I move to the second and third pages, I have even more options:

    ●      AdAge

    ●      Social Media Today

    ●      BrandWatch

    ●      Small Biz Trends

    ●      O’Dwyer

    Just glancing at this list, and because I have a gazillion years of media relations experience, I know they all accept contributed content in some form. That makes these 10 outlets my media list for my “earned media” content.

    But, if you don’t know, you’ll have to do some research before you finalize your list. Go to each site and find their editorial calendar and guidelines. Every one of them has a way for you to contact them and you’ll use that to begin your earned media outreach.

    Once you’ve solidified your list, add them to your content map.

    You Have an Unfair Advantage

    This part of your content plan is where you, as a communicator, have an unfair advantage over other content marketers. Even if you’re only a year out of school, you know how to pitch an editor. And that’s exactly what you’re doing here.

    Now it’s time to pitch! In your email to the contributed content or guest post editor—whichever term they use—introduce yourself and note you are interested in writing a piece about your main topic.

    It doesn’t have to be the exact thing you have in your content map so you can go off the range here. You do want it to be on topic, but you can choose another “earned media” story that works for the blog or media outlet. It has to be on the topic because…

    I Call Baloney

    …you are going to link to something you published on your own site in your contributed piece.

    This is the part where every communicator on earth gets tripped up. EVERYONE says, “No one will include my link!”  That just isn’t true.

    Because we are people pleasers by nature, we’re scared to ask media outlets and blogs to include our links. But in all of the years I’ve been doing this, I’ve only seen two publications refuse—TechCrunch and MediaPost.

    My advice for those two publications is to avoid them. You can pitch them for other stuff, but for marrying your owned and earned media, they are not useful to you.

    Without a link to your incredible content creation masterpieces, earned media will do you no good. You have to, have to, have to get a link from them to you. No excuses. No exceptions. Just do it.

    What Do I Pitch?

    And now comes the inevitable question: do I pitch what I have already published on my site?

    The answer is no. You do not pitch what you’ve already published on your site. No media outlet in the world will run something that has already been published elsewhere (unless it’s syndicated, but that’s a different strategy, altogether).

    What you do want to do with your already published content, though, is link to it in the content you’ve pitched to media outlets. Today we call this contributed content, but it’s also known as editorial, OpEds, bylines, or guest blog posts.

    The next question I get is: if I pitch content, will they tell me no when I ask for the link?

    The short answer is no. The long answer is there are a handful of media sites and blogs that will not include a link to any external site. From my perspective, that’s short-sighted on their part. From your perspective, skip those sites. They may be good for other communications efforts, but not if you want to attribute your efforts to results. (That or buy AirPR and then you don’t have to have a link in any of your articles.)

    Once we get through those two questions, seasoned communicators start to freak out. They’re concerned no one will take their content, or they won’t get the link or myriad other reasons to procrastinate and not do the work.

    Stop it.

    There are plenty of other marketers who now pitch contributed content for the sole purpose of link building. Do you really think an SEO expert can do this and you cannot? Earned media is the backbone of our discipline, which means you have the upper hand when pitching.

    Make sure your content is valuable, interesting, and exclusive and get to work.

    Formula to Craft an Unbeatable Media Relations Pitch

    If you’re still nervous about pitching this way, here is a formula for crafting an unbeatable media relations pitch that drives measurable results:

    1. Start with your priority keywords.
    2. Identify media outlets already publishing—and ranking for—your keywords.
    3. Create high-quality owned content on those topics.
    4. Craft a personal pitch, that reflects what you know they’ve published, and shows your expert’s thought leadership in that area, as supported by your owned content.
    5. Optimize your content with anchor text and a link to something very specific on your website, such as the article you wrote on the same topic.

    If you follow this process, not only will you do all of the great things communications does (build awareness and thought leadership and credibility), you’ll increase website visitors, search rankings, and marketing qualified leads.

    Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

    The Importance of Empathy in Media Relations

    Michael Smart

    Back in the old days, I was unconsciously obsessed with protecting myself from failure. I thought a lot about “leveraging” my media lists or my relationships with journalists to convince them to cover my story ideas. How do you do it? How do you do it effectively?

    These days, I realize that a perspective like that actually built a wall between me and the people I should have been trying to help.

    It’s important to realize we’re all the same, that everybody has relationship angst or family problems or worries about their health etc. — even journalists. When you get to that view, then you’re able to develop a good understanding of what life might be like in the other person’s shoes.

    The word for this ability is empathy.

    But I don’t mean the empathy they teach in the marketing books. That’s the version they tell you to “turn on” so you can sell something to someone. I’m talking about the real empathy. You can’t fake this one.

    It means that you don’t just know the checklist of attributes that makes something newsworthy. You know what it’s like to be a journalist or blogger tasked with meeting a content or engagement quota.

    You don’t just learn a template for writing a good pitch email. You can put yourself into your target journalist’s ergonomically correct chair and feel what it’s like to process 150 emails at 4 p.m. and still leave enough time to get another post up before picking up their son at daycare.

    You’ve either done the work to have that kind of empathy or you don’t have it. People can feel the difference. Doing the work to have it is worth it, because once that work is done, you wake up and realize that you’ve outgrown words like “leverage.”

    Do YOU want to be “leveraged?” Of course you don’t.

    I think the best kind of media relations, and the most effective kind of media relations (long term), is the kind where you actually explain everything you’re doing out loud, right to your media contacts, and they keep coming back for more.

    Michael Smart teaches PR professionals how to dramatically increase their positive media placements. He’s engaged regularly by organizations like General Motors, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Georgia Tech to help their media relations teams reach new levels of success. Want to dive deeper into Michael’s tips for landing more media coverage? Register for his Secrets of Media Masters workshop: https://bit.ly/mrmasters

    Visual Content and Media Relations



    Visual storytelling done well increases engagement, explains and summarizes complex information, speeds up comprehension, tugs the heartstrings and motivates action. 

    Workshop attendees will learn:

    • How the shift to digital has transformed how journalists research story ideas, and what this shift means for PR professionals..

      • How to maximize your media-facing assets for social media and mobile.

      • Tips for both inbound and outbound media relations tactics.

    For more information: https://bit.ly/vismedia

    Why The New York Times Shouldn’t Always Be Your Media Relations Target

    Michael Smart

    I hear it all the time. Not directly from the PR pros I serve, but indirectly – when those pros pass along their bosses’ or clients’ most consistent request: “We need to be in The New York Times.”

    Why The New York Times Shouldn’t Always Be Your Media Relations TargetSo I wasn’t surprised when I was fielding questions about media relations at a so-called “Ask the Expert” session that this query came up: “Bottom line, how do I get my client in The New York Times?

    But I was really impressed with the insightful follow-up questions: “And do I even want to get them in the The New York Times? Is there a new outlet that’s more influential?”

    I’m not here to talk you out of aiming high. Shooting for almost-impossible targets (and a lot of failures in the attempt) is how I developed many of the techniques I teach today. But because your bosses or clients are usually smart business people, they’ll understand strategic thinking. And being strategic about choosing media targets goes like this:

    “What outlets will likely achieve the most influence on our key audiences given the amount of resources we have for outreach?”

    On one hand, there’s a top agency exec with many mega-wins under his belt who can secure million dollar budgets for his campaigns. In his case, depending on the client, the Times is often a sound answer to that question. Same with those wonderful times when you can conjure a really compelling angle that you know is newsworthy and share-worthy.

    But for many of the issues and events we’re tasked to promote, even for the Fortune 500 clients I work with, the Times and The Wall Street Journal don’t present encouraging effort-to-reward ratios.

    For these clients, there are trade publications, niche web sites and new online properties that are much more desperate for relevant content and still influential among key audiences. And sometimes, the result is better than if they had gotten coverage in a mainstream outlet: One client, who valued the Times as a Holy Grail for exposure, landed coverage on a new niche web site that was shared 9,900 times on Facebook alone.

    The takeaway is: Don’t shrink from your ambitious expectations, as they can inspire action and effort. Just make sure that your ambition is motivated by strategic thinking and not personal vanity or a desire to “keep up with the Joneses.”

    Michael Smart teaches PR professionals how to dramatically increase their positive media placements. Want to dive deeper into Michael’s tips for landing more media coverage? Check out his Secrets of Media Relations Masters workshop or his Crafting the Perfect Pitch online course.


    No Media Relations = Less Credibility for Your Campaigns

    Maury Tobin, President, Tobin Communications, Inc.

    Let’s me say it clearly. I believe in the power of social media because I’ve seen how it can propel our clients’ campaigns.

    But as traditional outreach (media relations) gets left out of many communications plans and discussions, I’m convinced that a social media-only strategy can be a big problem for organizations that want their messages to be taken seriously. In many cases, social media-only campaigns tend to look, for lack of a better term, “fake,” because these efforts are often self-serving and they lack the authenticity of independent stories produced by journalists.

    Since creating believable content is so crucial today, it’s worth considering a tried and true tactic such as a Radio Media Tour (RMT) to gain credibility. An RMT is a series of phone interviews conducted by radio journalists with an organization’s spokesperson. The news coverage generated from interviews is usually more valuable than focusing solely on self-produced content. After an RMT campaign is completed, we glean audio soundbites from the interviews so our clients can share them through their social media channels.

    I’ll Leave You with This:

    Despite all of the new tactics that are available to PR pros, we continue to believe that fostering a dialogue between journalists and the clients we serve is important, not only to our industry and clients, but also to our democracy.

    About the Author: Maury Tobin has produced hundreds of media campaigns for trade associations, non-profit organizations, corporations and government agencies. He is known for having an insider’s knowledge of the news media and a keen sense of what journalists want. Through the years, Tobin has worked with a range of high-profile organizations and companies, including AOL, Nissan, pharmaceutical company Novartis, the American College of Gastroenterology, The Humane Society of the United States, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the National Wildlife Federation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and PR firms Ketchum, FleishmanHillard and Edelman.

    PR News’ Media Relations Next Practices Conference


    PR News' Media Relations SummitImprove your media relations strategy!

    Why attend PR News’ annual Media Relations Conference on December 7 in Washington, D.C.? You want real insights on media pitching, influencer relations and crisis management as well as proven video tips from our top-notch speakers at brands like Hilton Worldwide, Washington Post, C-SPAN, IBM, Ogilvy Public Relations, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Airbnb and SAP.

    Media Relations Conference attendees will learn how to:

          • Strike lasting relationships with reporters on platforms like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn that will help you get your pitches heard
          • Produce video, images and use data visualization techniques to elevate your stories
          • Translate your brand’s story to fit trending topics on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat
          • Build a brand newsroom for maximum output and coverage
          • Create a successful media relations dashboard with specific KPIs for each aspect of your campaign
          • Identify and engage influencers who are most important to your target audience
          • Frame your pitch with data and analytics that prove a story’s traffic-driving bona fides
          • Develop your brand’s visual identity and convey your message on video
          • Create social posts, emergency websites and other digital assets in anticipation of a crisis
          • Build an organizational command structure that keeps messaging precise and consistent
          • Craft emails and subject lines that are most likely to get noticed, and the best and worst times to send them
          • Target influencers and groups of likeminded individuals to spark discussions and help them build community around your brand

    Media Relations


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    3 Ways to Improve Your Media Relationships

    3 Ways to Improve Your Media Relationships


    When you have news to share, you distribute it as far and wide as you possibly can. You share on social, write a blog post, budget money for an ad and more. But none of these tactics can result in the benefits you receive from earned media coverage.

    Earned media is highly valuable in reaching today’s distracted audiences; in fact, 81% of senior marketers said that earned media was more effective than paid.

    But how can you target the right journalists and encourage them to share your story?

    It starts with learning about journalists’ needs, habits and preferences. Once you know who is covering your industry and what they expect, you can provide them with the information they want and build a strong rapport.

    Here are three ways you can better connect with journalists and increase the likelihood that they will cover your brand’s news.

    Practice Moderation

    You may think that sending as many pitches as you can would be the best route to go, but no journalist likes receiving a generic, mass pitch. One tailored pitch sent to the right journalist is worth way more than 1,000 pitches sent to the wrong ones.

    Start by researching the journalists making an impact in your industry. Search by topic to see what they’re writing about and look at information about their audience to ensure they are engaged and match your target audience.

    Once you’ve identified your target journalists, learn their pitching preferences. According to Cision’s 2016 Global Social Journalism Study, email is still the method most journalists prefer when being contacted by PR professionals.

    But every journalist is different, and what may work best for one journalist could be wrong for another.

    Pay Attention

    Journalists are using social media for more and more, including sharing content, networking and finding sources. If you listen in on journalists’ social conversations, you may be able to find valuable opportunities for your brand.



    Continue reading here on BEYOND PR.



    Tips for Managing Media Relations at a High-Profile Event

    Tips for Managing Media Relations at a High-Profile Event - featured

    Conventions, conferences, and trade shows offer excellent earned media opportunities for organizations. However, they also pose unique challenges for the media relations and marketing teams looking to connect with journalists and influencers.

    The bigger the event, the greater the competition for attention. And at any given moment, a news story can break that unexpectedly changes the tide of the whole week.

    PR Newswire’s audience relations team has experienced all of this and more during this month’s political conventions: the Republican National Convention in Cleveland and the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

    As the official newswire service for these two major events, we’ve had the wonderful opportunity to engage with journalists and bloggers covering the nominations and to assist in signing them up for convention newsfeeds.

    Senior Audience Relations Manager Christine Cube and I have seen a lot and learned a lot over the past two weeks. Here are 7 lessons we picked up along the way for managing media relations in the middle of a major conference.

    1. Act fast, and get to the point. 

    Thanks to technology, our jobs – and the world – are conveniently at our fingertips. Because of this, it’s easy to stay stationary, glued to our screens for hours of virtual outreach. But nothing beats the forming and fostering of relationships in real life.

    At an event like a political or industry convention, it’s important to put yourself out there early in the process.

    Media are already busy and stretched thin and it’s exponentially more hectic for them at a high-profile event. It’s important to respect their time and their process. Greet them early and be succinct in your approach. Nail down your quick script ahead of time to prevent losing their attention.

    At both conventions, the first two mornings of each week were critical hours in our approach. With main events happening in the evenings, journalists were most accessible at this time.


    Continue reading here on BEYOND PR.


    Media Relations -10 Tips for More Earned Media

    Media Relations -10 Tips for More Earned Media

    A lot has changed since Herbert Muschel launched PR Newswire in 1954, but one thing hasn’t: The press is still a fundamental element of our society.

    From mainstream media with newsrooms spread around the globe to niche publications with smaller but equally passionate staffs, today’s news outlets provide decision-driving information that reaches a diverse audience.

    And as the use cases in our multichannel strategy guide show, a mix of media channels – determined by your content and the audiences you’re trying to reach – is key to achieving your communications goals.

    Familiarizing yourself with the needs of the media will make your news stand out in the crowd for the right reasons. While preferences may vary from media point to point, there are a handful of traits and tips your media relations should always follow.


    A communicator’s credibility is the bedrock of their relationship with news organizations. The journalists you work with need to know and trust that you have the expertise, experience and perspective to add to their story. What you say and how you say it can make or break that credibility.

    • Know your standards: AP News Values and other codes of ethics. Learn them. Love them. Live them.
    • Be transparent: State your objective and sources early on, and provide links that direct readers to useful information. This helps with both verification and reader engagement.
    • Be consistent: Establish a consistent presence in the eyes of the press by using a regular cadence of press releases, social media and other media outreach tactics.
    • Keep learning: Guidelines change. It’s important to not only stay current with PR and marketing best practices, but also journalism best practices. For instance, follow #APStyleChat on Twitter or Storify to keep your content up-to-date with the style rules many journalists follow.



    Continue reading here on BEYOND PR.


    #Rio2016 – 5 Tips for Media Relations in Brazil

    #Rio2016 - 5 Tips for Media Relations in Brazil

    As the Olympic flame weaves its way through Brazil, more than 10,000 athletes from 28 sports are preparing to converge on Rio de Janeiro to compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics.

    The upcoming  #Rio2016 Olympic Games, taking place August 5-21, are the first Summer Olympics to be held in South America. And with global attention turning to Brazil, many organizations are wondering how they can win PR and marketing gold in the host country.

    However, will newsjacking the Olympics earn you media pickup in Brazil? The short answer: Only if it is done right. Communicators will be better served by understanding the Brazilian media landscape and investing in journalistic relationships to gain reputable coverage.

    A Look at the Landscape

    With more than 5,000 newspapers, almost 800 dailies, Brazil is 4th in the world for number of titles, according to the Brazilian Newspapers National Association.

    Furthermore, print resonates better with Brazilian audiences.

    Respondents from the report Brazilian Media Research 2015: Media consumption habits by the population state that print media is the most trusted source of news, and 50% of respondents are singularly focused while reading print publications. 71% responded they have little trust in news published directly or only on social networks.

    Yet, while Brazil is still heavily focused on print and broadcast media as the primary form of news consumption, newsrooms are reducing staff and needing to do more with less, similar to their U.S. counterparts.


    Digital versions of publications and more niche digital trade publications are growing in number and popularity. Meanwhile, a large number of Brazilian newspapers have adopted the “porous paywall” subscription model, allowing some content to be accessed for free to drive traffic and social sharing.

    What does all of this mean if you are trying to gain traction in the Brazilian market?

    Continue reading here on BEYOND PR.


    Media Relations Lessons from The Washington Post and Other DC Newsrooms

    Media Relations Lessons from The Washington Post and Other DC Newsrooms

    When the worlds of PR and media are discussed, it’s impossible to avoid parallels. The challenges both industries face and the changes required are often similar if not the same.

    Don’t make the mistake, though, of viewing PR and media simply as two lines running parallel with one another. This oversimplification can cause many to miss the crux of PR and media’s relationship and lead to disconnects and disappointment.

    Rather, the relationship can be viewed as a double helix – a pair of parallel lines intertwined around a common axis.

    When PR is done right, the axis that connects it with the media — the thing that both parties can work together to support — is the media’s reading, viewing and listening audience.

    I was reminded of this while reading Got Scoop? DC Reporters Discuss How Social Media Has Changed the Game on PR Newswire’s media blog Beyond Bylines. In the article, senior audience relations manager Christine Cube (@cpcube) shares a few lessons from a recent Society of Professional Journalists panel.

    Aaron Davis (@byaaroncdavis), a Washington Post reporter who covers politics and government, was joined on the panel by Kavitha Cardoza (@KavithaCardoza), who covers education with WAMU (FM) Washington and teaches in American University’s Department of Communication, and Cuneyt Dil (@cuneytdil), founder of the District Links e-newsletter and freelancer with Washington’s Current newspapers.

    Although the trio’s conversation focused on the state of journalism in the District, the obstacles and opportunities they discussed not only apply to most news markets, they also impact their PR counterparts.

    Build better relationships with today’s journalists by remembering these media insights and PR tips.

    1. Coverage is constantly changing. Don’t fall behind.

    When is the last time you brushed off your media list? Don’t get too locked into assumptions based on what a news outlet previously covered. You could be overlooking an opportunity.

    “Washington’s not really unique – it’s like any town with a myriad of local stories,” writes Christine. “So what wins when it comes to local coverage? You might be tempted to say politics, and while that’s not incorrect, DC is chock full of other news.”

    During the panel, Kavitha shared how WAMU is adding new beats to adapt to their listeners’ current interests.

    “Among them, race and ethnicity now is a beat,” reports Christine. “Previously, WAMU split up news according to geography, with someone covering DC, Maryland, and Virginia.”

    As you update your media lists, don’t just look at whether or not a contact is still at a publication. Regularly assess whether they and the publication are still covering the topics you’re pitching them on.  Conversely, don’t disregard publications that aren’t currently covering your niche. While you shouldn’t pitch them right now, keep them on your reading list and periodically circle back to see if their coverage area has expanded.



    Continue reading here on BEYOND PR.



    Media Relations: Proven Ways to Get More Out of It

    Frank StrongBy Frank Strong, Author of the blog, Sword and The Script

    My little Toyota Corolla didn’t quite roll to the intersection. It sputtered and jerked and slid.

    I had to make this interview. My media relations and outreach efforts had secured an interview with CNBC for a technology client and the reporter had flown in to conduct it in person.

    However, Mother Nature had other plans on that fateful morning in 2003. A blizzard had dumped a couple of feet of snow on Washington, DC as it blanketed much of the northeastern U.S. Nothing cripples the capital of the free world like a few snowflakes…and we were experiencing a major storm.

    The Corolla was stuck. I wouldn’t be able to move it for days. As the saying goes, good initiative; poor judgment.

    I couldn’t have been more disappointed. The reporter had flown in earlier and the interview went on as planned. The reporter got his story and the client got his interview – and it came with an education.

    The time and effort for the news crew put into setup and film the interview lasted hours. However, the final segment was just a couple minutes long with the client’s spot lasting perhaps 30 seconds.

    Proven to get More Out of Media Relations

    That’s just the way it was in 2003. CNBC was one of just a few possibilities for business or technology stories in broadcast news. That was the outcome good media relations pitching earned. Yet today, with millions of “channels” on the web, it’s just the beginning.

    Here are two such ways:

    1. Interview notes are useful content

    Traditionally, the PR purpose for “sitting on” interview calls was to facilitate. This means making sure both sides show up on time, throw a lifeline if the interviewee gets into trouble, keep a record of what was said, including any obligations made for follow up details, and to coach the client following the call.

    These are still valid reasons, but content marketing affords all the more reason:

    Use the content the reporter doesn’t. A 20-minute call with a print reporter still might yield just one or two quotes in the final story. A PR pro that takes copious notes can easily take what was not reported and transform it into blog posts, contributed article, or even a different media pitch.
    Reporters ask good questions. Note-taking shouldn’t merely record what the client says, but also, the questions reporters ask. Prepared reporters usually ask good questions – the types of questions their audience and your client’s potential prospects might have. Answering questions is still a solid way to develop useful content for blogs, FAQs, eBooks and other content marketing elements.

    2. It’s not over with the placement

    A period used to end a story, says Mitch Joel. Today it’s just the beginning.

    What does PR do with a placement? Add it to a spreadsheet? Put it up in the online press room? Tweet a link? Of course, the answer is yes to all of these, but there’s a lot of other options too.

    • Employ audience saturation. After all the effort that goes into earning a placement in a respectable blog or media outlet – you want as many people as possible to see it and read it. A very simple and cost effective way to do this is through paid social ads. When done well with targeted or customize audiences for a few hundred dollars can go a long way. No respectable journalist would ever admit it – but I guarantee those reporters notice extra traffic coming to an article. Think about that for a minute.
    • Pitch media upstream. Nobody watches the media like the media. Media relations tends to be momentum driven and cumulative. Use those hard earned placements in smaller publications as credibility to pitch larger publications.
    • Riff off the placement. If your organization has a blog – and it should – weave the placement into a post, or “riff” off it. Avoid self-aggrandizement about how awesome your company is for being mentioned in a respectable publication – and instead, seek to add value along the way. For example: explore a new story angle, but borrow a quote from the placement; weave several stories on the same topic, including the placement, together; add in some commentary from your notes that the reporter did not use.

    If you write a good blog post and it grows legs – this presents an opportunity also employ audience saturation again on the post. The benefit here even better in that you are also growing your “owned media” community and inviting prospects to join it.

    In the case of that particular client and the CNBC interview, the web wasn’t yet strong enough to see the story immediately online. However, I knew I had a pitch with legs, and there would be many ways to slice it up and customize it for the verticals and trades.

    In many ways, it was a bit like creative ways to repurpose content – and that’s one of the reasons I always say PR has been doing content marketing before content marketing was cool.

    About the Author: Frank Strong is a communications director with more than 15 years of experience in the high-tech sector. He previously served as director of public relations for Vocus, which developed marketing, PR and media monitoring software. He has held multiple roles both in-house with corporations, ranging from startups to global organizations, and with PR firms including the top 10 global firm Hill & Knowlton. 

    How to Build Brand Relationships on Social Media

    Jill Kurtz, Owner, Kurtz Digital Strategy

    Every business needs to develop relationships with a target audience. Whether the goal is to develop advocates, sell services or encourage other specific action, social media is a great tool for relationship building.

    Here are five ways to use social media to connect.

    Listen and learn.

    Social media lets you listen to the people in your target audience. Listen to get a clear picture of their needs. People share a lot if information on social media. You can understand them much more deeply than age and gender.

    Build trust.

    Social media is two-way. You get to do more than see what people post. They get to do more than read your content. You can engage. Comments, likes, shares, etc. create two-way exchanges. People tell you what they like and what they want. They gain a level of trust in your authenticity and that you care.

    Target precisely.

    Social media lets you target your audience and give them the right content directly. You know who they are and what they want. You can speak directly to them and their needs.

    Drive website traffic.

    Use social media to connect people to your online home base – your website. There you can really hone your messaging. You can present your brand exactly how you want. You can create a path for people to move from awareness to deeper connections with you.

    Increase revenue.

    Social media improves your bottom line. It enables you to connect with your target audience. It gives you a platform to convert those contacts to the actions you want. With relationships established, you can sell products and services, prompt action, and convert toward other goals.

    How Social Media Is Transforming PR and the Consumer-Business Relationship


    Social media has changed the consumer-company relationship. Consumers want to be heard and expect businesses to acknowledge comments on social media, according to a survey of 532 U.S. social media users.

    Social media presents a new dimension of possibilities and challenges for public relations (PR) and businesses around the world. It rebrands the concept of community and redefines the ways consumers and brands communicate.

    Clutch surveyed 532 social media users to find out what consumers expect from companies on social media and how these virtual interactions may impact their view of brands.

    Businesses can use this report to learn what their customers want from them on social media and how social media can be an effective PR tool.

    Key Findings

    • Most people (76%) expect brands to respond to comments on social media, including 83% who expect brands to respond to comments within a day or less.
    • About 80% of millennials expect brands to respond to comments on social media; 90% of those millennials expect brands to respond within a day or less, and 44% expect brands to respond within an hour or less.
    • More men (82%) than women (72%) expect brands to respond to comments on social media, and more men (46%) than women (33%) expect companies to respond to comments on social media within an hour or less.
    • Nearly half of people (45%) say they would view a brand more positively if it responded to negative comments on social media.
    • More than half of people (58%) say that social media has made customer service easier for consumers.
    • Most people (72%) say they are likely to recommend a company to others if they have a positive experience with that company on social media.

    Read the survey here.




    Humanity’s Relationship With Technology and Its Impact on the Media Industry

    Mike Seiman, CEO & Chairman, Digital Remedy

    Technology has been at the core of our business from the very beginning. After operating in digital advertising and media for 20 years, the seemingly dramatic changes we have faced between then and now, have in reality, simply been improvements and evolutions of existing technologies that were already in place—one opportunity yielding another. With each twist and turn the industry has faced, one thing has remained constant: the ongoing relationship between humans and technology. 

    In its infancy, advertising was a completely linear medium; it was tangible and physical. Yet, technology has been at the forefront of the industry since its very birth, enhancing the ability for an advertiser to reach a consumer. Newspaper, as an example, has evolved from a linear medium to a completely digital medium. In the early days, distribution, printing, ad placement, and sales were all physical. Today, technology has led to automation of every aspect of the Newspaper business from payments, to ad sales, placements, and even reporting (farewell tear-sheets), dramatically impacting the field and the future of media as a whole. 

    Even the birth of the internet included linear transactions: disk drives with creative assets, the ad space was sold through telephone conversations, mail, and payments were made through manual checks. Ads were “manually” placed and removed from webpages as a flight launched and completed. The physical, human element ever present.

    Media and advertising industries evolved, as did the technology that allowed for rapid automation. Ad servers and CRMs were created to track and schedule the running of ads, channels such as search, social, and video developed and matured into stronger outlets that advertisers could leverage to get media in front of consumers. Today, we see linear advancing in OTT, with audio and digital out-of-home not far behind.

    Technology has woven itself into the creation and development of each new medium, outlet, and ad format. When individuals identify opportunities within the market, they leverage technology to not only bring it to life, but to automate and mature the process to successfully deliver to the masses. As the industry progresses, we can only assume that more and more advancements will be created through both linear and digital assets, automating the entirety of the process and yielding tremendous amounts of data along the way.

    It is clear that we are moving towards a world where one day the advertiser will be able to tell a machine the type of person they wish to sell to, their age, demographic, interests, and more. They will identify the type of product they have, and their margin on that product, and at the click of a button, the machine will identify the exact plan of action (media plan included) for the advertiser. From the type of advertising they should do, the execution tactics, how much they should spend, and what the ROI will be.

    I’m sure this both scares and elates people in the industry. I for one, am excited about what the future will hold and the role we will play in that future. While the changes may be coming at a quicker pace than ever before in the previous 20 years, they were always there, consistently evolving humans, technology, and the relationship they share in the advertising space along the way.

    About the Author: Mike Seiman is the CEO & Chairman of Digital Remedy, a digital media solutions company leading the tech-enabled marketing space he co-founded while still a college student at Hofstra University in the early 2000s. The company has grown quickly and is now a major player within the crowded digital advertising landscape. The rapid growth of Digital Remedy, formerly CPXi led to its inclusion on Inc. Magazine’s list of fastest-growing privately-held advertising/marketing companies in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2014. Mike was selected as a semi-finalist in Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year initiative in 2010 and 2013 and as a finalist in 2009 and 2014. In his free time, Mike serves on the Board of Trustees of his alma mater, Hofstra University. He also focuses on numerous philanthropic initiatives including sitting on the boards of the H.E.S. (Hebrew Educational Society non-profit community center) and Children International, where he spearheaded the development of community centers in both Guayaquil, Ecuador in 2010 and Barranquilla, Colombia in 2014.