Back in my early PR years, I would call every reporter on my media list. I would occasionally find a few reporters willing to listen to my nervous pitch and if I was lucky, someone would bite and actually write a story. When I look back now, I realize I was most likely interrupting busy journalists with pitches that probably had nothing to do with the stories they were interested in. I knew this was a bad idea back then, but it took me several years to find my voice and discover what actually works.
Today, I worry about the young professionals who are still calling down a media list trying to get any reporter to write about the story they’re pitching. It’s wrong, and it gives PR professionals a bad name. We’ve all made mistakes, but it is important to learn from those mistakes and in the process evolve into a more polished and successful PR professional. Communicating with media can be challenging, but it’s a crucial skill for everyone in our industry. With that in mind, here are a few tips to improve your media skills:
The beginning of a relationship is fundamental, and to do that you must be considerate and reliable. Media relations are all about relationships. So why do so many PR professionals still think a random email pitch, or worse a group email pitch, is enough? Think about how many emails we get in a day. Times that by twenty, or even forty, and you are probably close to the total number of emails a busy reporter receives in a typical day.
The first step to get a reporter’s attention could be as easy as a small introduction. I like to send reporters (who I KNOW should be interested in my client) an introductory email. I start by referencing one of their articles; not only does this show the reporter I understand their beat, but expresses that I’m a “fan” of their work (every writer likes positive feedback). Of course, I let them know a little about my client (a small glimpse is fine – you don’t want to oversell it). It’s important to let the reporter assume you exist for the sole purpose of making their job easier, not the other way around.
Next, make sure you know your media. It may seem obvious but it needs saying: know who you are pitching to. Understand what kind of topics they cover and which journalist within the publication covers each beat. It is also important to be responsive when a reporter is interested, and make moves to get him/her in touch with your client as soon as possible. If you snooze, you lose, and worse, the reporter would never want to work with you ever again.
The next tip is simple: never promise what you can’t deliver. If there is even a small doubt in your mind that you will be able to deliver within the reporter’s deadline, take it back, apologize and tell them you will try your best to make it happen next time. Nothing frustrates and angers a reporter more than being left empty handed with a deadline looming, or, just as bad, being told that the exclusive you promised is being sent out to everyone in media land.
Finally, let the reporter know that you saw the story and you appreciate the coverage. If you decide to post the article on social media, let the reporter know the story will get a lot of views and generate traffic to their site. The reporter will love the fact you’re appreciative and accessible, and most importantly can be counted on as a reliable source for future stories.
By Gus Nodal, Senior Account Executive at Landis Communications Inc.
Courtesy of Landis Communications Inc.