As any Public Relations student or professional knows, to be successful, it is imperative that we are able to effectively interact and communicate with media outlets. In order to do this, we must promote positive media relations that benefit our final product and encourage growth in their goals as well. However, unless a personal relationship between a journalist, newscaster, or blogger, is held, it is a rare occurrence that public relations practitioners are given insight, background knowledge, and the opportunity to speak candidly with these people, whom we often view as obstacles.
On Wednesday, November 16, 2011, Florida Public Relations Association Orlando Area Chapter offered its members, including those of the student chapters, a unique opportunity rewarding to PR hopefuls like myself and my fellow students. Alongside many established professionals in PR, we were given a backstage pass of WKMG Channel 6 News, the number one news station in the Central Florida market. Our tour included everything from observing engineers behind the screens to meeting newscasters themselves. We were shown green screen technology, and the final completion and placement of a news section on the air. Along with this we saw rows and rows of archives from years prior. Being immersed in a news studio, like that of Channel 6, it is very evident that time is of the essence and that things must always be done on a time-pressed schedule for the show to run smoothly.
For someone who had previously never stepped foot in a news station, you can imagine my excitement throughout the tour, however I found myself wondering at the end how this would affect my blossoming PR career. My questions did not remain unanswered. At the end of this extremely informative tour, we were given the opportunity to speak with a couple of head honchos at WKMG Channel 6 News. All the media relations training ingrained in our heads specifically applies to our interactions with them. They offered incredible insight for Public Relations professionals at all levels to think about when sending in a press release. These have resonated with me and are things that should continually be done in all engagements with the media. My takeaways include the following: 1) when contacting a media outlet – emails over phone call are preferred; 2) you must have patience with the media – they will get back to you if they are interested; 3) be accessible, tell the truth, and be available. As a student, to hear these guidelines outside of the classroom was a refreshing change of pace and reinforcement of the best techniques to being successful in media relations. What also left a lasting impression was how to frame a press release. I learned that the media looks for stories that they do not have to alter. Ones that are newsworthy and unique will stand out more than the dull ones. Stories that are relevant and important locally will generate news coverage first. Frame your press release for the easiest translation into a news story – give all relevant information you have and offer it all upfront, be straight and to the point.
My experience at WKMG Channel 6 presented lasting lessons. Maybe I could have learned all of these things in the classroom, but I know for a fact that what I gained from this experience was more than information. It was priceless connection with the media, background information and insight into news rooms operation, and countless tips from the source themselves. None of which would have resonated with me as much as they did during my time at WKMG. Being at Channel 6 put a face to the “media” which is so ingrained in my mind as an “obstacle” to overcome in public relations. What I now know, is that media is simply attempting to put on their best show. As Public Relations practitioners, it is our job to give them the most exciting acts.