A question which is almost always raised by the potential client during the proposal presentation meeting is: “How good are your media contacts?”

Behind the question is the belief that good media contacts are essential to get a story published and that there is some sort of secret society that only journalists and PR people are members of.

Sure media contacts are of some value but their importance within a PR program are much overstated.

If you are a PR person who is known and trusted by the journalist, they are more likely to answer your telephone call, or call back, other than one from someone they don’t know, but if the story is a dog, it still won’t get up.

There are a number of factors involved:

  • Journalists (particularly general reporters) move around like gypsies so keeping track of them is difficult, let alone knowing them all.

Being besties with a journo, doesn't guarantee you coverage

 

  • The organisation of a newsroom with the various checks and balances of news editors, sub-editors and chiefs of staff, work against individual journalists favouring your story against one which is of greater news value. This situation is different for specialists in a particular category, feature writers and columnists who have a much greater say in what they use, but are still subject to the overall control of news content.

 

  • Media is always conscious of the need to ensure that their news content is competitive with their competition and there is no way that they can afford to run your non-news story and run the risk of losing readers, listeners or viewers. The same is true of failing to run a significant story that is carried by the opposition.

 

Naturally in those three points I am talking about major news media, not trade journals, suburban or rural newspapers, or specialist publications. For those, different rules can apply.

In presenting a story to a journalist, whether you are best buddies is not important, but what is important is that you are familiar with the medium you are contacting and know what they run and present the story in a succinct and factual way. 

And for online newsletters and blogs, well that should be the subject of another blog.

I’d be interested to hear from others on their experiences with media contacts and their importance, or otherwise?

-         Dennis Rutzou