For us as practitioners, it begins with a recognition that we are part of a broader communications ecosystem, and not a storytelling machine of one.
Much as the name suggests, media relations is rooted in relationships: between the journalists, editors and reporters who make newsrooms hum, and professionals like ourselves who work to give them something to hum about.
Good stories have to start somewhere. The “good ol’ days” of the gumshoe muckraker reporters — knocking on doors, hitting the pavement, and seemingly pulling hard-hitting journalism out of thin air — don’t do justice to the true reality facing workers in today’s news media.
In order to be amplified by the kind of credible, organic, wide-reaching coverage that journalists are able to bring to stories they cover — “earned media,” as it’s called in our industry — those stories must first put themselves out there.
As media relations practitioners, that’s our job.
If we imagine the reporter’s role to be one of “digging” for stories, then for media relations firms, the job is to provide a well-suited shovel and a map of where to look.
Stories today are complex, and often concealed beneath layers of further complexity, corporate strategy, or technical jargon, which, to the reporter’s ear, may serve to snuff out any ring of impact or news value.
As media relations practitioners, we work to cut through all that and create an entrypoint into our clients’ stories that journalists will see as compelling.
We help them secure high-quality coverage, the kind that brings with it a substantial credibility boost, by working with the complexity and presenting it in such a way that its news value stands out, loud and clear.
When we’re successful at that, it’s not because we’ve “pulled a fast one” on anyone, tricking reporters into thinking our story is worthwhile.
That’s because the “trick” is the story is worthwhile, and so is the relationship, in a way that’s mutually beneficial and valuable for reporters as well.
For clients of our firm, PR Associates, the benefit of working with us is the opportunity of breaking into a realm of media coverage that is low-cost and high-quality.
Earned media brings with it an unmatched credibility, without the costs (and potential cringes) that come with advertising and traditional publicity.
For the journalists, the benefit is about expanding their capacity to do good journalism, by taking care of some of the groundwork for them.
Instead of the time-intensive work of first finding the story, then identifying sources, then finding source material that backs it up, and then spending hours validating their reporting, a good media relations practitioner presents the story with that foundation in place.
This way, good media relations work allows the practitioner to serve their clients’ interests by serving the journalist’s as well, giving them a leg up in the race they run every day, and every news cycle.