If you’re a leading company figure, or have a role – such as business development - that is contingent on building profile and relationships, it is important to know how to successfully engage with the media.
As a starting point, a self-audit can be helpful. Do you have a strategy for using your company’s news and market insight to attract potential customers, or are you reaching out indiscriminately to journalists simply to get your company name in the media?
To benefit the most from PR, the age-old adage applies: quality over quantity. One well-timed and pertinent interview is likely to be far more valuable to your company – as well as useful for the journalist and interesting to your target audience – than a series of opportunities in irrelevant media titles or on topics which don’t fit your company’s messaging.
The advice below applies whether you employ a PR agency, have an internal PR team, or complete this work yourself.
Top 5 things to keep in mind when engaging with the media
Choose the right journalists to engage with
If you’re in mind to invest in PR and communications activity, then it’s likely that you’ve already ascertained the commercial benefits. But having a commercial focus naturally extends to the individual tactics of media relations, too. You should therefore ensure that your media targets are commercially relevant – that is they cover your specific subject area, they’ve perhaps written about your competitors, and you know that it’s a title favoured by your clients or industry.
When you have some opinions you’d like to voice on a topic, the first thing to do is find a journalist who will want to hear them. Journalists who have a good relationship with your PR agency, or who have previously worked with you or your colleagues, are often a good bet – and, of course, research into their previous work to check that you’re thinking along the right lines is imperative.
Crucially, make sure you’re aware of specifically what the journalist in question is interested in. They might cover renewable energy – but what specifically within that umbrella term? Do they write about wind, about battery storage – or do they love to support the underdog, and write on geothermal? Are they interested in infrastructure and business information – or do they go for stories with a more personal angle?
Delivering the goods
Crucially, now that you know what the journalist wants, make sure you can give it to them. If you are perfectly placed to comment on the journalist’s specific interest in hydro-electric projects off the coast of Papua New Guinea, that’s ideal. If you can’t deliver, then perhaps someone else in your company is better positioned to talk about the topic?
PR ≠ marketing
Don’t get carried away by your enthusiasm about a new project and end up creating an extended advert for it. Instead, think about what you can offer that might be genuinely interesting to a journalist. At the risk of being rude, your company may not be that newsworthy, in and of itself. What is interesting is your industry insight and expertise, and the incisive comments you can offer on market trends. Always reference the wider context in which you work.
Preparation is key
This applies to both interviews and opportunities to provide written articles. Preparing for an interview is imperative; as well as knowing what the journalist is interested in, and the topics which the interview might cover, you need to make sure you’re on top of your game and able to answer the questions thrown at you with confidence and ease. Have a think about potential questions the journalist may ask you. You could also bring some notes along to the meeting – perhaps with some data or company examples of what you’re expecting to discuss.
For a written opportunity, the pressure is less immediate, but in-depth research and an ability to write about something concisely and confidently – as well as eloquently – is necessary for successful media relations.
Follow the news
Make sure you’re up-to-date on what has been going on both in your industry and in related sectors, before meeting a journalist. The media – particularly national titles and newswires – is fast-paced and always concerned with current events; being aware of recent developments will enable you to make your points in a very topical way, ensuring greater engagement from journalists.
This also applies to written opportunities; keep in mind that the piece may be published some time after it has been written and take steps to ensure it will not appear out-of-date by this time.
Being aware of, and trying to implement, some of these suggestions will go a long way to improving your relationships with journalists, as well as your attractiveness to them as an interviewee or contributor, all for the reputational and commercial benefit of your business.