Winning with the Media
by Martin Cohn

Looking back over the past twenty-five years that I have practiced public relations, I am still struck by the number of times I had to clarify what public relations is and can accomplish.

Simply put, public relations helps organization x reach its target audience y. The means to reach the target audience vary - advertising, brochures, direct mail, newsletters, special events and media relations - to name a few.

Often, public relations is the ability to make something ordinary and turn it into something extraordinary.

Media relations is an area that gets a significant amount of attention. For many, it remains a mystery as to How a story gets into a publication.

To reach an editor, you either send or call a "pitch" that creates different news angles for the story. It is important to gear the pitch to answer the questions as to why a story is newsworthy and would be important to the readers of that particular media outlet. Not very story becomes front page news. After all, there is a lot of competition for the media outlet's space. Failure to get coverage can often be due to a lack of knowledge about the specific media outlet's needs.

Bruce David, a pr specialist in Michigan has come up with seven winning ways to work the media:
1. network with contacts you've developed over the years to remain visible and accessible.
2. develop an idea file of successful concepts which yo can creatively borrow while adding your own twist to the idea.
3. Study your target media outlets: read the publications, obtain editorial calendars and know what their readers enjoy.
4. Maintain contact - turnover rates in personnel are high at most media outlets.
5. Offer exclusives, whenever possible.
6. Encourage brainstorming among your associates and employees to come up with fresh ideas.
7. Look for opportunities to share your message when you don't have a "hard" news angle.

And, I would like to add an eighth way: use the Internet. There are several free press release services that will accept your news. Here are four to try out:

Media relations doesn't have to be expensive but the potential return can be substantial. A story in the media offers a third party endorsement that you can't get anywhere else.