How to Nail the Fundamentals of Public Relations and Media Relations

By michaeltebo • October 25, 2022

Regardless of your association’s membership size, maintaining the public’s positive perception of your association is critical to your success. That begins by having the right public relations (PR) and media relations strategy in place. Your association’s PR and media relations strategy helps to tell your story, distinguish you from the competition and provide a stream of framed narrative ideas for media professionals that are always looking for content. As a quick point of clarity, public relations uses all channels to create public exposure and awareness, while media relations only uses the press.

Although strategies can vary depending on particular industries, PR pros can all agree on the fundamentals of good public relations. Still, it’s always a good idea to occasionally take a step back and make sure you’re executing these best practices, especially when fewer than 8% of all PR pitches actually result in media coverage.

Here are a few best practice tips for getting the most out of your association’s public relations efforts.

Develop a Discerning Eye for News

First, remember that not everything your association does or accomplishes is newsworthy, warrants a press release and should be promoted to reporters. In the eyes of a journalist with a never-ending inbox of pitches and story ideas, not everything is going to resonate. There are updates that happen within an association that would pique the interest of relevant journalists. Whether it’s an association milestone, a new partnership or big event announcements, recognizing where PR efforts should be focused will help you get the word out more effectively and have a better impact on your exposure.

Press Releases are Not a Standalone Execution

Simply pumping out as many press releases as possible with no real strategy will not help establish your association and will certainly not get you coverage. Publishing a press release is only the beginning. This must come with a complete pitching strategy to secure coverage and get the best possible return on efforts.

When the conversation around a new press release first begins, it is beneficial to talk about the goals of this release with internal stakeholders. If the goal is to gain coverage in specific vertical publications, finding a pitch angle that appeals to this vertical should be considered in advance.

As the press release is developed, start thinking about a custom media list and the pitch itself to help set you up to hit the ground running as soon as it is published. Journalists want to see recent news, so if you wait to pitch a press release until a week after its publication, it is no longer “news’ in their eyes.

Know Reporters’ Beats

Beats are the specific segments of news that a reporter covers — even a sports reporter may not cover all sports and might only focus on football. This can be one of the most challenging things to keep up with when it comes to public relations. Reporters are very often changing publications and beats and even writing for several publications on different topics. Knowing what they are currently writing about is key to pitching them the most suitable topics and catching their attention. Don’t go viral inadvertently and embarrassingly when the reporter who doesn’t cover your beat posts your ill-fated pitch to Twitter.

Have a Strong Marketing and PR Strategy

Public relations takes time and each execution should be a part of a more comprehensive strategy. PR is not a “set it and forget it” part of any business. It should constantly be assessed and adjusted when necessary. Taking a step back and looking at how your strategy is working will allow you to continue down the path of success, adjust where needed and ensure that you stay on top of keeping the brand relevant and in the news.

Public relations does not always need to be reactive but should be proactive whenever possible. It is helpful to create a calendar of upcoming updates and announcements to develop a more comprehensive strategy that encompasses it all. If the association has two big announcements being released in one week, consider rolling these announcements and pitches into one versus making two similar announcements and hitting the same journalist in close proximity. Recognizing themes in several updates will allow you to be more strategic with your pitches and give journalists a compelling story idea.

Newsjacking is a Good Thing

As mentioned, planning to be proactive with public relations is great, but that doesn’t throw reactiveness out the window. The news is constantly changing, and something can happen overnight that suddenly takes over the entire news cycle for several days or even weeks. This presents an excellent opportunity to take advantage of newsjacking — the practice of aligning yourself with current events in an attempt to generate media attention.

Injecting expert opinions, tips, or insights from the association’s executives into the trending conversation gives journalists unique angles to talk about current events without being the same as every other story out there. Journalists aren’t going to come to you, so being able to recognize ones that will be interested in the topic, angle and pitching them promptly can go a long way.

A solid public relations strategy takes time, as does building relationships with the right media publications and journalists. Start working on and implementing these strategies in your day-to-day routines to see your association’s brand awareness continue to grow.

Reach out to our PR and Media Relations experts at Naylor to learn how we can build your association’s profile and get you in front of the right audience.

About The Author

Michael Tebo is the Vice President, Public Relations and Strategy at Gabriel Marketing Group. Reach him at [email protected].