PR Training

What You Need to Know About Media Relations Today

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With PRSA’s Media Relations Certificate Program, senior-level PR and communication professionals will learn to develop media relations campaigns that evoke emotion, inspire change and position organizations as market leaders.

Starting on Nov. 3, and running every Wednesday (except Thanksgiving week) through Dec. 15, the live, online series of six modules — moderated by media relations strategist Judy Welage — will feature experts who present case studies and discuss the latest communications trends.

In this preview Q&A, Welage discusses developing media campaigns, communicating results with senior leaders and improving the success rate of pitches.

When developing media campaigns, what common mistakes do organizations make?

One of the most common mistakes is expecting results right from the beginning. It takes time to tell a story and build credibility.

Likewise, it’s important to educate organizations on the difference between earned media and advertising. Earned media is exactly that — earned — and it’s built on pitching and nurtured relationships.

Furthermore, a well-rounded media relations campaign needs to utilize multiple communications channels. Besides pitching traditional broadcast and print news organizations, media relations pros should understand the importance of digital outlets and the role of social media, including bloggers and influencers who can heighten consumer awareness for a brand.

How can media relations professionals temper the expectations of executives who may expect every dollar spent on communications to generate qualified sales leads?

Clear communication right from the beginning can help manage those expectations and be the foundation for a healthy relationship. A well-documented weekly or monthly report on an agency’s efforts will show the momentum, reach and efforts of the media campaign, including metrics.

On another note, it’s important to understand that each and every media placement should not end there. Sharing it across social media, placing it within a press section on the company website and highlighting it again with an email campaign can all continue to generate views.

A recent survey by Propel found that journalists respond to only about 3.27 percent of the pitches they receive. Any tips on how communicators can improve the success rate of their pitches?

For an email pitch, one of the first steps is to grab a journalist’s attention with a catchy subject line. Helping them understand the pitch right from the start will determine whether they open the email.

The body of the pitch should be concise and straight to the point. If applicable, a current statistic can also tie the news into current events and help prove the story’s relevance. Likewise, if the reporter you’re pitching has previously written about the same subject, then include a few words about their recent coverage and why they might be interested in your news. If the pitch is about an event, include the date, time and address along with contact information.

To improve your success rate even more, utilize A/B pitching. While you may think the first pitch was the best, a different subject line and statistics may serve you better. It’s also helpful to understand that journalists are busy people. Some are better with phone communication or social media, so those avenues should be pursued. If you have a few journalists at one outlet in mind for a story and you aren’t sure which one to pitch, then call the newsroom and speak with the assignment desk to ensure it’s passed along to the right contact.

Public trust in the press has been on the wane. A June report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism found that at 29 percent, the United States ranks last in media trust among news consumers surveyed in 46 countries. Have you seen this lack of trust affect earned-media plans?

If media trust is waning, then brands must learn to connect and build trust directly with their own audiences. It’s common to utilize third-party systems and advertising to build a company’s reputation, but a slow and steady approach is the one that can reinstate consumers’ trust. Brands must understand their own values and work to put them at the forefront and into action to improve lives of those they serve.

John Elsasser is PRSA’s publications director. He joined PRSA in 1994.

[Illustration credit: j-mel]

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John Elsasser


  • It is so important to focus on the differences of earned and paid advertisements as stated above. It correlates with the last question asked about the waning trust in the media. With a nurtured relationship among consumers and viewers of ad campaigns, the more trust there will be in the brand – but the relationships must be built up for that to work. This was a great interview.

    • Well said, Kaelyn. In today’s world, with the 24-hour news cycle, social media platforms, and lack of attention span, advertisers have an even smaller window to make an impact on the consumer. Relationships will continue to be key as to which platforms and brands consumers stick to.

  • I enjoyed reading about the importance of media campaigns and utilizing clear communication from the start. Building trust with customers is a vital way to create strong relationships and have a firm foundation.
    -Elise Luoma, editor/writer for Platform Magazine

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