Public relations is all about storytelling and every organization has a great story to tell. It may take a while to identify your campaign’s story and it may also take some practice to refine delivering the messages and preparing for questions. But more importantly, there is need to determine the audiences you need to influence ¬ and who needs to hear and understand your story. The media is not only an audience in itself, but more importantly it is a channel to the key supporters and ¬ a conduit that also needs to understand your message. Every organization needs to communicate and develop a dialogue with its supporters.
Some of the ways to efficiently reach these constituencies is through regular media tours, conferences or media familiarization events. These media strategies are used when an organization has a major announcement, success or achievement in the organization that it wants to make sure as many people as possible hear about. Sometimes, direct contact with the media or a general media release can do the job. However, when an organization has something really significant, then staging a media conference or media event can be more effective. This is because such an event can attract better media coverage for a number of reasons that will be discussed later in the article. Holding a press conference can also be a time-effective way of getting the message out to all interested media at the same time.
The term “media relations” refers to a business or organization’s relationship with professional journalists or media outlets. Similar to public relations, this department works on building a rapport with these venues in order to communicate the organization’s goals, ideas, intent and newsworthy events. The term “public relations” is often considered a synonym for media relations, but it is not, since public relations is a more general department.
A major part of media relations is focused on getting products and corporate brands mentioned in the large number of print, online and broadcast media available today. Public relations are different in that information is not just released or available to journalists, but the general public at large. Some companies choose to focus on this broader public relations approach rather than try to build a relationship with the media specifically. This is a decision entirely up to the company or organization. “The first step towards building effective media relations is to build a strategy. This strategy should further outline the elements needed to build a relationship with local, regional and national news outlets. It should also specify how this will be done, the image the organization intends to portray, and other noteworthy events that may tie in the company’s goals.”
Organization should have rapport with their media outlets, keep contacts and constantly involve the journalist in their events like product launch and rebranding.
Media relations can involve the writing and distribution of press releases. People who work in this field must deal with members of local media organizations and hold press conferences. A department might work closely with an advertising department or agency to maximize the potential outcome of a release, or to find the correct target audience for a company’s press releases.
A company’s media policy is generally decided by its senior members as well as the media relations team. The policy doesn’t just affect those at the top. It might require employees or members of a group to speak with the management before doing so with members of the press about company issues or events.
Writing for media audience
Hilliard (2012) observes that during the process of writing, the writer is usually isolated, alone in a room with whatever instruments she or he uses for writing. Yet every word, every visual image has to be created with the thousands or even millions of people in mind who will be watching, listening or reading. When you write for a mass medium, you are addressing a mass audience. The nature of that audience must constantly be in the forefront of your mind and be the key to what you create.
Style is the crucial ingredient for everything we say and do: in writing. It is the way sentences are structured, the choice of words and the way they are used as well as punctuation. If the style is outmoded and all over the place, the reader will soon lose interest and might not even go beyond the first few lines. Style calls for clarity, brevity coupled with the use of plain language, and the avoidance of clichés and jargons. It means making sure spellings are correct and that words are not misused. Above all it means consistency (Foster 2012)
Effective communication demands clear, consistent style. Everyone in public relations, consultancy or media practice should put that at the top of his priority list. A public relations executive who writes materials specifically for a target medium and follows its style has a far better chance of getting materials published than one who ignores it. When writing an article for the press, you should preferably key the copy in publication style. i.e. how figures are set and names written.
Press release should follow the general style adopted by newspapers for treatment of quotations, For example, double quote marks rather than single, with short sentences and paragraphs. If points like these are followed, then the subeditor will be on the writer’s side and your copy is less likely to be changed.
Foster (2012) Indicates that good writing styles simply means good work. It also means good manners, letters and emails as well as tweets and Facebook messages being answered promptly, returning calls, sincerity in everything you say and do. When something goes seriously wrong, don’t be afraid to apologize for it – preferably in writing. If you make a mistake in someone’s name or get a figure wrong, a telephoned apology will always be sufficient. An apology costs nothing, but can mean so much to the other person. After all, that is what good manners is all about.
Always ensure as a writer to consider:
- Make good, consistent style your priority
- Follow style trends don’t be old fashioned
- Good style means clear, plain lively, concise language
- Adopt the right tone of voice for your audience
- Distinguish between being pedantic and correct
- Never let language get in the way of your message.
Finally, media relation is important for any organization which wants to remain relevant in its market niche. Through effective media relations, both the organization’s internal and external publics are well informed. The importance of media relations can be best explained by those inside the organization, stakeholders and the publics rather than journalists or media relations experts only. Gaining coverage in the media will save an organization’s time and money which would otherwise have to be spent on advertising and other forms of publicity. Effective media relation can be an incredibly effective vehicle for generating coverage and building goodwill as long as organizations set their objectives and ensure the time they are asking in a busy reporters schedule will benefit that person equally.