The Second Half of PR: Relations
This week, I'm turning the tables and telling you what we and other news media want and need to help us better serve our purpose.
As with any business, news is about relationships. It's not about submitting a press release and hoping it runs or even following up with a phone call afterward. Good PR is calling up the target publication for introduction, finding out who can help you and developing a relationship with that person-if possible, before the first press release goes out. Do some research before hand, such as checking out the publication's Web site to determine the audience, the types of stories it runs and a basic idea of the format. Few things are more annoying than getting a call from a PR person, who obviously has no clue about your publication, saying, "We're interested in getting into your December issue." Not only is Credit Union Times is a weekly publication, it provides updates throughout the day everyday at cutimes.com.
Don't be afraid to ask questions about the requirements and preferences of the individual publications. Asking about deadlines, offering up artwork with stories and discussing the readership are all things that will make editors and reporters happy because you're helping them while helping yourself.
Becoming a regular source for the media is not all about getting your story out; the behind the scenes legwork is crucial to building a solid working relationship with the media. Don't only (or always) call when there is a particular piece of news you want to get out. Offer up trends you're seeing that the publication might be interested in covering and provide news tips on something big that might be happening.
Another way to reach the hearts and minds of the media is to provide exclusive story ideas. Nothing fires up the media more than the promise of a good story that will not be appearing anywhere else.
Notice I said "good." Good means a lot of things: original, of interest to the readership and something that touches on a bigger picture or trend is a solid start. Identifying how this qualifies with a particular publication goes back to the relationship built. Know which reporter covers the news beat that you are looking to break into and develop a rapport. If possible, meet in person in an office or get out to a less formal setting, like a coffee shop to ease the natural tensions of meeting new people and between PR and the press.
Also, know the value of your news to various media. The fact that your credit union donated $500 to a scholarship program warrants less attention from Credit Union Times, but might be of high interest to your local Anytown Courier-Gazette.
But pitching a story on XYZ credit union's amazing auto loan growth with ridiculously low delinquencies would be greatly appreciated by business publications. Be ready to quantify those figures in dollars and ratios. Readers want to know how and why, and if they can duplicate the results at their credit union or business. If you're a credit union vendor, make CU clients available to discuss the pros, and possible cons, of a new product.
Then again, there are times when the media comes knocking at your door, and a lot of times, it's when business is not going so well. A credit union might have a high concentration of delinquencies in business loans or your CEO have gotten caught with a hand in the cookie jar. Don't ignore that reporter's call thinking it will go away-the story will run with or without you. Reporters and readers will appreciate directness. Explain what happened, and how the credit union is fixing the problem.
Particularly if you have some unflattering news that you know could come up, have a PR plan in place. Being proactive will help you frame the situation, meet reporters' deadlines and demonstrate that you are a reliable source in good and bad stories.
Don't blame the media for negative news stories. Reporters are just doing their job to educate their audience on what is going on around them. Usually, if you take yourself out of the picture, you can see the story is legitimate.
In addition to knowing the reporters, being proactive also means studying publications' editorial calendars if they have one. The subject of our Special Report this week is CUSOs (pages 22-24). All of our scheduled Special Reports are clearly spelled out in the editorial calendar on our Web site, so you can come up with a specific story idea regarding a particular topic, find the reporter responsible for it and pitch a PR home run.
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