Flood insurance, infidelity dating sites, senior living communities, even running with the bulls…I’ve pitched it all. Even though each client is distinct, media attention is on every client’s mind. Despite the fact that a media “win” for one may not be a “win” for another, there are best practices for media relations, regardless of industry.
Here are tips for media relations practitioners that I’ve learned over my first two years in PR:
Pitch the story, not the product
A pitch’s news value is often not in the product or client itself, but in the niche it fills or the service it provides. Why is this product or service important and how is it impacting consumers? Does it make life better, easier or more efficient? Will it affect an industry? If so, why and over what timeframe will that change transpire? Provide more than just the product or service specs – give the SparkNotes version over the phone, but put the details of your pitch into context so the reporter can build his or her story accordingly.
Be short and sweet – save the anecdotes and company description for another day. Get to the point and explain why your story is important in the first sentence. If you feel more detail would benefit the reporter, one of my favorite tactics is to hyperlink to additional information. Just beware of where you’re linking; providing information from a rival publication could deter the reporter from covering your story.
When it’s time to announce a client’s new product or initiative, don’t send a massive blast email. Instead, take the time to develop a strategy using a tiered, prioritized media list. Start with the most impactful “gets” (notice I didn’t say largest) and work your way down. Practitioners must also consider publication lead times – a magazine may not be the most significant placement, but it may take the longest, so start early.
Let’s Get Personal
Avoid the cookie-cutter approach and tailor your message for specific reporters, editors or producers. Demonstrate you’ve done your research and are familiar with their beat and recent articles, and reference your previous conversations. If you have an existing relationship, include a line asking about their weekend or recent vacation. Better yet, take the time to meet for coffee or visit their office; face-to-face time is always better than an anonymous voice on the phone.
Take a Hint
If they’re not interested, they’re not interested. Don’t hound a reporter with the same story unless it has changed dramatically or you can find a new twist on the angle. If your contact is swamped and needs more time to review, set a reminder to follow up in a couple weeks. If Editor A forwards your pitch for consideration to Reporter B, don’t harass Editor A when Reporter B is unresponsive. Cut your losses and move on.
Media relations is about more than just getting placements; it’s about building and maintaining relationships over time. How are you, the PR practitioner, going to help the reporter and tailor a pitch that offers him or her actual news? If you can simplify a reporter’s life and provide real value, you – and your clients – will achieve success.
By Jamie Berman
Senior Account Executive