Harnessing the Media’s Influence: How to talk to the media in your public relations strategy

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In my years as a B2C/B2B journalist and even as a brand journalist I’ve seen an interesting trend. Even the people that want press are at times hesitant to speak to the media. They hire a PR firm to get you coverage and then the journalists reach out and the interviewees make the process difficult. This article shares some tips on how to talk to the media and be better prepared to partner with journalists.

I’ve seen that many times now:

  • PR pros send emails upon emails to get coverage
  • Once a response is received the PR folks are so busy that it’s difficult to find a time to talk.

Journalists are short on time as it is so the first step in how to talk to media truly is: Remember that you are on the journalist’s schedule. I had a journalist respond to me one day and asked if I was available at 9:30 p.m. for a quick chat. The answer is yes! I went to all this work to connect with you and I’ll make the time. They didn’t end up using my quote, but that’s how it goes. It’s their decision!

Check out: Media coverage featuring Christoph Trappe

Know your news angles

Journalists look for newsworthy angles, which is at their discretion and current definition. Often that means they are looking for something new to report. To make that more complicated, they also are looking what else is going on. So one newsworthy event today might not be newsworthy tomorrow when there are other things going on.

But nonetheless, be read to talk to media when they are ready to talk to you. Some journalists make this easy for you and simply ask: “Explain to me how this is new.” Then explain without superlatives. Sometimes there’s not much news value, but other times there is. Try to find your authentic brand story that works in that instance.

Read next: Always do this when your website copy tells us how awesome you are!

What’s newsworthy also evolves. Back in the day, news media covered when companies launched a new website, now responsive. Today, that’s not news anymore, but it was 10 years ago in some industries. Today, it’s news when your website isn’t responsive. Keep the current news cycles and interests in mind when you talk to the media.

Keep these things in mind when you pitch and talk to the media:

  • Be the expert by showing your expertise through the content you share
  • Make sure the media knows what you know and what you can talk about (I’ve gotten interview requests through this blog, by the way!)
  • When they need you to talk about that, be ready and talk about it – on their schedule
  • Have people available.

Use your conference investment wisely

I actually have attended conferences where companies pay so much money to display whatever it is they are displaying and then don’t want to be featured by the media. My favorite response for an on-camera interview request once was: “Send us the questions and we will get back to you in three days.” Please, just be ready!

Read next: Driving leads from conferences playbook

Also, understand what kind of data you can offer journalists. Amanda Milligan works at Stacker.com, a company that creates data-driven journalism for brands, and she joined me on the podcast to discuss the topic at length.

Is there a danger of misquotes?

We hear the stories of media misquoting, taking stuff out of context – usually not on purpose – and sometimes journalists get it wrong. They are human, too.

This is also why I’m a big fan of live-streamed interviews. It’s near impossible to be taken out of context or misquoted when the whole conversation is streamed live.

Read next: [Read this before starting your podcast] Going live: Livestream your podcast to reach more people

Nonetheless, if you want earned media – meaning a reporter covers you – things can happen. If you want final say on every little detail, that’s what advertising is for. Buy an ad or sponsored content.

Great way to talk to the media at conferences

But, not everyone gets talking to the media wrong. Many companies are also ready when the media is ready to talk to them. Here are some examples from the Neocon conference I attended in 2018 as a B2B journalist.

An editorial team, I worked with was on the hunt for products to share and was looking for other stories and trends from a conference.

I did a couple of high-level trend podcasts myself that ended up on the magazine’s website:

  • How furniture now has outlets so we can stay connected
  • The sound of acoustics
  • One on moss

Everyone was ready to go and share their stories. Very much appreciated and insightful.

Some other examples included on-the spot videos:

This video is of a table that becomes a board to write on. That looked highly innovative to me in person but doesn’t come across in a picture. They lifted the table as many times as I wanted to get the video I wanted for the web. Another great example of being ready for media coverage.


Public relations training

Practice makes perfect but certainly there’s a certain danger to practice publicly in actual news interviews. Usually, I’ve found that being authentic is key to success, but can you can also hire PR trainers like Brad Phillips, who shares some tips in the episode below.

Monitor reporter/writer request for quotes

You can use websites or even Twitter to monitor requests for expertise in specific areas. I use two regularly to keep an eye on what quotes are being requested.

What about relationships?

Relationships matter. It’s good when journalists know you and trust you (as much as that’s a thing in journalism). And there are ways to build relationships offline and in the digital age. But do keep in mind that at the end of the day journalists are trying to share stories. So if a relationship can’t help them with that, will the relationship last?

Being patient with public relations

There’s a certain level of patience that is needed, too. Sometimes the timing works for a story pickup and sometimes it doesn’t. The key is to look for those opportunities and try to be relevant when journalists need the extra soundbite or content expertise from you.

I’ve been on all sides of PR and with mounting pressures, I know PR professionals want to reach their goals – which ultimately is to get coverage. The more that can be aligned with what journalists need, the more beneficial it can be for all involved.

Be the expert you are, share information freely and when a reporter comes calling be ready and available. And make it easy on the journalist to work with you!

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