The Habits of Effective Media Relations

Building relationships with the media is more effective over the long-term than coming off like a carnival barker pitching stories.Good communicators rely on craft and relationships rather than luck to earn positive media mentions. Many times, good communicators go unnoticed, like great athletes who make amazing physical feats seem effortless. But like athletes, communicators train to improve their skills.

Here are five healthy media relations habits you should adopt:

1. Believe relationships with the media are important

Don't fall into the indulgent trap of believing that reporters or media outlets are out to get you. Think instead of what you can do to build rapport with the men and women whose job it is to cover what you do and say. You can't control what the media publishes, but you can assure yourself better access to the people who write the copy by taking the time to treat them as you would a colleague or customer. A little respect goes along way, and you will get back what you give.

2.  Think like a journalist

You don't have to possess a journalism degree to understand what makes news and what gets published. Exercise some street smarts in what you pitch to reporters. And consider the context. If the reporter you deal with is tied up with a major story, he or she isn't going to have the time or mind-share to chat with you. If your story is significant enough and you have built a relationship with the reporter, you can ask who else may be available to cover it.

3.  Quit wordsmithing the press release

A lot of time can be wasted dithering over the wording of a press release, which most reporters and editors may only glance at. A better use of time is thinking about an irresistible story hook to capture a reporter's or editor's attention. You can tantalize with a media advisory just as well or better than a full-blown, formal press release with stiff language okayed by the legal department.

4. Help reporters tell your story

The digital world gives you a world full of useful tools to assist reporters in covering complex stories. Online newsrooms serve as a hub for basic information, background facts, photographs, video, charts, statistics, sources, links and more. A centralized reference library that reporters can use increases your odds of having your story reported as fully and accurately as possible.

5.  Don't be a huckster

When you pitch a story, you are selling. But like any salesman, sometimes you need to unplug the For Sale sign and just talk. Maybe you can suggest an interesting story topic to a reporter that has nothing to do with you or your organization, or be an information source. Most important, be someone who can listen and share without coming off like a carnival barker. Reporters will be more inclined to take your phone calls and listen to your story pitches. And it should go without saying, skip the spin and tell the truth. Violate this principle and it won't matter what you do or say.