I was naïve too

Five years ago I lived in a different country that appeared to understand the purpose and basic concepts of marketing and media relations. Here in the U.S., consumers understand commercials on television, they tune into the straight-forward meanings of magazine ads and they run to the nearest Starbucks to purchase the latest offer after seeing it on a billboard, but they don’t seem to fully grasp what goes on behind the scenes.

Although I didn’t have the greatest understanding of what marketing was or what media relations entailed prior to jumping feet-first into the field, I did understand that advertising, marketing and media relations are separate factions that, when married, can create a well-fueled, organized machine used to get a brand or product or company into the minds of the community.

For me, the part of this that hits closest to home is directly linked to media relations. I was a journalist for a local publication, and several newspapers in the Midwest prior to that, before jumping ship, so to speak, into the expansive ocean of media relations. As a reporter I thought I understood the role of a media relations official – they were there to make my life more difficult and to get as little accomplished as possible. It turns out that I actually didn’t understand media relations at all and didn’t use the relationship with their clients to my advantage. I saw media relations as a wall I had to go through instead of a direct bridge to my destination.

Now, I’m a former journalist in the media relations world and I have the unique perspective of not only embracing the annoyances caused by others not understanding what we do, but fully understanding why the media gets annoyed with us as well. To help clear the air, I thought I would offer a few tips for the media and general public about our role as professionals in the media relations world:

  1. Our purpose is to act as a liaison between the media and our client. Although it may seem like adding an unnecessary middle-man to an otherwise easy equation, we’re actually in place to help make the process of uniting the media and our clients move more smoothly and create a better eventual outcome. The madness behind this theory? (a) We have direct communication with clients. They’ll take and return our calls in a timely fashion simply because they know us. (b) Media relations is what we do for a living. We know what needs to be done and get things arranged as quickly as possible. When reporters skirt around the media relations contacts, clients often don’t call them back because they assume their media relations representatives are taking care of it for them. (c) It’s our jobs to make sure everyone gets what they need on deadline. Many clients don’t realize this, and, if called directly, may not call a reporter back until next week – instead of within the hour. It’s not something malicious – they simply don’t understand the industry.
  2. Although the way we write releases, e-mails and pitches may not seem conversational at times or may even seem rigid, we do it for a reason. Using A.P. Style and the inverted pyramid format to write media relations materials is integral to our success as media relations professionals. It’s as simple as this: if we write like they write, they like us better.
  3. Successful media relations is a process, not an event. It takes time to position a company as a trusted resource and a leader in its industry.

Media Relations, advertising and marketing don’t come with a magic book filled with all the right answers and a do-it-yourself list of instructions. Every situation has to be handled separately. There isn’t necessarily a right or wrong in media relations, but things usually go more smoothly when everyone’s on the same page.

Beth Dickman is a Media Relations Specialist for Imagine Marketing.
Contact Beth at bdickman@imnv.com

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