Building relationships with the media is the essence of great public relations professionals. Positive coverage can help put your clients on the map and it is our job to make this happen.
But before you dive into the ever-changing world of media relations, you need to understand that producing positive client coverage isn’t about blasting press releases, impersonal emails or untargeted pitches to every journalist you can find. There must be a “method to your madness” in order to be successful in your PR career.
Most journalists will tell you that there is nothing more frustrating than PR professionals flooding their inboxes with irrelevant pitches. To avoid this, make sure that you aren’t repeatedly spamming them with information they can’t use. Instead, become a reference that they can come to for help with a story whenever they need it.
Here are a few suggestions for working with journalists that I have learned over the years that can help you to succeed with the media moving forward and become a better PR pro:
Understand the Publication
Nothing can be more irritating to a journalist than receiving off-base pitches while they are under the pressure of meeting a deadline. Take the extra time needed to become familiar with the outlets and stories that the journalist covers to ensure that your client is relevant. Fully understanding who and what they cover will go a long way towards building a lasting relationship.
Always Personalize Your Pitches
No one enjoys impersonal communication. Read up on what the journalist has recently covered and incorporate this into your pitch or general follow up. Keeping a pitch personal will let the journalist know that you understand their coverage area. Also, every interaction doesn’t have to be a pitch. Sometimes checking in with a journalist every couple of weeks to let them know that they recently wrote an interesting article can be very beneficial to building a long-term relationship.
Keep Pitches (and Subject Lines) Short
Not only do you need to personalize each of your pitches, you should also be sure to keep them short and to the point. This starts with your subject line. You have the body of the email to secure their interest, but you need a good subject line to grab their attention. For example, you can put a sample headline in bold at the top of the email (or in the subject line) and put all of the important details in bullet format up front. You’ll save the journalist time by putting the boring stuff later on, or skipping it entirely. If they’re interested, they will get down to the nuts and bolts in their follow up with you.
Simple is Good
When sending a pitch via email, try to use standard, basic fonts (such as Arial or Calibri) in all of your emails. Always keep the font sizes consistent, using sizes 10 or 11, and keep the text in black. Journalists don’t want to receive pitches in fluorescent colors that takes up the entire page because you bolded, enlarged or highlighted all of the content. Keep it simple. Journalists will appreciate it!
Never Bait and Switch
When pitching the media, always be sure you can deliver on what you promise. Nothing can ruin a relationship with a journalist faster than failing to meet their expectations by promising an interview with the CEO and then not having them available. The same goes for story pitching. If a journalist goes into an interview expecting to talk about the future of mobile technology, and you decide to talk about the best restaurants in the Bay Area, chances are the journalist won’t respond to your next email, or pick up the phone next time you call.
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
Whenever possible, be sure to include photos and/or video in follow up. This will help to paint a picture so the reporter can see the story more quickly. Try not to send high resolution photos unless requested, as they will clog up the inbox of the journalist. Sending a follow up email with pictures or video might be the added content you need to get your client covered.
Always Say Thank You
Saying thank you can go a long way in building a strong relationship with a journalist. But keep in mind that this doesn’t have to be a rambling letter. It could just be a sentence or two that lets the journalist know that you appreciate the time and effort they put into the article. This simple act of gratitude can be the difference between securing continued coverage or not.
Those are just a few recommendations that I have from my personal interactions with the media. What tips work for you?