As I sit here and write this blog post, I am thinking back to many a new business meeting at my public relations firm where the age-old questions was asked: “Do you have contacts?”

Now, when looking to engage with a public relations professional, whether it is one of the nation’s top pr firms or a boutique agency, this is a legitimate question. You have a prospective client who, in so many words, wants to know that you can deliver results.

But, and this is a big but, today’s best public relations professionals know media relations is more than having an extensive rolodex of contacts. It is about storytelling. They also know the common misconception that public relations is media relations.

Debunking the media relations myth m studio
Do contacts really matter? Debunking the media relations myth

Public relations pros at their core are story tellers. They know how to communicate a message and position it in a way that resonates with audiences. They also understand the necessary channels and mediums by which to communicate the message. This is the essence of media relations.

Does it help to have relationships with members of the media who know they can rely on you for valid sources and trusted turnaround times? Absolutely. Is this the one thing you should rely on in a overly saturated media landscape? Absolutely not.

It can happen to the best of the best public relations professionals. You have a long-time contact who you have worked with on numerous occasions. You have a new client who you think is an ideal fit for their beat. You pitch the client and … they tell you: they aren’t interested; their beat has changed; they will keep the pitch on file; they will revisit the pitch in a few months.

Do you see where this is going? If you were to solely to rely on “contacts” you wouldn’t get too far in your media relations program, nor would you earn the respect and trust of your clients.

So, what does media relations really involve and what should you look for in a PR campaign that heavily relies on earned editorial?

Start with a Strategy

Step one: know your end game. What is your expected out come from a media relations program? Are you solely looking for more notoriety? Or are you looking to become a thought leader in your space? Do you want to drive qualified leads to your website? Do you want to raise the domain authority of your site? These are all essential questions to ask when developing a media relations program.

If you are looking to hire a public relations firm, these are the questions the firm should be asking you. In today’s digital landscape, you need to collaborate with public relations professionals who understand how digital marketing integrates with media relations efforts to drive results and create authority. With strategies of this ilk, are contacts as important as a plan that is going to work to drive qualified leads to your website through authoritative content? The answer is no.

Sleep, Eat, Breathe What Your Audience Reads and Watches

Once a strategy is developed, the best public relations firms know they must get to work on immersing themselves in the media landscape. Dependent on industry and subject matter, media relations experts will track the news daily, follow journalists on social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter, and get involved in conversations relevant to their clients’ businesses.

No one likes a hard sell or a cold call, and media relations is no different. Coveted relationships with media are built from tried and true tactics like this – day in and day out. By researching and engaging with targeted influencers and media, PR pros are able to build trust with contacts, immerse themselves in their clients’ industries, and identify the industry trends and content gaps, that allow them to best position their clients for coverage.

A good media relations program is constantly working to build new contacts, not solely relying on old ones.

Mind Your P’s and C’s: Consistency and Persistence

Very rarely does a big media placement come from very little outreach. Like most good things in life, hard work, diligence, and persistence are often integral ingredients to media relations success.

A good media relations program includes consistent and warranted outreach to a targeted group of contacts. Good publicists don’t pitch just to pitch. Rather, they will use a combination of research, seasonality, lead time, and breaking news topics to develop relevant and timely stories.

The goal? To have these stories resonate with media contacts in a way that encourages them to produce informative and authoritative coverage on behalf of a client.

In order to achieve this, you need to be consistent. You need to be creative in your positioning. And you need to understand how the media works.

Again, a contact is good. A consistent, targeted strategy is better.

Know How and Where to Tell a Story

I said it above and I will say it again: public relations pros are storytellers. They know how to take a clients background and value proposition and translate it into story verticals. They also know how and when to try to place the stories. And, most importantly, how those stories should take shape.

For example, they may be able to take a founder and position his or her background for inclusion in an online video series geared towards entrepreneurs and start-ups. They may also know that an industry website accepts contributed content and is an ideal platform to engage with a target audience while also benefiting from authoritative linking.

Identifying the channels and telling relevant stories for said channels is integral to media relations. The best of the best in the public relations industry understand this. And they use it every day to deliver results for their clients.

In short, media relations is much more than contacts. A good public relations pro will help you understand this. They will also work with you to define a real and concrete strategy that goes above and beyond the flick of a rolodex or the grab of the phone.