What is media relations?
Media relations is the proactive establishment of links between an organisation and the media, with the aim of generating positive media coverage for your organisation.
Media relations can be both proactive (issuing press releases; arranging interviews; placing feature stories for example) or it can be reactive (in the case of crisis communications, or the media approaching your organisation for a comment or statement on a situation/story).
Why is it important?
In the modern world where most of us get our news online and often filtered through social media channels, one could argue that the impartial mainstream media play a more important role than ever. For organisations who engage with the media, if done effectively, it offers the opportunity to both inform and persuade key audiences.
With a wide range of national, local, specialist and topic-focussed media, both online, in print and broadcast, the traditional media lets you target specific audiences.
Traditional media versus social media
Whilst it has been argued that traditional – particularly print – media is dead, following the rise of online and social media. The traditional media still has that one important advantage: journalists and their role as impartial gatekeepers of the news. If an organisation’s news, therefore, is featured in the media, it has more value to the reader (i.e. it is more persuasive and well regarded) than something glanced over while scrolling through social media.
A 2019 study found that in the U.S., Canada and Europe, social media is about half as trusted as traditional sources.
Potential for youth participation and youth work
Media relations is sometimes referred to in a negative way; think of the infamous “ spin doctors” who “ spin” bad political news in positive stories for corrupt politicians. But this is not standard media relations, which has, at its core, simply establishing good relations so that, as an organisation you can enhance your reputation and promote your mission and your activities through the media.
Youth work is often underrepresented in the media and there are plenty of good news stories to shout about. Therefore, media relations offers an excellent tool to promote what you do, to gain recognition and to encourage more young people to participate.
Elements of media relations
Media relations covers various different tools, tactics and activities and selecting the appropriate one(s) will depend upon what you are communicating about, how newsworthy it is and how much prominence you wish it to have.
Note that how important you think an activity/news item is will not always match with a journalist’s view! Therefore, take a look at what makes a good news story in the press release article before deciding whether to push this through the media, or rather to choose different channels.
Some ways of generating media coverage include:
- Press release
- Placing an op-ed: this is an article written by an individual within your organisation on a relevant topic. It often has a news angle but can be much more opinionated than a press release and allows the author to give their view and often be controversial in a slightly longer format.
- Advertorial: this is hybrid advert-editorial, which appears in a magazine/newspaper as an article, but is in fact paid for (and therefore written by the organisation publishing it and not a journalist) and is marked as such.
- Interviews: arranging a one-on-one interview with a journalist and your spokesperson can be a great way of securing media coverage as it gives you the chance to control the narrative and push forward your messaging.
- Letter to the editor: if you have a strong position to take on an issue or want to react to something that you have seen elsewhere in the news, then a short “letter to editor” can be a good way to get some media coverage without engaging in a wider campaign.
- Organising a press conference/press visit can be effective in generating media coverage, if you have a newsworthy enough event/story to encourage journalists to attend.
- Pitch: if you have an idea for the basis of a feature, you can pitch it to a media outlet.
- Do some research and get to know journalists in your area and field. It’s always easier to try to get media coverage if you already have contacts. Learn about who writes about what. Seek cooperation with journalists who seem to already have an interest in your area.
- Know their schedule: if you are trying to pitch a story for the next day’s newspapers, make sure that you know when their deadline is.
- Target properly. Ensure that you are speaking to the right journalist at the right publication. Develop and keep up to date a media contacts list.
- Keep an eye on the news agenda. There might be important events/announcements coming up that your organisation can “piggy back” on in terms of media coverage. Example: new data comes out about raising youth unemployment but your organisation is promoting non-formal education, volunteering and youth initiatives. You can use this data to show, in your experience, how young people could be more competitive in the job market. If your organisation has knowledge, reach and experience on the topic, you could also put together a joint press release by several youth organisations and youth work institutions, proposing ideas on how to reduce youth unemployment.
- Provide a full package: offering to provide good quality photos, case studies to interview and fuller briefing can help a journalist to put together their story.