Relationships With Local Media

Establishing Relationships with Local Media

Establishing good relationships with the local media is the first step in a successful utility media relations strategy. Media relations entails more than answering questions when a reporter calls. It's important to establish and maintain relationships with local reporters, publishers, editors, photographers and videographers of print, online and broadcast news outlets.

Other tips for maintaining a successful relationship with local media include:

  • Find out who your local environmental/utility reporter is and call them to introduce yourself and offer any available resources and story ideas your utility can provide.
  • Host a 'Media Day' and invite local reporters, editors, producers, photographers and community affairs directors to visit your utility for a guided plant tour and overview of your utility's activities and programs.
  • Study your local television and print news outlets and determine the types of stories they cover. Provide them with activities and programs within your utility that match their reporting style.
  • Do not abuse your relationships with local media by trying to convince them to cover stories of little interest.
  • If your utility has a problem, whenever possible, don't wait for the media to contact you. Call them and explain the problem and what you are doing to correct the situation.

  • Be accessible and available for comment, whether the story is good or bad.
  • Provide updates in anticipation of key news times/broadcasts.
  • Provide visual opportunities/Use graphics. 
  • Explain technical issues in non-technical terms.
  • Provide continuous updates during a crisis, even if there is no new information.
  • Provide access to subject matter experts, both within your utility and in the water profession. Make sure they are capable of explaining the situation in non-technical terms.
  • Facilitate media interviews and photographs.
  • Make a media contact list containing two names for each outlet.
  • Get you message into another story.
  • Remove email addresses when forwarding.
  • Use email to distribute press releases.
  • Don't call TV media at 4:30 p.m. - try 10:30 a.m.
  • When calling TV media, have a 7-second pitch ready when the reporter answers the phone.
  • Avoid "exclusives", leaving out one outlet to benefit another.
  • If the answer is NO, accept it graciously; don't whine or pester. (On the other hand, don't be afraid to try someone else or to reform your pitch and try again at another time).