Nonprofit Media Relations—Not JUST Relationships

Patricia-Brooks-photo-imageGuest blogger, Patricia Brooks guides client orgs to reach and motivate people through traditional and new media sources. She’s a 24/7 newshound and loves to match the right story with the right journalist.

As a media relations expert, the question I’m most often asked is whether I have strong relationships with reporters. And many are taken aback when my response to that question is often a polite version of, “I can name drop until I am blue in the face, but that doesn’t mean that I can guarantee those journalists will cover your organization.”

In fact, I believe that most name-dropped journalists would be insulted if they thought I was financially profiting by implying that they chose story ideas because of my relationship with them. Yet, media relations professionals are constantly selling or being forced to sell this relationship idea.

Let me be clear—My relationships are not the key to what defines my accomplishments in public relations. Instead, I think these three traits are more vital than relationships and yield better results—look for them in your media relations staffer or consultant:

  • Knowledge of what journalists want—a good story.  A good publicist understands that if you want news coverage, it comes down to understanding what reporters need.  Journalists want timely hooks, professionalism, conflict, strong and compelling sources, real-life examples, reliable data, and brevity. 
  • Persistence.  I don’t mean bugging the journalists on their personal mobile at 5:00 on Friday.  I mean diligently working on different angles and adjusting as you go based on feedback.  We hear the word “no” over and over again, yet do not give up. We are problem solvers, willing to try new approaches to get results.
  • Modesty. An effective media relations professional listens more than she speaks. She observes the media and social media closely for trends and new story ideas, and—perhaps most importantly—keeps your media coverage expectations real.

While it can be argued that “relations” is in the name of the field media relations, I often believe it is misunderstood. I prefer to view media relations as “how your organization relates to your desired audience through the media” rather than “if you are friendly with those currently covering that beat.”

This is my opinion. I know it’s controversial, and I’m eager to hear yours—What do you think?

 P. S. Get Getting Attention in your in-box! Register now to get nonprofit marketing tips, templates & tools delivered directly to you.

P.P.S. More Media Relations and Press Guidance


P. S. Get Getting Attention in your in-box! Register now to get nonprofit marketing tips, templates & tools delivered directly to you.

– See more at:

Guest Blogger on March 27, 2014 in Media Relations and Press | 3 comments
Tags:, , ,

  • Stephanie Bowen

    This is right on target! In fact, sometimes I think having a relationship with a journalist can actually hurt you… it might get your phone call answered or email replied to, but if you’re friends w/a reporter, editor, etc., you have to be even more diligent about doing your research and making sure your pitch is customized for their audience and needs.

  • Kim Connolly

    Amen! Your first bullet point is exactly why I have good relationships with our local media. I don’t waste their time with useless pitches, and I respond to their inquiries promptly and professionally.

  • I agree with Kim and Stephanie, Patricia. Excellent post! This is a frequent topic of discussion with our clients, particularly the part about keeping media coverage expectations real. Thank you for including specific examples of the things journalists want. You know, when you look at this topic the way you’ve broken it out, it’s interesting how similar media relations is to donor relations… hmmm.

<< Back to Main