In this continuing perspective on PR tools, one of the most important and overlooked ones is how to build media relationships. If you consider what is a media relations strategy, then you understand the importance of how these tools pertain to many facets of life, including getting a job, team building and strengthening client relationships. These will be covered in successive posts. What are media relations? Glad you asked! Here are 10 PR tools for building and succeeding with media contacts in 2019, seven essential pitch letter tips and 12 suggestions for making the pitch project more successful. (Or look at this classic Forbes story on how NOT to write a pitch letter).
Most important overall tip: getting to know media.This always seems the most daunting, especially to younger PR professionals. There are two parts to this: the first is technical. Keeping track of the movements, shutdowns, transfers, closures, firings and general decimation of the conventional media. It’s difficult to do this but once you do identify someone who can be helpful to your client or organization, set up a Google alert; it’s not just for companies, it’ll track people too. If you have become a media relations specialist, this is very useful in these troubled times for media.
In my Chicagodays, there were certain bars where real journalists hung out – Billy Goat’s, and O’Rourke’s, for example. The social scene was vigorous and media relations often were of the intimate sort. However, that’s a bygone day. Now there is dispersion among media survivors, not to mention overwork for those who are left.
But what about once someone is identified as a contact? Why are media relations important — how do you get to know them? here are 10 important tips:
- The best way to understand media relationsis to follow what an individual does diligently. Get to know them as well as they know themselves. How do you do that?
- First, read everything the personpublishes, both in their home media and on all social assets. What does this accomplish?
- The best pitchis an informed pitch.
- The media target is essentiallya stranger. But it’s your job to get inside their heads. Being an expert on their writing and social comments develops a view into their minds. This in turn helps learning not only how to best pitch them, but also more importantly how to become a trusted source by helping them find other stories.
- People in the media, frustrated and overworked, fatigued with PR pitches and phone calls, rarely have the chance to pursue the stories they’d like to cover, much less come up with ideas to find something original.
- They’d welcome someonewho understood their unique worldview, and coverage interests.
- It’s not just topicsto write about but background information that will help the frazzled journalist add background, stimulate other ideas, or find out new facts they might not have considered previously.
- It’s easy to saythere are too many journalists to engage in this kind of research. Your targets are way too numerous.
- Clearly, that’s possiblebut there is definitely a short list of those who can help you the most. And if it works out well, branch out to others.
- It is, however definitely worth a try. It’s been very successful for many PR pros, as a principal PR tool.
There are more tools for targeting media here.
Seven most essential pitch letter tips
Writing pitch letters is often considered a chore but are a necessity as a media relations specialist. They show the journalist what the story might look like, even though it’s cast in PR terms. Few understand, however, that the pitch letter and the news release are interconnected and must reinforce each other. The pitch letter is the door opener, and the news release contains the news. Here are the seven tips.
- The subject line is like a headline. As with news releases, make it punchy and memorable. It might be the only item read about the story. Don’t just write one; create one and make it work. Especially if you are requesting attendance at a press event, give those writers or editors a really good reason to get up out of their chairs and get out of the office to attend your event.
- In the first paragraph tell journalists why the story is incredibly compelling and what exactly what you want them to do. Come to an event, schedule an interview, review a product, with time and place it will occur. It’s one of the most concise pieces of writing to be prepared. It also must comply with news basics, especially timeliness, roses in summer, earmuffs in winter.
- Use a first name with journalists. Not Mr. or Ms. Too formal, A first name elevates the writer to their level, presenting you as a peer who is providing legitimate information needed to do their job. Personalize the rest of the story so the recipients feel it’s aimed at them, not some giant horde.
- Use the second paragraph to illuminate the story. What are the other details of the event or product that adds to its newsworthiness?
- The third paragraph is the what else that either provides an additional angle. Who else will be there? What else might provide a reason to attend? In the last paragraph, set out the terms and conditions, such as is the invite transferable. If with a celebrity, is security involved?
- And then say when you will call to follow up and do it!
- Last but not least, make sure it’s absolutely clear where to find you. Even though nine times out of ten, communicators are following up, sometimes the reporter does pick up the phone. If the idea is good enough.
The day then comes when the journalist answers the telephone and the PR pro launches into the pitch. There is an art to the pitch.
My Humber Collegestudents would often ask, what is the best order for pitching? Should you just call or what? My suggestions:
- Send a pitch letter
- Call but don’t make reference to having sent a pitch.
- More often than not, the reporters and editors, if they answer the phone, will say can you send me a pitch?
- Never ever say, ‘Hey, I already did.’
- Have a news release ready to go if it’s requested.
Now the day has come: the pitch says you will phone, and you do. And to your great surprise, the reporter answers the phone. Make sure you are cool, calm and collected and ready to pitch. The first question is always—how do I identify myself? Here are 12 tips to make it an easier process.
- Don’t spend too much time on explaining who you are by providing your full name and that of the agency and the client. By then you’ve lost them.
- Most scientific accounts say that people can tell almost instantly whether they will like someone or not. Imagine you are sitting next to someone in a bar. Turn your head and you know. Immediately. Go or no go.
- The same with journalists. If someone is fumbling and comes up with a whole long background about who they are, and the story still isn’t clear, the moment is lost.
- Get to the story right away. It’s often called an elevator pitch. Can you describe the entire story in 15-20 seconds? It’s the human time span for understanding new information. Practice is over and over until it’s internalized, which leads to:
- NEVER read your pitch. A huge turn off. Know the story and be natural. Think of it as talking to a friend.
- If the reaction isn’t great, be prepared with other angles.
- Listen carefully; sometimes the reporter has accepted the idea and PR people are so busy pitching they don’t pick it up.
- If it is accepted, make sure you have all the assets to be provided at your fingertips. For example, know the times the spokesperson can talk to the reporter. Have a product sample and a means to deliver it if you are pitching a product.
- The trick question, especially to new PR people, is who else are you pitching, i.e., competitors? Have an answer ready.
- The other trick question is ‘is it an exclusive.’ While sometimes it is, avoid agreeing to that at all possible costs. It’s just a form of bullying.
- While it’s very depressing to get ‘no’ for an answer, don’t give up right away. At least ask why the pitch doesn’t work, or what else you might do as a follow up.
- For more help with your news release or pitch letter, contactThe PR Writer.