The Two Most Effective Media Relations Tactics for 2013

two most effective media relations tacticsYou want more publicity, don’t you? Whether it’s for yourself, your organization or the clients you represent, more publicity is a good thing. For many of us, it’s what attracted us to media relations in the first place. It was pure magic the first time I read an article in print that was the result of a story I pitched. In this post, I’ll share what I believe to be the two most effective media relations tactics for 2013 (hint: it’s all about inbound and real-time).

Before I get to the two most effective media relations tactics for 2013, let’s agree that the smile and dial approach doesn’t work anymore.  In the example I shared above, I used the ‘smile and dial’ approach to land that first placement. Back then, if you called enough reporters, you would eventually find a couple willing to listen to your pitch – and perhaps one or two that would write a story. When I think back to what I was actually doing, I was interrupting busy journalists with pitches that probably had nothing to do with the stories they wrote about on a daily basis. While I’ve long since learned my lessons (and taken my fair share of tongue lashings from irritated journalists), I worry about the young professionals who are still calling down a media list trying to get anybody to write about the story they’re pitching. It’s wrong and it gives the PR profession a bad name – even if media relations is only a small subset of all the elements of public relations (for you purists out there).

It’s my intention with this post to introduce you to a new, more-effective approaches to media relations that are far more effective over the long-term. If you’re patient enough to follow this prescription I’m about to write out for you, I guarantee you’ll generate more publicity than you ever did smiling and dialing. The question is, are you willing to do the work that’s required to get you there, or will you continue to resort to outdated tactics that weaken your relationships with the media?

For starters, the media environment – and therefore the media relations environment – is 24/7 today. It’s real-time and always-on. If you work in media relations today, you have to be always-on as well. There are two major approaches to media relations that work well in today’s 24/7 news environment: inbound media relations and real-time media relations. Here’s my breakdown on each. Hands down, these two tactical approaches to media relations are the most effective approaches ever developed. When carefully executed, they will yield the results you’re looking for. I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments below.

Inbound Media Relations

I hope by now that you’re familiar with inbound marketing, a term coined by HubSpot, referring a fundamental shift away from interruption-based marketing tactics (like telemarketing or direct mail) to inbound or “pull” based marketing tactics that attract interested audiences to your marketing messages. A good example of inbound marketing is a blog jam-packed with useful information your prospects and other target audiences want to read. The magic of inbound marketing is that when interested target audiences are looking for you – that is, they’re ready to research a product or service or ready to buy it, they find YOU.

With media relations, you can adapt the same approach for reaching journalists and bloggers. If you build a news blog for example, and treat it as your owned media channel, you can publish your news on a regular basis. You can showcase your expertise and build an audience around your content without the support of the media. You are the media in this example. An interesting thing happens when you do this well – you actually attract journalists and bloggers to your content, and they’ll often want to interview you or quote you in their stories (without you having to pitch them). This is nirvana for a media relations professional. So how can you do it? Here are a few steps to consider:

1. Make a list of all the stories you have to tell – the stuff you wish journalists would write about

2. Put your journalist hat on and write the stories yourself – use the inverted pyramid style of writing and answer the questions who, what, why, when, where and how in your first couple of paragraphs

3. Do keyword research – and consider writing posts related to what your target audiences are searching for

4. Balance your blog content – between what people are searching for and what you want to communicate – make your mission in life to be the best blog on the subject matter most important to your organization’s business; this is the stuff you should know the most about

5. Write about it frequently – good inbound media relations is about quality and quantity; of course, you have to be relevant too – I’ll assume you can be if you follow the rules above

6. Monitor, measure and learn from your audience – they’ll love some of your content, and they’ll hate some of it – write more of the stuff they love. Also, take note of the things your readers search to find your content (Google Analytics will help you here). Write more of that stuff. Also take note of the stuff they’re searching for (or commenting about) that you haven’t written about yet (Google Site Search via Google Analytics, or monitoring your blog comments is your #1 resource here)

7. Continue to build your audience – through subscriptions and a high-level of “touch” across your community.

8. Make it easy for journalists and bloggers to reach you – make it easy to request interviews and quotes and to include you in their stories. If you follow the tips above, you’ll quickly be generating publicity opportunities without having to pitch another journalist again.

I know, I know, it sounds like pie in the sky. Don’t I realize you’ve got to have something to show in this month’s status report? Yes, I realize you don’t have the luxury of time to adapt this approach to your current media relations programs. I also believe if you work this approach into your current efforts over time, that you’ll gradually be able to transition from interruption-based media relations to inbound media relations. What do you have to lose? It works… just ask all the inbound marketers out there. You know, the ones you read about in the stories you should have been included in.

If you want to be a master of inbound media relations, subscribe to the content provided by companies like HubSpot and Pardot. If you’re open to learning new things, these companies will teach you everything you need to know about attracting more people to your content – and helping you escape the trap of tried and true interruption-based media relations tactics.

Real-Time Media Relations

Real-time media relations is the most exciting area of media relations at the moment. It requires less patience than my inbound media relations suggestion above, but it also requires a lot more work. You have to be tuned-in to everything going on in the media world in real-time. Real-time media relations – also referred to as real-time PR or “newsjacking” – is the process of inserting your spokespeople or proactive story ideas into the news cycle. David Meerman Scott, one of my favorite marketing experts, has been writing a lot on this subject lately. I strongly suggest that you subscribe to and read the information David is writing about. I also encourage you to read his books if you haven’t already. His latest focuses on this topic and will quickly get you up to speed on far more insights than I can communicate in this section of my post.

That said, here are some quick tips for starting to think in terms of real-time media relations.

1. What are the top news sources in your industry – that is, the outlets that reach the highest concentration of your target audiences?

2. What are the top topics you can speak about? Start thinking about the news events that create an opportunity for you to comment. If you work for a document shredding company, you’ll want to be on high-alert for stories about consumer personal information falling into the wrong hands or stories related to identify theft. If you work for an accounting firm, any changes to the tax code or seasonal tax-related events create publicity opportunities for your spokespeople to comment on.

3. Have a contact list prepared – have a target list on-hand for all the top media outlets you care about – consider reaching out to these organizations in advance to get on their radar. Using the suggestion above, let the local news station know about your identify theft expert. If a story about identity theft comes up, you’re spokesperson is available to head over to the station on short-notice to be interviewed on tonight’s newscast.

4. Follow the inbound media relations tips above and write your own stories about these topics. You can use these posts as background on your experts when a story breaks. Rather than writing out the entire pitch, you can simply share a link to the post and offer to have your expert available for immediate comment.

5. Take things a step further – prepare some media responses in advance. If you suspect certain types of stories will happen – hail storms for roofers, plummeting or rising interest rates for mortgage lenders, family vacations for fuel efficient vehicles, etc. – prepare your responses or sound bites in advance to help journalists evaluate the quality of the sources you have available.

6. Leverage crisis planning preparation for proactive news angle development – think of all the possible types of stories you might see on the evening news that could create an opportunity for your spokespeople to comment. Then be prepared in advance with pitches and a response plan that enables your after hours staff to quickly capitalize on stories as they’re breaking.

7. Be adaptive to the unexpected – you can’t plan for everything. Work to be the most nimble organization you can be when it comes to working with the media. A great recent example can be found in Oreo’s response to the power outage during this year’s Super Bowl. Read David Meerman Scott’s summary of the events here. It’s a great example of how brands can capitalize on breaking news to score publicity and brand love. Would you have thought a power outage could be an opportunity to generate publicity for cookies? That’s the real-time media relations game.

In Conclusion

Inbound media relations and real-time media relations are the two most-effective tactics for generating significant publicity results for yourself, your organization or the clients you represent today. Please sound off on the strategies and tactics you use to generate publicity today – or back me up on why these two tactics should be at the top of any public relations program in 2013.

 What do you think? Is inbound media relations worth the effort required to make it work? Is real-time media relations effective for unknown brands and spokespeople, or only the big guys? What other tactics do you find effective? Am I wrong about “smiling and dialing”? I want to hear your thoughts. Thanks for reading!


(Image Credit: Two by Matti Mattilla / Flickr)

About Jeremy Porter 214 Articles
Jeremy Porter has been passionate about the intersection of public relations and journalism since studying both Public Relations and Journalism at Utica College of Syracuse University in the late 90s. Porter launched Journalistics in 2009 to share his ideas and insights around both professions and how trends and developments in modern day marketing, communications, and technology impact those working in these fields. Porter also values the traditions and history of both professions and regularly shares his perspective in these areas - and related topics geared toward the next generation of journalism and public relations professionals.


  1. If I had held on this post for a couple of hours, I probably would have called it, “Two highly-effective media relations strategies for 2013.” Since I know some of you will call me our for what is honestly an innocent, late-night groggy blogger oversight, I might as well jump in and comment on the post proactively.

    I stand by my position that real-time media relations and inbound media relations can be used as tactics in support of a broader publicity strategy, but at the 10,000-foot view (really the focus in this post), they’re more strategy than tactic. If my headline really upsets you, I’d be happy to follow up with some additional tactics for each.

    Have a great day and thanks for reading.

  2. Inbound PR will be one of the hot topics of conversations in 2013. Public relations pros worth their salt have been using these techniques for years. Inbound PR means that writers and influences are targeted with compelling content designed for the media, become interested in the promoted content, and follow the story on their own volition. Inbound PR generates mind share, traffic, links, and buzz promoting content with social PPC to promote PR goods. Most marketers don’t understand the easy availability of paid inventory to influence the media. Fewer think to retarget media traffic. This is the first post ever to call it “Inbound PR” Thanks for carrying the ball on this one.

    • Thanks for the comment Marty. I’m not sure I understand your claim on being the first to blog about “Inbound PR,” but I really enjoyed the post you linked to. I’ve been a fan of inbound PR – as an inbound marketing tactic – since HubSpot came on the scene. Here’s another good post on the topic – but it sounds like we’re probably reading the same stuff: I couldn’t agree with you more that it will be a hot topic this year, as the rest of the pack gets on board with inbound and starts using it. I’ll be treading lightly on the use of “inbound PR,” since it’s not entirely accurate. What we’re referring to – at least in my example – is inbound media relations. I make no claim to anywhere near the first to talk about it, just simply to share the idea as a priority area for PR pros in 2013. Thanks again for sharing. I look forward to reading more of your posts.

  3. This “you can be your own media channel” strategy approach completely misses the essential point of media relations – to garner legitimate, third party credible earned media coverage. It’s always better to have someone else write about you and your company than for you to do it yourself. That’s why effective PR is more credible than advertising or advertorials (the former name for “content creation”). For example, when deciding to buy a computer, would you base your buying decision about what the company writes about its own products on its blog or on an independent review in a trusted outlet like Consumer Reports, CNET or Engadget? And the time and effort required to create, manage and promote your own news blog in the hopes that eventually it will get enough traffic and traction to start regularly attracting inbound queries from the media takes far work than simply developing relationships with key reporters, editors and bloggers and reaching out to them directly when you have legitimate news that might be of interest to them…

    • There are two concepts in this post: real-time media relations and inbound media relations. With the former, I 100% agree that media relations – earning publicity through the shared, credible voice of brand name media outlets – is the way to go. Way more credibility earned from a placement in CNET than a post on a blog.

      Where I disagree is with the latter – inbound media relations. Let’s say you want to land publicity in outlets like Engadget, but the market for USB powered coffee warmers is a bit clouded these days. You set up your blog and start building a fan base around your USB powered devices, including the coffee warmer. When bloggers do gadgets round ups and want to feature devices that run of your USB, they would discover your post and link to it. Assuming you sell those products through your blog, it’s a more effective path. Could you accomplish the same result by picking up the phone and calling somebody at Engadget? Maybe.

      The added benefit with the owned media channel model is your blog post is not only attracting potential press opportunities, but also actual buyers for the products you sell. You know, so you’re generating sales whether or not Engadget feels about writing about you or not.

      Again, I don’t disagree with your points – I just think these two approaches deserve some attention from organizations that aren’t thinking this way – or lack your media relations skills. Thanks.

  4. Does anybody proofread? Check the third bullet point under Real-Time to see two nice typos, “identity” and an incredible, unbelievable “you’re.”

    Find them yourself nestled in the second and third sentences of the graf:
    “Using the suggestion above, let the local news station know about your identify theft expert. If a story about identity theft comes up, you’re spokesperson is available to head over to the station on short-notice to be interviewed on tonight’s newscast.”

  5. Timely topic to discuss indeed. The key term in this matter is “relations.” Be it inbound or outbound, public or private it all comes down on how you handle your relationship with your customers. Customer satisfaction is one of the leading factors of a successful business.

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