What is media relations? Media relations is a form of public relations. The goal of media relations is to educate the media (newspapers, radio, television, and other forms of journalism) to report on a company’s objectives, accomplishments, and management accomplishments.

Although media relations and public relations are sometimes used interchangeably, they are distinctly different. Public relations (or PR) entails communication to multiple channels and, ultimately, consumer and business targets. Media relations is limited to building relationships between company representatives and the media.

Specialists in media relations develop strong relationships with publications (conventional and digital) that cover news related to a brand’s category and leverage those relationships to build credibility and awareness. Unlike advertising, media relations does not involve paying for exposure. When the media writes about a company or reports about it on-air, readers and viewers generally see it as news rather than self-promotion.

Media relations is more than just “pitching a story.”

Once a company has developed its unique selling proposition (or USP), media exposure can be a powerful way of reinforcing the brand, its values, and its accomplishments.

Successful media planners know how to tell stories about their companies that will appeal to journalists. They think creatively and expansively about angles that are credible, relevant, and unique.

A media strategy is an important component of a fully-integrated marketing plan. To develop a solid media plan, one must:

  • Know who your target audience is and what publications (conventional and digital) they consume
  • Create a current and specific list of those media
  • Develop story angles that journalists will find newsworthy and compelling
  • Utilize a combination of self-generated content (bylined or contributed articles) and “pitches” to media. The latter will be written or reported by professional staff reporters, writers, or producers

Although companies use proactive and positive media relations tactics to generate coverage, sometimes they must also respond to crises like product fails, ethics issues, or other unfortunate events. Crisis management is a unique type of media relations management and often involves professionals who have extensive experience in communicating during difficult situations.

Working with journalists requires a knowledge of the types of stories they cover (called their “beats”) and respecting the rules of engagement. Seasoned media relations professionals build relationships with reporters and are sometimes even sought out when those journalists are working on stories.

5 big benefits of media exposure

When a company or its leaders are mentioned in media outlets, the end results are:

1. Credibility

Third-party coverage is usually seen as more objective than messages that a company disseminates through paid advertising.

2. Search engine optimization (SEO)

When a company’s story is told by a journalist, those mentions often appear online, so when prospects search for your company, they’ll see what the media has said about you.

3. Thought leadership

When a senior executive publishes articles in major media, they get an opportunity to make their knowledge and perspective visible to decision-makers like investors, business clients, and other key influencers. These types of articles can boost engagement by as much as 55 percent.

4. Awareness of new products, services, and innovations

The media will often cover stories about unique ideas. Although that will not directly lead to sales, it creates awareness. When multiple products (sometimes from different companies) are covered in a story, that coverage is called a “round-up.”

5. Talent attraction and retention

Current employees may feel a sense of pride when their employer is mentioned in the news. Prospective employees and vendors want to work with companies that exhibit strength, credibility, and other important qualities in public media.

Media relations is a special skill

Media relations is both an art and a science. It requires an ability to identify strong journalistic angles, familiarity with the right media for a particular company’s agenda, a strong knowledge of how to use media databases, and the ability to “break through the clutter” and compel a writer or producer to cover a story.

Measuring the impact of media exposure takes time. Unlike paid advertising or direct marketing, tracking ROI can be complex, but most brands will agree that the right kind of media coverage can reinforce key messages and build/preserve a company’s reputation.

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