In the public relations world, there’s a slim chance you’ll gain media coverage by simply writing a news release then crossing your fingers, hoping a journalist will inquire about an interview.
Media relations goes far beyond writing and sending news releases. As a PR professional, it is paramount to create strong relationships with reporters. From traditional mediums such as print, radio and TV to highly influential blogs and social media accounts, it is crucial to build rapport with the journalists, writers and editors behind these news outlets.
In an instance where a journalist is bombarded with hundreds of emails in the morning, he or she may not see your news release. When you send a follow-up email or pitch and the journalist sees your name, he or she will be much more likely to respond if you have a relationship with them.
With decades of experience in journalism and public relations, we’ve compiled our top do’s and don’ts for successfully executing media relations strategies to garner press coverage.
Before sending your first news release or pitch, research the journalist as much as you can. It’s essential to know what their beat is to determine if they’re the right reporter to pitch story ideas to. If you’re pitching a restaurant’s grand opening, reaching out to a reporter who frequently covers the tech industry will simply be a waste of time for both parties.
Take time to examine the types of articles they’ve written before. Are they lengthy, in-depth features or short breaking news stories? Try to understand the types of angles they prefer. Do they like to highlight the characters and personalities in a story? Do they prefer hard facts and figures? Knowing what the writer prefers shows you’ve taken the time to understand what they are looking for in a story. This is the foundation of building a good relationship with any journalist.
DON’T: SEND IRRELEVANT PITCHES
According to Hubspot, the most offensive PR practice reported by over 500 journalists is receiving a pitch that is irrelevant to their beat. A prime example of irrelevant pitching occurred earlier this year: every news outlet in the country was covering all things COVID-19 yet journalists were still receiving self-promotional pitches from PR professionals unrelated to the situation at hand. While reporters were busy collecting information about the virus, they were still somehow receiving pitches related to topics such as spring shoe trends. For more information on what not to pitch during a pandemic, click here.
DO: THINK LIKE A JOURNALIST
As opposed to your role as a public relations professional, think of yourself as a journalist in this scenario. Your job is to provide the public with factual, unbiased information. Before sending an email to a journalist ask yourself, “Am I thinking about this pitch from their perspective?” If your pitch doesn’t appear to be newsworthy when thinking about it from the writer’s perspective, start over.
DON’T: SEND TOO MANY FOLLOW-UP EMAILS
There’s nothing more frustrating than crafting the perfect pitch to hear nothing but radio silence. However, it’s also important to resist the urge to spam the reporter with too many follow-up emails. Most journalists prefer just one follow up email sent three to seven days after the initial pitch, according to Hubspot. When you send a follow-up email too quickly, you’ll only be considered a pest.
It’s also important to not send the same email as before. Now may be the time to add additional information and value to the story you’re trying to get them to cover. What should you include in a follow-up email? Take a look at 16 follow-up email templates here.
DO: PERSONALIZE YOUR EMAILS
It’s impossible to write a catch-all email you can send to a mass list of media. There’s no way the pitch will match every journalists’ beat, type of publication, publishing schedule or writing style. It may seem like a time-saver initially, but it will cost you in the long run.
Again, think about it from the writer’s perspective. You get an email not even including your name. It doesn’t fit the types of stories you normally write about and it’s so generic you suspect the same email has been sent to hundreds of other journalists.
DON’T: DISAPPEAR AFTER YOUR PITCH
No matter what news outlet a journalist works for, time is of the essence. One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a PR professional is to send a pitch, get a response back from a journalist and then take too long to respond. With deadlines quickly approaching, a delayed response could cost you media coverage. By not responding quickly, the writer will probably move on to a different subject.
Be available to answer calls, emails and questions they may have about the story. This is an important aspect of relationship building with media. It creates a sense of trust between you and the journalist.
These are just some of the basics of media relations, pitching and research. At The Vox Agency, many of our team members are former journalists, providing our clients with key insight into the ever-changing media landscape. For more information on how to craft the ideal press release and press materials, pitching the media and building relationships with journalists, contact The Vox Agency.