It’s Still About Media Relations(hips)

Recently I had the opportunity to attend a PRSA New Jersey chapter event featuring the editor of ROI-NJ, Tom Bergeron. ROI-NJ is a print and digital publication focused on telling business stories of significance: category-crushing innovation, hirings and firings, relocations, new CEOs, and all things in between. As a working journalist for three decades, Bergeron shared his point of view on what gets covered and why and his top tips for media relations. 

Many of us have evolved as public relations experts alongside journalists like Bergeron. We have observed their platforms shift to an increasingly digital and social environment, and we have adjusted our outreach accordingly. As practitioners, we are often asked to provide the latest and greatest creative programs for clients. Clients want creativity, they want to differentiate themselves from the pack. But in the end, it’s always the old-fashioned approach that scores big points. And that approach is grounded in the relationship between PR professionals and journalists.  

The most resonant of Bergeron’s insights? It’s all in the relationship. As we become proficient and adept at working across digital and social platforms, we still need to give proper attention to the media outlets and journalists that sustain our business. Building a relationship and knowing the media brand—how and when the property interacts with its readers—are paramount to success. 

Bergeron offered other best practices for PR professionals. Here are a few of the other memorable takeaways: 

  1. Curiosity: Understand and respect each other and accept that media and PR people are both similar and different. Like public relations experts, journalists are curious people by nature. They want to understand your whole news: not necessarily to print it all, but to grasp the issues in the larger context. Give them what they need to understand, otherwise, they will seek answers elsewhere. 
  1. Types of Stories: Know there are usually three categories of stories: things that get covered “no matter what” (think FAANG companies), things that could run if it fits the profile and there’s space, and (unfortunately) things that should not be covered and likely will not. Too many PR professionals doggedly pursue the latter and waste precious time laying the groundwork for a different, better story in the future.  
  1. Journalist vs. Company/Client: There is a difference between what is important to the company and what is important to the journalist. This is why it’s so important to understand the journalist’s beat and the media outlet’s audience. A business reporter cares about how the company makes money, not necessarily about the human interest stories that add color and context. There’s always another home for those stories.  
  1. PR 101: What our professors told us in PR 101 still holds true today: Have quotes that actually say something. The location also matters, so add local tidbits for regional reporters. Don’t send the same exact pitch to the entire media list. Read what other companies do, and make sure the news was not already covered. And finally, media outlets need props too; instead of posting your own release on social, why not share the media story?  

It’s comforting to know that the evolution of journalism hasn’t fundamentally changed the rules of the game. Remember, it’s called media and public relations for a reason!  

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