The Evolution of Media Relations
By Richard Male, Professor for Regis University's Master of Nonprofit Management degree program and founder of Richard Male Associates.
If you’ve been doing media work to promote your nonprofit’s mission for a while, you know already that newsrooms are dramatically smaller than they used to be; your contacts there are changing or may be disappearing altogether. But the shifting business model in the journalism world isn’t just about size.
Here are a few considerations.
- Names and faces. As many news organizations are making do with less, reporters don’t necessarily have the singular “beat” or desk that they used to have. Make sure your email list is up to date, and get used to the fact that the changes are constant. Sadly, “editor@” may be needed in addition to an individual’s email.
- Online coverage. For both print and broadcast operations, there are multiple “products” now, i.e., not just the print newspaper or the newscast. An outlet’s web site is becoming increasingly important to complement their work. This means there is actually more demand for good content. If you deliver your information in a tone and form they can quickly use, you’ll be able to capitalize on this trend. Today a web-only story may not get the “eyeballs” that the 10 p.m. newscast gets, but the longer-range habits of readers and viewers will likely change that. It depends on who you’re trying to reach with your story, anyway-how many people under 35 do you know who get a newspaper delivered?
- Video. It used to be that long, in-depth stories and analysis had to exist only in print, and visually appealing stories were a natural for TV. In fact, these distinctions are blurring too. We’re seeing career-seasoned print journalists who are having to learn how to quickly shoot video segments as part of their reporting. Don’t assume that you don’t need to appear on camera as part of a print interview.
- “Deadlines.” Back in the day, we used to know what time of day or time of the week was best for certain news releases or media events. There are still some truisms here, of course, but for the most part, coverage is ongoing. Twitter is the obvious game-changer. Again, use this to your advantage. For example, if you have a great new photo of your impact in action, send it to a reporter who is active on Twitter with a brief explanation (and Tweet it yourself, of course).
- Competition. Once upon a time, there were communities with more than one daily newspaper, and working with just one as an exclusive on a story was a time-honored practice. Today the competition for a “scoop” may be between the print and online editors within the same organization. Be aware of these tensions, at the least.
- Not just a pitch, but a package. The more you can cue up sources and provide contact information of the people to be quoted, secure access to the location to visit and provide driving directions, summarize the latest third-party research, provide a professional and high-resolution infographic, etc., the more likely it is that your story will be covered. You almost need to act like an intern reporter yourself, or what they used to call a “stringer.”
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