There is a reason we call it media relations. A successful media relations strategy must focus on developing and maintaining quality relationships with members of the media. This might seem simple, but in all reality it is as complex as any other human relationship we engage in.
The relationships in our lives that hold meaning for us often are somewhat difficult to maintain. I often like to say, “it isn’t all Ferris wheels and cotton candy!” Think of the relationships in your life – relationships with friends, family, romantic partners, co-workers, etc. What makes those relationships work?
You might find some of the following five qualities:
Good communication. Staying in touch and sharing parts of your life with the other person will help to prevent misunderstandings and unwanted distance in the relationship. Making your needs and desires known is critical, as is allowing the other person to do the same.
Attentive listening. It’s easy to forget, but communication is a two-way street. Listen effectively to what the other person is saying as they express their own needs and desires.
An understanding of where the other person is coming from. If you don’t understand, then start asking questions and listen to the answers. Read stories the reporter has written, listen to or watch their broadcasts to get a feel for their style.
An ability to admit that you are wrong, or don’t have all the answers.
A sense of humor. Many of us take life and ourselves way too seriously. A laugh can go a long way.
Respect for the other person. Pretty simple concept, but sometimes difficult to remember.
All of these apply to your working relationships with members of the media as well. Far too often, we fail to effectively communicate with reporters except for the occasional generic press release. We don’t always listen carefully to what a reporter wants and needs for the story to be successful. Sometimes we find it difficult to admit that we don’t know something. And, we often fail to respect the reporter as the professional that they are.
So, the next time you are about to begin or try to strengthen a relationship with a reporter, keep all of this in mind. Put yourself in their seat, and remember that they have a job to do just like you do. And don’t forget to share some humor along the way as well – the life of a reporter is very stressful. Any chance to laugh is welcome.