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Part 6: media relations

Whether you have the budget for a publicist or not, you should understand how media relations work.

A journalist or producer may get in touch with you directly for a story (‘editorial’) if they have heard about or like your content, but in most cases you/a PR will need to pitch the story to them.

If the journalist thinks the story is genuine news of interest to their audience, they will take the idea to their editor. If the editor also agrees the story is worth pursuing, the journalist will begin their research and potentially schedule interviews through you/the PR. The roles differ slightly depending on the kind of media outlet and are summarised below.


  • Talent: That’s you. Whoever is the subject of the interview is the talent.
  • Editor: A role most common in print and online news, this is the person who is shaping the news of the day. Journalists will generally require the editor’s OK to proceed with a story. There may be several layers of editors depending on the size of the publication e.g. arts and entertainment sections may have their own editor.
  • Journalist: This is the person who is actually researching and preparing the story. On TV, the journalist is the person on location interviewing the talent (as opposed to the presenter sitting at the newsdesk). For newspapers and online, it’s the person writing the story. Talk-based radio stations also have journalists, but often times the presenter will conduct the interview working off a brief from their producer.
  • Producer: In radio, the producer is often the person receiving the pitches (story ideas) and deciding if it’s right for their show. They will do the research and possibly pre-interview talent before the final interview occurs with the presenter. TV producers do a similar role for extended news shows, however for standard evening news the journalist will often need to do their own research. For evening news, the person who greenlights a story to proceed is the Chief of Staff.
  • Chief of Staff: The chief of staff in TV news is like the editor for print and online. They are deciding the overall direction of the show and they have the ultimate say on what stories are told. Depending on the size of the show there may be several layers of Executive Producers and Producers reporting to the Chief of Staff.

Getting coverage

There are some key things to remember when pursuing media coverage:

  • Know your media: Never pitch to a publication you don’t actively read/watch or a journalist where you are unfamiliar with their work. If you go in blind with a pitch that doesn’t suit their outlet you are unlikely to get a response. You should be reading/watching and following all the news outlets your audience is, because they are the publications you want your show featured in. If the journalist/publication has published a story on content/themes similar to yours, reference that in your pitch.
  • It has to be genuine news: The launch of an online original generally isn’t newsworthy in itself. Consider what is the actual news is. It could be the cast, the creative team, where it was filmed, the content, part of it may have gone viral, you may have got funding, a milestone etc.
  • Be aware of other news: If it’s a really busy news day, it’s not a good time to try get a journalist’s attention. Also use other news to your advantage e.g. if you’ve made an all-female comedy, you could hook into news surrounding International Women’s Day.

  • You don’t get approval rights: If your pitch is successful, remember editorial isn’t advertising, you can’t request changes or ask to see a story before it’s published/aired. You cannot ask to see it before it’s published/aired.
  • Do not spam: Every pitch should be individually personalised to the journalist/producer and their outlet. Don’t send the one email to a whole list of outlets.
  • Be realistic: If you’ve got high profile talent in your show, aim for TV interviews, but if this is your first online original, think local media first and publications which closely align with the content / themes of your show e.g. if your show is about a group of LGBTQI friends, then it’s likely publications aimed at this market will be interested.
  • Recognise the value of all types of media: Do not underestimate the power of bloggers, Facebook groups / fan pages and online-only publications. Remember The Katering Show went viral after Mamamia discovered their Thermomix episode!
  • Be considerate: Journalists are busy and get multiple media releases every day, so treat their time with respect e.g. it’s best not to call a print journalist when they are likely to be on deadline (any time after 3pm). And if the journalist shows interest in your story, make sure you’re easy to contact, get back to them straight away and make time to schedule an interview or photo as soon as possible.  
  • Be easy to find: Nothing beats a journalist chasing YOU to do a story after discovering your online original, so make sure they can easily find you. Enable private messaging on your Twitter and Facebook brand social media, and include an email address on all public listings like your YouTube ‘about’ page that you answer promptly (aka within minutes!).
  • Practice: Before you do an interview, practice with a team member. Get them to ask some tricky questions!


Don’t be scared to do your own media relations, particularly early in your career. There are a few steps you can follow:

  • Prepare a media release which encapsulates everything that is newsworthy about your title in one page (1.5 pages max!). Here is an example of a media release for the launch of an online original called Daisy Chain.
  • Decide on your target journalist/s and find their contact email. Generally journalists will list their email on their Twitter profiles or it will be listed at the bottom of journalist’s stories. Producer details are harder to find, so you may need to call the reception of the outlet. If you do need to call, the reception may put you straight through to the journalist so have your 20-second verbal pitch ready.
  • Write a short pitch email of no more than 2 paragraphs or bullet points, and attach your media release, one key image and the link to a trailer or screener. In that short space you are outlining why your story is newsworthy and the talent available for interviews.
  • Wait for a reply.
  • After two days has passed, follow up by phone or email once. Mid mornings are a good time to get in touch, but for radio and TV journalists be careful not to call when the show is on air.
  • If you get a decline, thank the journalist for their time and leave it. If you don’t get an answer after the follow-up, again leave it. This particular news story may not be right for them, but one down the track may be, so don’t take it personally.

"We never had a publicist for Bondi Hipsters – we did it ourselves." – Christiaan Van Vuuren

The alternative is to hire a PR to help you because they have the advantage of already have existing relationships with journalists who they deal with day-to-day.


Using a publicist can be a good investment. It’s their job is to get exposure, particularly media coverage, but it’s not their role to create your entire communications strategy or to try get coverage at the last minute because you launched without a strategy.

Some online original creators will invest in a consultant for a couple of weeks when they are launching a bulk of content, such as a new season. For established online creators, they may have a PR across the entire creation of a project but this is rare due to the cost. When projects get commissioned by an online platform (e.g. ABC iview), it’s most likely the online platform will take over PR for that project.

Some PR consultants now offer flat-fees for online original creators e.g. $7,000 for a launch campaign. Ideally 4-6 weeks before your launch, you should get at least two quotes from reputable publicists, ideally with screen experience.

You should meet with your preferred PR before agreeing to any services and that initial meeting should be at no-cost (but don’t expect the PR to give you their ideas in that first meeting for free!).

Go to that meeting having pre-supplied as much information as you can (the brief) via email a day or two before. The brief should include:

  • Screeners of your online original (a password protected Vimeo link is best) so they can view the title in full. Rough cuts are fine.
  • The link to your asset Dropbox, and note any assets that are still to come.
  • Your communications strategy, which can be a simple two-to-three page document. Remember to include your audience, your success measures and what communication channels you wish to pursue (remembering the PR will be paying close attention to any mention of obtaining media coverage).
  • A draft one-page media release. The PR is unlikely to use this version, but it gives them a quick sense of your show, cast and creatives and how you envisage it being communicated to the public.
  • The list of cast and creatives, including a one-paragraph bio for each and their social media handles. Include for each person where they grew up (suburb), where they live now and if they went to any prestigious film schools like VCA, AFTRS or NIDA. This kind of information can help the PR envisage local angles for your work. If you have any high-profile cast, note their agent’s details.
  • Clippings (preferabley a list of online links) to any media coverage you have obtained for the title already. Also include links of coverage any cast or creatives have featured in personally for other projects they’ve worked on. Use the Google ‘News’ search feature to double-check nothing has been missed.
  • Details of pre-existing relationships you have with the media e.g. for an online original comedy based on a stand-up routine, if you know a particular journalist saw that original live show, tell the PR.
  • Details of anything that may negatively impact the project.

You should answer all the PR’s questions honestly, and ask plenty of your own including:

  • What did they think of the screener? Even though the PR themselves might not be in your key audience, they should have confidence your online original has creative merit and is worthy of media coverage. If they raise concerns about the work, don’t take it personally and listen to their advice.
  • Do they think your communication strategy, particularly the media relations component, is realistic? There are no guarantees in obtaining media coverage – if you want guaranteed placement with an outlet you’ll need to look at paid advertising. However, the PR should give a sense of what they think the likely outcomes will be, so you can decide if the cost is worth it.
  • What is the cost? Aim to have a capped cost over a set period of time, rather than per-hour billing. Ask if there will be extra costs such as expenses. Enquire about the payment schedule, which will normally include a percentage sum upfront.
  • How will they measure success? The PR should have a clear idea what they will be aiming to achieve for you, and how they will report to you if it’s worked.
  • What does the PR expect of you? This includes everything from your availability to any extra assets they want you to create to help their campaign. Also be ready to help the PR amplify any coverage they obtain by sharing it on social media (including all cast, creatives and the brand’s social media).

Screen Specialists

The below suppliers have screen experience and offer flat-rate packages to emerging creatives and are a good place to start when making enquiries. You should always get at least two quotes and never employ a contractor you have not met face to face or via video conference (Skype/Facetime/Whatsapp).

Note a media liaison, publicist and PR are essentially all the same role. You may also hear terms like ‘unit PR’, but they are for bigger productions like a major feature film, when there is a PR attached to the title (often on-site) for the duration of the shoot.

The following companies have registered their interest in providing PR services to the emerging screen sector. Screen Australia does not endorse the quality or standard of their services.

Anarchy PREmail
Bad Girl, OtherLife

Asha Holmes Publicity – Email
Glitch, Nowhere Boys, Ali’s Wedding

Black & White Publicity – Email
Get Krack!n, Ronny Chieng International Student, The Wrong Girl

Cardinal SpinEmail
Life Lessons (Junkee Original), I Luv U But, Sydney Film Festival

Deb Fryers Entertainment – Email
Charlie & Boots (unit and release), Kenny, Open Slather (unit)

Ned & Co Marketing and Publicity – Email
Underbelly, House Husbands (seasons 3,4, & 5), Animal Kingdom

Rip Tide, AACTA Awards, Ignite Elite Artists

Hacksaw Ridge (unit & release), That Sugar Film (film release) & High Life (online series debut)
Sydney-based, with network of publicists in Victoria, Queensland, WA and SA

Playmaker DigitalEmail
Little Acorns, Bruce, The Daughter
Sydney and Melbourne-based

TM Publicity – Email
Deadlock, Starting From Now, Cleverman

Screen Australia has no commercial arrangement with any of the above suppliers.

If you would like to be added to this list, contact Publications detailing your experience in the screen sector.

Violent content warning

This guide is aimed at Australian online creators and is for educational purposes only, and does not replace professional advice. The guide cannot be replicated without written permission.