How to foster relationships with the news media was the main topic last week when I spoke to the Chamber of Commerce of the Mid-OhioValley's Public Relations Committee and other chamber members in the courthouse annex.
Jill Parsons, chamber president/CEO, wants to get the committee more involved and has asked news media representatives from the area to speak to the committee. I was the first media representative to speak at the monthly committee meeting about the newspaper's role in disseminating information.
About 24 people were in the audience, from from political officeholders, to another media representative, to nonprofit organization leaders, to financial institution officers, to business owners and leaders. It was a nice cross-section of the chamber membership.
Specifically I was asked to address "how to foster relationships with the media," "how to get your event in the newspaper," "the best way to submit a story to the newspaper" and "how to prepare for a media interview."
Trying to be prepared for the hour-long session, I had a handout dealing with how to write a new release, which also listed how to submit it in person, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via the virtual newsroom on the newspaper's website at www.newsandsentinel.com. Electronically by email or the virtual newsroom always are the best ways to submit information to The News and Sentinel.
Fostering a relationship is easy, call me, Managing Editor Paul LaPann or City Editor Jess Mancini and "pitch" a story idea; we always are looking for stories of general public interest. If the idea is for a specific section or product of the newspaper, be sure to give us lead time to make sure a reporter can be freed up for the story and that it can be ready for the next publication of the section, considering many not-time-specific sections of the newspaper, the Sunday Living section, Free Time, Seniors and various tabloid editions actually are printed sometimes days before they appear in the newspaper.
Preparing for an interview can be tricky. I would suggest having all the information at hand that you might think you want to share with the reporter or that the reporter might ask, and freeing your schedule long enough to make sure the reporter can get all his/her questions answered, review the information and take necessary photographs. Remember, a 15-minute, hit-or-miss interview sandwiched between other meetings or business-related tasks is not going to be very productive for you, the reporter, the newspaper or the reader.
One of the questions I always am asked is about reviewing an article before it is published. Due to legal conflicts, we cannot permit people to read an article before it is published, but we can go over the highlights of a story with the story's source before publication.
Another question always centers around which is better, a telephone interview or in-person interview. I always would opt for the face-to-face interview because the reporter can get not only the information but a feel for the interviewee and get photos to go with the story.
The chamber group asked about social media and what part it plays in newspapering. I check social media sites numerous times a day for news tips. While I would be very hesitant to use social media as a news source, I also would be very foolish not to know it exists and can lead us to stories from named and quoted legitimate sources. The News and Sentinel uses Facebook to attract people to our news stories by posting stories, breaking news and blogs.
Where does public relations and news start and stop often is a question posed to me. Public relations basically is what you want people to know and news is what people want or need to know. When the two cross, it's beneficial to both readers and news sources, but getting to the point depends on how effective the news source is at "selling" the public relations as news. And, that "selling" happens with the aforementioned telephone call or email that lets us know what is going on.
All in all, I hope I provided some useful information to the chamber group and didn't waste their time or bore them too much.
Contact Jim Smith at email@example.com