​Is media relations right for you?

Who’d work in the media? Fake news abound, audience trust is down, falling readerships and advertising revenue threatens the very existence of many publications. Editorial teams across all sectors, no matter what the type of media, are shrinking – the net result is fewer journalists writing more stories in less time.

Added to this are more organisations wanting the media to cover their news. With the average journalist receiving 300 pitches (i.e. emails suggesting a story) a day, not all of them relevant, getting your wheat to stand out from the chaff can be a challenge.

So why is securing proper editorial coverage so appealing? At its simplest level, having a journalist cover your story is, in theory, a mark of independent credibility – a kitemark of quality that says what you’re saying is of interest to that publication’s readership and that said readership should commit their time to knowing more about you.

It’s also relatively cheap, again in theory – no money should be changing hands between business and publication, so the only budget being spent is on whoever you employ to engage with the journalist – whether it’s an inhouse team or a PR partner (such as an agency or freelancer). Budget spent with an agency could see the same story covered by multiple publications – the same fee that might get a small, off the shelf, advertising deal with one magazine if you were to go down that route.

Of course, there are always things to be aware of. That credible, proper editorial coverage you wanted – because there’s no money changing hands, you’re unlikely to have complete control over what appears. And if you did, it hurts the credibility of said publication, which is why you valued it in the first place. For a good example of what can happen when someone expects complete control without paying for it, take a look at this involving Clare Balding and Saga.

Plus, there’s the fact that there’s no guarantee of anything being covered. As highlighted above, there’s only so many time-pressed journalists struggling to cover what’s relevant for their readers, and you’re competing against 299 other pitches on any given day. Then there’s the major news event which can wipe everything else out – back in the day, the saying used to be ‘we should get coverage as long as the Queen Mother doesn’t die’ – something you can’t legislate for. Every sector will have its equivalent, whether you’re in cloud computing, shipping, FMCG or video games.

So, should you even bother with media relations? To be honest, it depends. You need to know whether your story is relevant and interesting, and usually, you aren’t the best judge of that. It’s why you employ media relations experts, either in-house, a third-party partner or even a combination of the two – people that know the media landscape and can give you an honest answer. If they’re doing their job, they could well advise you that actually your 4.27 software update for shipping container door mechanisms doesn’t have a media audience, and actually it’s better suited for a note to customers and a video on social media.

The other thing to bear in mind is that media relations rarely deliver results from a one-off, isolated story. Think of it as another marketing channel – when you have something to say, you’ll have your social posts ready, your email to customers, your sales collateral, and then your press information, and you need to coordinate