Media relations is a huge part of my job. Having interacted with journalists nearly every day over the last five years, I’ve learned a few things about building effective media relationships.
Most importantly, I’ve learned that even the best story idea can fall flat without:
- Proper pitch preparation
- A tailored, thoughtful pitch
- Thorough follow-through
So, here are my six tips for successful media relations:
Before the Pitch
Do your research. Chances are, the story angle you’re pitching has been covered before – at least to some extent. So before you write your pitch, do a quick Google search to see how the topic has been covered recently. Does your client have new or contradictory insight to add? Use your findings to help shape your angle.
Once you’ve got your pitch angle down, it’s time to decide who to pitch it to. Before you contact any reporters, take the time to read what they’ve written recently. Is their beat a fit for your story? Or have they changed beats recently? Maybe they’ve moved to a different publication. Or perhaps they’ve changed roles and are no longer an appropriate PR contact. Showing reporters you’ve done your research can go a long way in building a relationship.
Get to the point. With a solid list of reporters to reach out to ready to go, it’s time to start writing your pitch. Journalists receive hundreds of emails a day – maybe thousands. And when they’re under a tight deadline, the last thing they have time to do is read through a novel of an email to figure out what you’re trying to say. Keep it quick and easy to read with bold or underlined text and bulleted lists with key information.
Showing reporters you’ve done your research can go a long way in building a relationship.
Be authentic. You know those awful sales emails we all get? The ones you can tell went out to thousands of people, not just you? The ones you trash before even opening because the subject line screams spam? You get the point. And you know how ineffective they are. So don’t let your email become that to reporters. Your email pitches should be personal. For example, suggest why you think their readers or viewers will care about your story. Further, mention a recent article they wrote and explain how your client has something new to add.
Don’t underestimate the subject line. Before you hit send, take another look at your subject line. Put yourself in the journalist’s shoes – would it pique your interest? I think Eric Sullivan, features editor at Esquire, summed it up well when he said he looks for “wording that is both attention-grabbing and explanatory, that uses lively language, [and includes] just five or seven words that guarantees what follows is worth reading.”
After the Pitch
Follow up. This might sound obvious, but it’s worth mentioning. You can’t expect to send an email and get an immediate response from a journalist. Sure, it happens sometimes, but it’s certainly not the norm. With the dozens of emails flying into journalists’ inboxes every day, your pitch might get buried. So it’s your responsibility to follow up.
Be available and accommodating. Timing is everything when it comes to media relations. If a journalist expresses interest in your story, don’t sit around and wait. Jump in to help answer questions, send graphics or other visuals and line up interviews. Journalists often work on tight deadlines, and by getting them what they need quickly, you show them you’re there to help. By forming this mutually beneficial relationship, they’ll probably be more likely to call on you in the future.
When working with journalists, just remember: they’re real people. Take the time to get to know them!
For more insight into successful media relations, check out this blog by Account Executive Jonathan Houghton. As a former journalist himself, he shares four things for PR professionals to remember about journalists.