Thought leadership is not only about forward looking insights. It’s also about influencing the market conversation.

If your ideas are not getting picked up by the third-party influencers who frame the conversation, you will never be perceived as a thought leader. With that in mind, it’s critical to understand how to manage influencers such as the press and media.

“Like it or not, we need each other. You need us to cover the products you’re responsible for, whether they’re your own creations or you work for a public relations firm responsible for getting coverage for your company’s products,” writes Esther Schindler of the Internet Press Guild. “We need information from you in order to get our stories done.”

“If you want our attention, please recognize that we writers are inundated with information,” she adds. “Professional magazine and trade newspaper writers get dozens of press releases every day; sometimes hundreds of them, during busy times like the weeks before Comdex (or other events in our specific slice of the market). If you want to work with us effectively, fit yourself into our way of working — or at least do your best to understand it.”

In the case of the press, it’s particularly important to look at how they like to be contacted. According to the public relations firm Bennett & Company’s annual media survey, eighty nine percent (89%) of all journalists surveyed preferred email as the main way to receive information, followed by regular mail (6%). Only one percent (1%) said they preferred to be contacted by phone.

Personalized addresses are also important. Fifty percent (50%) of the media polled said they respond more readily to a personalized address and 4 percent (4%) said that a general editor address will do. The remaining 46 percent (46%) did not have a preference. Many noted that while they do not have a preference, personalized communications reach them quicker.

Multimedia is also an attractor. Fifty-nine percent (59%) of media polled said that the availability of multimedia (photos, charts, graphs,audio and video) does enhance the chances of a story being used. That suggests companies must not only think about developing a compelling story, but ensure that it is presented in compelling ways.

Of course, it isn’t all about how you communicate. Relevance is particularly critical to PR success. PR maven Nettie Hartsock (who conducts an insightful seminar called “Impress the Press”) warns against inundating journalists with useless press releases about mundane subjects.

Instead, she urges PR professionals to “really research what the journalist covers and email something about your client if they can serve as a good resource expert for that journalist or if there is a timely news story.”

Great advice. Take the time to get to know the journalists (and other influencers) you need to know. As I’ve written elsewhere, it’s preferable to reach the right press rather than the most press. To reach the right press, you need to know who they are, what they write and what they want to know from you.