Views: Media relations – the art and craft of persuasion

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MEDIA relations is the art and craft of persuading someone else, aka: “the media,” to tell your story, thereby adding an extra level of credibility to the message that you want to convey to your target audiences, writes Kirk Hazlett

Media relations is a proactive endeavor…you cannot “wait” for the media to come to you…you go to the media to provide the information that they will need, including additional contacts for information, in order for them to properly research and create their story. Finally, you follow up…tactfully…to ensure that they have everything they need for a complete story.

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Media strategy

First and foremost, in your media strategy you have to determine who you want to see/hear/read your story (your “target audiences”); then you conduct the research required to identify the optimal outlets. Would your message be more effective if seen? Or does the message require more “discussion,” i.e. print? Next, you have to identify the media that your target audiences (customers/investors/etc.) turn to for their information. Should you use subject-specific media outlets or general-audience? As I tell my students…and others…so often: “Do your homework.” 

Changing landscape

Media relations has expanded exponentially thanks to the influx of social media platforms, many of which are subject-specific. The “good news” is that there are now a growing number of outlets, both traditional and emerging, that offer an opportunity for you to share your story. The “not so good” news is that there are fewer gatekeepers to ensure that the information being shared about you or your product/service is both accurate and unbiased. Your challenge as the media relations professional is to…like above…”do your homework.”


Determining ROI is a very important step that requires a clear understanding of what you want to accomplish and with whom. You absolutely must know your target audience(s) and have an established means of assessing their reaction and response to your message. Just because a particular outlet boasts vast numbers of readers/viewers/listeners doesn’t necessarily mean that your target audiences, current and potential, will go there for information. Do NOT tie specific sales/usage figures to your presentation. Media relations is often a balancing act between a client’s expectations and a journalist’s interests.

Managing expectations

There are two steps in this process. One, don’t over-promise…absolutely do NOT “guarantee” either a successful placement in a target outlet or immediate, positive, target audience response to your placement. Be clear when discussing strategies and tactics with your client or your senior management that nothing in media relations is “guaranteed.” But DO assure that you are devoting 110 per cent of your expertise and energy to the project and that you will do everything within your power to achieve success.

A public relations professional-turned-public relations professor, Kirk Hazlett, APR, fellow PRSA, is adjunct professor of Communication at the University of Tampa (FL). He is a member of the Public Relations Society of America’s Board of Ethics and Professional Standards as well as of PRSA’s College of Fellows Communications Committee. In addition, he serves as PRSA Tampa Bay Chapter’s first Ethics Officer. Before moving into academia, Hazlett practiced nonprofit and government public relations and marketing for more than 35 years in the US as well as Asia. During his professional career, he managed communication programs for healthcare and member services organizations as well as for the US Army and US Air Force in Vietnam, the Philippines and the United States. He also provided consulting services for both the Manila and the Singapore Red Cross.