October 5, 2017
There’s no question that media relations can be extremely challenging and competitive. How do you get your pitch to stand out from hundreds of others? What’s the secret to building strong reporter relationships? How can you differentiate your clients when so many companies are vying for attention? And what does it take to get reporters to come to you for assistance with assignments, rather than you constantly pitching story ideas to them?
Yes, media relations can be a daunting undertaking, especially for young PR professionals just beginning their career. But with experience, confidence and a few proven best practices at the ready, you can quickly build your media relations savvy. Here are five tips and tricks to help PR pros at every level master the art of media relations.
As PR professionals, we’ve all been taught to avoid mass email blasts where you send the same pitch to every reporter on your media list. Customizing each and every pitch for its intended target is a far superior approach. And while this has been ingrained in all of us time and time again, many still don’t heed this advice – most likely because of the extra time it requires.
When you’re busy and clients are demanding multiple things at once, it can be very tempting to take the easy way out by sending one uniform pitch to everyone. But, tailoring your emails is one of the most effective ways to build reporter trust and develop strong relationships. And, sometimes, all it takes is adjusting the lead sentence – minimal time investment for maximum reward.
Successfully customizing pitches for their intended targets requires you to do your research. Identify target reporters’ beats, understand what types of stories they cover (e.g., hard news, trends, customer case studies), read articles they have recently written, get to know the publications they write for, and learn what kind of content they accept (e.g., bylines, slideshows, executive interviews).
Record detailed notes about each reporter in your media list for easy reference for future outreach. Doing this upfront work will ensure you are pitching appropriate news and story ideas, and putting a personal touch on your communications will demonstrate the fact that you care about the reporter, your client and doing your job well.
If you can immediately identify what “TLDR” stands for, you most likely have sent reporters a pitch that was more than three paragraphs long. “Too long didn’t read” is a common reporter response, and while it can certainly be a frustrating one, we must consider the media’s viewpoint. Journalists get hundreds of pitches every day. If they took five-to-10 minutes to read pitches five and six paragraphs long, they would have no time to write their stories. Every second is precious, and they need to be able to quickly decide whether your pitch is something they want to cover. For us, this means cutting out the fluff and getting right to the point – which leads to tip four.
Begin your pitch by clearly stating your news or story idea, as well as what you want the reporter to do – cover client news, consider a byline, speak with an executive, quote a company expert, etc.
For example: “I’m writing to gauge your interest in speaking with ‘client X’ about ‘product X.’” Or, “In the event you’re writing about ‘topic X,’ I wanted to pass along expert commentary from ‘client X.’” Following this approach will ensure that, even if reporters only read the first paragraph of your email, they will have a clear understanding of your news and the desired call to action.
Due to the large volume of pitches that reporters receive daily, it’s not often that you’ll hear back from many of them after your first round of outreach. Don’t get discouraged and think they don’t care. Breaking through the clutter and reaching reporters often takes several follow ups – by email, phone and even social media. When doing the research mentioned in tip two, make sure you note how reporters like to be contacted. This will ensure your follow ups are welcomed and helpful, rather than an annoyance. It’s okay to do several rounds of follow-up outreach – just make sure to do it tactfully and over an appropriate time span.
Last but certainly not least, regardless of what comes your way, remain confident. To master media relations, you must own the conversation, and this means knowing your clients’ technology inside and out, and being very familiar with the reporter you’re speaking with as well as the publications they write for. When you know your stuff and believe in your skills, you can be informative and persuasive, and turn a skeptical reporter into your biggest fan – one that trusts your judgment and proactively comes to you for help with assignments.
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