Growing media relationships, inch by inch

Filomena FanelliWhen I was a little girl, my grandfather taught us grandkids a rhyming song to make toiling away in his vast garden a bit more fun – and to distract us from the labor that is weeding, raking and watering. Grandpa Angelo would merrily sing, “Inch by inch, row by row… gonna make this garden grow… with a rake and a hoe and a piece of fertile land.”

Back then I had two misconceptions: one was that I thought my clever gramps made this song up himself and the other was that “fertiland” was one word and had some magical meaning. These days, I know better, realizing that the folk tune is actually “Garden Song” and it was penned by songwriter David Mallet and made popular by the likes of John Denver, Pete Seeger and Peter, Paul and Mary, to name a few. Yes, all of them… and my Grandpa Angelo.

Laughable misunderstandings aside, there was a lesson in that quality time with my grandfather. Hard work is often the precursor to reaping rewards and, with the right attitude, you can make the effort fun. I’ve carried this into my job as a PR professional and it’s made all the difference. One of the most important parts of the PR job, but also most taxing, is building media contacts. Public relations, by definition, is the art of building mutually beneficial relationships between an individual or organization and its publics and that’s no quick, easy proposition. In fact, it’s hard work.

Here are a few tips, whether you are working with a PR agency, starting a public relations career or are a small business or organization looking to dip your toes into growing media relationships:

Survey the land
Like a gardener looking to plant, you want to assess the conditions before you dig up dirt and lay down seeds; that parcel might be rocky or there may not be optimal daylight for growth. On the PR front, this means thinking carefully about your target audience and the best places to reach them before spending valuable resources and planting messages.

Begin with cultivating a media list. If your product or service is only available in three counties, cull a list of all hyperlocal media in those specific markets. If you sell nationwide, you can expand that to include industry-specific trade publications, national media that cover your type of news, and other geographic areas you have a presence in.

For example, a restaurant with multiple locations in NY, CT and FL would need to examine media in all of the counties and states it is in, plus restaurant trade publications and food reporters at magazines, newspapers, broadcast news outlets and more. A small business in NY’s Hudson Valley region with one physical location would likely have a much more targeted list of media to scope out, but may also benefit from industry positioning.

Beyond that, consider your target audience. What age are they, what sex, what are their habits or interests? Closely consider their media consumption habits. Are they – your…

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