5 psychological hacks for boosting media relations

Media relations and psychology form the backbone of successful PR strategies.

Psychology is a key part of media relations

Kawita Noramung
is a freelance PR consultant in Southeast Asia.

Media relations and psychology form the backbone of successful PR strategies.

Understanding human behavior enables PR professionals to effectively engage with journalists, forming connections that secure favorable media coverage. By personalizing pitches and acknowledging journalists’ expertise, PR pros leverage psychological principles like reciprocity and trust. Integrating theories like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and attachment theory fosters enduring relationships. Let’s take a look at how we can blend media relations and psychology together to unlock the PR potential.

Self-determination theory (SDT):
SDT suggests that humans have innate psychological needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness. In media relations, applying this theory means recognizing journalists’ expertise and the value they bring to their field to foster their sense of competence. Respecting their
autonomy by allowing them to choose stories that align with their interests and nurturing by showing genuine interest in their work and acknowledging their contributions creates a strong bond.



Social exchange theory:
The social exchange theory posits that people engage in relationships when the benefits outweigh the costs. In media relations, PR pros can apply this by offering valuable and exclusive information to journalists, ensuring that the benefits of covering a story outweigh the effort they
put into it. By making journalists feel special and providing unique opportunities, PR professionals create a positive exchange dynamic that encourages journalists to maintain an ongoing relationship.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs:
Maslow’s theory proposes that individuals have a hierarchy of needs, starting from basic physiological needs and progressing to higher-level needs such as esteem and self-actualization. PR professionals can apply this theory by understanding that journalists, like all individuals, seek recognition and esteem for their work. By fulfilling these higher-level needs and making journalists feel special, PR pros can motivate them to cover stories that align with their interests and values.

Psychological reactance theory:
Psychological reactance occurs when individuals feel their freedom is being restricted, leading to a desire to regain that freedom. In media relations, PR professionals can avoid creating psychological reactance by respecting journalists’ autonomy and choices. Instead of pushing
journalists to cover specific stories, PR pros can present opportunities in a way that allows journalists to feel they have the freedom to choose what to cover, making them more likely to feel special and valued.

Attachment theory:
Attachment theory explores how individuals form emotional bonds with others. In media relations, PR professionals can build strong relationships with journalists by being consistently reliable, supportive, and responsive. This secure attachment can make journalists feel connected and valued, leading to a higher likelihood of them covering stories pitched by the PR pro.

At its core, PR is the art of understanding human behavior and motivations. To excel in media relations and PR strategies, grasping psychological concepts becomes indispensable. Especially in this tech-driven era, the fusion of media relations and psychology not only remains
relevant but emerges as a key differentiator. By understanding psychological hacks, PR professionals can transcend surface-level communication and delve into the core values, desires, and aspirations of their target demographics. This deeper understanding empowers PR
pros to craft messages that resonate on a profound level, forging authentic connections and driving impactful outcomes.


3 Responses to “5 psychological hacks for boosting media relations”

    Caroline Raley says:

    This article emphasizes the importance for PR professionals to use psychology to their advantage. Applying attachment theory with journalists, reporters, and clients is essential to success. I especially loved the mention of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Like all media relations professionals, journalists also seek recognition and esteem for their work. PR professionals master the perfect way to express this validation. I will be sure to show these theories to my colleagues at Platform Magazine! – Caroline Raley, writer/editor for Platform Magazine.

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