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25 Media Relations Tips

June 22, 2016 Jeff Bradford

1. It’s sales

  • Realize that pitching a story is like pitching anything else.
  • Most of the sales rules and tips you already know apply.
  • Most important, don’t sell journalists your product, help them solve their problem – i.e., lack of something legitimately newsworthy to write about.

2. But, think like a reporter – not a salesman

  • That is, know what news is and what it isn’t (see “Man Bites Dog”).
  • Only share news, don’t try to sell junk, because you’ll get a repuation for being either a boor or stupid – neither of which endear you to the media.

3. “Man Bites Dog:” Know the definition of news

  • Something out of the ordinary
  • First, only, newest, biggest, smallest, most expensive, least expensive, etc.
  • Being “First” is best for news value.

4. Create news

  • Hold an event.
  • Announce a new product.
  • Break ground for or open a new location.
  • Start a new division, carry a new line.
  • Do something no one else has done before – or hasn’t done in a long time, or the same way, etc.
  • The key is to DO something – news is about things happening, not about what you are thinking.

5. Leverage existing news

  • Localize national stories – ex: Here’s how this big national story is playing out in our city.
  • Be a local example of a national trend.
  • Be newest, best, weirdest, etc. example of local story.

6. Survey people about something in your industry

  • Surveys are just about guaranteed to generate press.
  • And if you do it regularly, you have a regular news opportunity – and can show trends.
  • Online survey tools like Survey Monkey and Emma make it very easy.
  • Partner with other organizations to give your survey more validity.

7. Share your expertise

  • Create and distribute a Media Resource List and update it every six months
  • Write a bylined column or guest blog entry – look for media that allow or want this

8. Get in the conversation

  • Comment on blogs in your space
  • Comment online on stories written by reporters you care about
  • Write letters to the editor about stories you know something about
  • Send a congratulatory note to a reporter about a story she wrote – and offer to provide more information.

9. Be funny, ironic, irreverent

  • Because this is how reporters are.

10. Get to know journalists before you need them

  • This begins by being in the conversation.
  • Take them out to lunch, meet for drinks, etc. – with no agenda.
  • Journalists make great friends – if you like smart, funny, honest, perceptive people.

11. Know whom you are sending your news to

  • Always send your information to a specific person, not just “editor” or “news director.”
  • Don’t trust the web or published lists of reporters’ names – call to make sure.

12. Give journalists news that is not about your company

  • Become a “go to” source for unbiased, “inside” information about your industry.

13. Read / watch / listen to the reporters you want to pitch

  • Also follow them on social media.
  • Become an expert on them.
  • And demonstrate that you like them and respect their work.
  • Use your knowledge of their work in your pitch, i.e., “I noticed you wrote about that, how about this.”

14. Feed the media – not just information

  • If the news outlet allows it (some don’t), bring food to the newsroom, take them out to lunch.

15. Always return phone calls and emails – promptly

  • THE most important thing to a journalist is a trustworthy source who will respond by the deadline.

16.  Always ask a reporter what her deadline is

  • And make sure you get back to her before the deadline is up.

17. Ask reporters what they are looking for

  • If they don’t like what you send them, ask them what they want you to send them – then do it.

18. If you can’t get a journalist what he needs, find a way for someone else to get it for him

  • NEVER let down a journalist when he calls you – if you want him to keep calling you.
  • If you don’t have what he needs, find a way to get it to him.

19. Treat journalists like people

  • Not like aliens, that is, naturally untrustworthy people… sharks… automatons without emotions.
  • The 60 Minutes syndrome is quite rare. Most journalists are not always in “gotcha” mode.
  • Follow the golden rule: Treat journalists like you like to be treated.

20. Don’t go off the record – even when you go “off the record”

  • Never say anything to a journalist you don’t want in the paper.
  • Unless you have a deep bond of trust – and we don’t have these kinds of bonds with many people.

21. Give your story to one media outlet as an exclusive

  • This is called a scoop; it is what every reporter wants.
  • It will increase your chances of a larger story, but decrease your chances of your story appearing in more than one media outlet
  • Don’t give an exclusive on huge stories, because it is likely to be well-covered by everyone.

22. Know the right times to pitch a story

  • For example, not at 5:00 for a TV story.
  • Knowing the right time means thinking about when would be the most convenient time to contact a journalist or put something into their inbox.
  • Think about when you would hate talking to someone or reading an email, i.e., not on a Monday morning or right before you leave for the weekend.

23. Match your story to the media

  • Visual stories to TV.
  • Feature stories to long lead time publications.
  • Bylined articles to trade magazines.

24. ALWAYS follow up

  • Simply emailing a press release is never enough.
  • Call to make sure the reporter got the release, find out if he is interested, answer any questions, etc.

25. Don’t write a press release if you don’t write them regularly

  • Just send a note or letter with the facts and an explanation of what it is news.

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