by Raschanda Hall, Global Media Relations Manager, Business Wire/Chicago
The purpose of media relations was beat into my head by my college PR professor — she often said, “The goal is to develop mutually beneficial relationships with the media.”
This definition very closely mirrors the Public Relations Society of America’s new definition of Public Relations. Only she never gave me an exact formula for achieving that goal.
So we decided to share our advice on how Business Wire’s Media Relations Team uses networking events and journalism groups to build relationships with members of the media. One thing we’ve learned; while starting these relationships may happen in email or social networks, building them will require more face-to-facing and less “Facebooking.”
Networking Events – The Introduction
Ice breaking is an art form but it is not brain surgery, especially if you do your homework first. Luis Guillen, our media relations representative for Southern California, says he researches the media people he expects to see at upcoming events beforehand. “I like sports, so knowing what schools they went to helps me use sports and hometown information to connect.” Luis bonded with several reporters over small hometown familiarities at the National Association of Hispanic Journalists’ convention in Florida this past summer. This led to new media connections he’s further fostered since returning to Los Angeles.
We’ve been taught to master our elevator pitch, but sometimes you have to take the stairs. Maryana Bradas, who supervises our entire east coast team of media relations specialists, says:
“Engage in casual conversation,” especially when seated at a luncheon table. “As long as they are relatively talkative your discussion will go all over the place. Both parties will get a chance to talk about what they do and you can tell if you will have a good fit for further connecting.”
Maryana sits on the Press Club of Cleveland’s Board of Directors and attends the Society of Professional Journalists’ regional and national conventions. “As the conversation winds down you can go for the business card exchange. That’s a natural progression.”
The Association of Women Journalists – Chicago(AWJ) has only in recent years established an associate level of membership.
Karen Kring, past president of the chapter, warns against pitching their members at events:
“Pitching is for when they are on the clock more formally. Turn it around; become the reporter . . . You not only want to know their beat, but what specifically within their beat they are paying most attention to so that you’ll know what kind of information or stories they might be receptive to in the future. If you have a story in mind, ask them if they’d be receptive to your follow up with them later.”
Journalist Groups – Getting in and Standing out
I take an alphabet soup approach to networking. I’m everywhere, all the time. NABJ, PCC, SPJ, SABEW, AWJ, ONA etc. I talk to everybody and give every discussion my properly undivided attention, but to really connect with reporters through journalist organizations you have to put in some work; committee work and chapter board member work. In these roles your work is selfless, and when done right, you build trust and get more immediate access to editors and reporters who can help you when you need it. Now, this won’t save you from a front page crisis, but it could get you the heads-up that it’s coming. An organization I was once involved in turned down sponsorship money from a competitor because they felt the competitor was trying to buy their way into the position I had gained through sweat equity. In that single act my volunteer efforts paid off.
Dawn Roberts is Managing Partner of KD Communications in Delaware. She also serves as Associate Member Board Representative
for the National Association of Black Journalists. It’s a position she is passionate about. NABJ’s annual convention draws thousands of reporters and hundreds of PR people every year. Her advice to PR folks: “Attend media events so that you have an opportunity to meet journalists in person. And volunteer for a media organization. [It’s] a great way to meet journalists!”