After pitching my first story last week to almost 90 media outlets (yay me!), I quickly realized that I was now actively engaged in the world of media relations. It is likely that somewhere down the road, I will be pitching different stories to the same media outlets, and even some of the same reporters. This means that from this point on, I need to be aware of every move I make.
I had to take a step back and review some of the most important practices to remember while pitching to the media, the most crucial being relationship building. The ability to make connections and develop relationships with journalists is what makes a practitioner successful.
Though we’d like to think the relationships between public relations practitioners and journalists are two-way streets, the truth is that the media can be a tough crowd; they are overwhelmed with information, busy with editing, and always on a deadline. The only way to ensure that your story is being heard is to move past the email blasts and to connect with journalists on an individual level.
Here are a few quick tips that are crucial to developing good media relations:
• Know the report, the publication, and the deadline they work on. Being unfamiliar with a publication you are pitching can cause you to pitch stories that are irrelevant or inconvenient to the source. This can insult journalists and burn bridges.
• Introduce yourself. If you introduce yourself to journalists, they are more likely to remember you the next time you pitch them. Plus, it’s a reminder they are working with a real person, not a robot, which will increase favorability towards you.
• Help them do their job. Think about all of the work that goes in to writing a story; the introduction, the interview, the fact-checking, and more. Help the writer out by making these steps easy and accessible to them — they will thank you!
• Set expectations and deliver. How do you want to be known in the journalism community? Do you want to be known as the publicist that sends an email blast every day or as the professional that sends personalized, thoughtful messages with ideal timing? Set expectations for who you want to be and meet them.
• Be responsive. The unwritten rule is that email responses should happen within 24 hours. However, in journalism, the sooner, the better. Even a couple hours can be the difference between a media placement and deleted pitch.
• Be available. Some journalists will pick the phone right up and give you a call. Be there to answer, and let them know they are your top priority. Being available makes you easy to work with, and journalists appreciate that.
• Don’t disappear when crisis hits. This should go without saying, however, it’s been done before. Becoming unavailable when a crisis hits can be detrimental to your favorability with the public, but especially with reporters.
Using a few of these tips while pitching will not only score media placements, it will help to build strong relationships with reporters. And most importantly, from a personal PR stand point, you will build your reputation as a professional practitioner! <