Once a Star Wars fanatic, always one.
As a media relations counselor who eagerly awaits the next Star Wars installment – “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” – I’ve found an empire of inspiration in the lessons of Jedi masters and realize that there is much in common between a media relations counselor and an aspiring Jedi knight.
“Fear and Aggression – the Dark Side of the Force Are They.” – Yoda
When I teach those inexperienced in media relations, I often encounter fear: What if they reject my story pitch?
We need to cast away our fears and be confident in our story packaging. Be sure your story centers on the things that readers and viewers care most about. Present that side of your story to reporters and deliver it with passion, to take away the fear.
As for aggression, it can work against your media relations efforts – especially in a crisis. That’s the time to put aside your personal feelings and maintain a calm presence in your conversations with reporters. Lay out the facts firmly and persuasively, and if you feel threatened or challenged by their questions, don’t take it personally. Don’t take the bait and respond negatively.
“Who’s the More Foolish, the Fool or the Fool Who Follows Him?” – Obi Wan Kenobi
Effective media relations require good judgment and a strong voice of reason. CEOs may be convinced that their company’s latest product or service warrants coverage on “Good Morning America” or USA Today, but as media relations strategists, we know that’s not always reality.
Don’t indulge wishful thinking which ultimately wastes everyone’s time. Instead, drive successful media placements by strategically framing the best story opportunities, using strong human-interest themes, unique findings and interesting visuals.
Use critical judgment when evaluating communications platforms, too. Media relations may not be the best communications tool to tell a story. Don’t be afraid to try storytelling approaches in brand journalism or other communications channels to reach key audiences.
“I Have a Very Bad Feeling About This.” – Luke Skywalker
News organizations want stories that boost circulation, ratings and sharing activity – and reporters won’t always let you in on their angle. Trust your instincts, media relations Jedi. Proceed with caution and know that you have some control in how the story unfolds.
First, gather background on the reporter. Then ask plenty of questions. Who else are they talking to? What did they learn from other interviews? What do they want readers to take away from their story?
If you’re getting a bad feeling about the interview and story direction, you are probably right. You need to be prepared to either walk toward the opportunity with your messaging or turn and walk away.
Today’s shrinking newsrooms leave the remaining reporters overworked and overwhelmed. Besides covering breaking news, many are now responsible for expanded beat stories, too. Be patient, Jedi.
While you need to be persistent in pursuing your story, know that it may take more time than usual to get answers – and to build media relationships. For example, I’ve waited six to 18 months for national placements with USA Today and The Wall Street Journal.
Use that time to pursue other opportunities for exposure within a media outlet, including online, video and social media placements.
“Do or Do Not. There is No Try.” – Yoda
Yoda’s mantra is critical wisdom for every media relations professional. True media relations Jedi are uncompromising in their story packaging, steadfast in their relationship building with reporters and strategic in their media outreach.
At the end of the day, media results will prove your success – and your worthiness to enter the Jedi Order of media relations.
So are you off to media relations Jedi knighthood? What other lessons can you share? And may The Force be with you!