After graduating with a B.A. in Communications with a focus in public relations, I began looking for entry-level positions at agencies in Chicago with media relations departments. I interned at a radio station and was a media connoisseur. I also liked being behind the scenes and liked understanding the ins-and-outs of the exciting newsroom environment and how stories developed. Because the end goal for public relations professionals is getting clients in front of the media, I knew this would be the area I could pursue a career in and be successful.
Since then, I’ve spent 15 years in the public relations industry pitching the media and securing top coverage for dozens of clients. While others may thrive in community affairs or client relations, those that want to succeed in media relations need to have the following skill set:
Tell a Story: Editorial pitching can really be considered “story selling.” Journalists like to hear stories within the pitch of how your product or client can be of true interest to their audience. Media relations professionals need to be creative in making sure their stories “stick” with the media to secure that crucial client coverage!
Get Comfortable on the Phone: You will be on the phone a lot in any area of public relations. Whether you are calling the media with your pitch or receiving a call from a journalist, you must be able to speak eloquently, with a strong grasp of your client’s brand or product messaging. I always ask a reporter when I call, “Is this a good time to talk?” Journalists have deadlines and public relations professionals need to be respectful of them.
Build Relationships and Stay Savvy on Social Media: Top-tier editors, bloggers, and influencers are all on social media. Get to know them by building organic relationships. This way, they will be much more receptive to hearing what you have to say. In addition, it is essential to note that your social media channels not only represent your personal interests, but also that of your clients and agency. Always be professional, communicative, and concise.
Always Have the Facts: If you don’t have an answer to a reporter’s question, it’s OK to say, “Let me follow up and get back to you as soon as possible.” Having inaccurate information printed about your client can be worse than not getting any coverage.
Understand that Nothing is “Off the Record”: The relationship between a public relations executive and a reporter needs to be professional. Don’t get carried away if a journalist befriends you on a more casual level of conversation. There could be a hidden agenda to get information on your client that should not be disclosed.
What skills do you have that can be applied to media relations?