“Oh, I don’t call to follow up with the journalists I send my email pitch to. They are too busy, and I don’t want to disturb them.”
…um I’m sorry, what?
That’s what a former colleague of mine told me she was told by a public relations practitioner. I couldn’t believe what I heard. As a former journalist of 15+ years, I expected to hear and have ongoing conversations from my sources to secure additional information to include in the articles I was writing that framed the information relayed in their press release.
You can’t succeed in media relations without building significant relationships and you can’t build those successful, long-term relationships without having conversations. Yes, we need journalists to write stories about our companies, narrate our brand messaging to our targeted audiences and ensure our company remains relevant in our market sectors. None of that is attainable without regular and clear interactions. You have to do some heavy lifting and engage with targeted journalists in a meaningful, beneficial way. If you don’t, you run the risk of being overlooked as a source when your media contact is writing a feature article, and be replaced by coverage of a competitor who took to the time and put in the effort to make sure they remained top-of-mind.
Although there are many elements to successful media relations, here are three key things you should do every time you reach out to a reporter:
ONE: What’s Your Unique Story?
According to the NEA Center for Communications 44% of journalists are pitched a minimum of 20 times per day. That is a lot of noise you must break through to get their attention. So how can you be the squeaky wheel that gets greased? Give them a unique story.
But understand this: that story is not about you; rather, it is about how your product or service impacts your customers. Journalists want to know how your information is pertinent and important to their readers (i.e. your customers). Even though you care a great deal about your company and its operations, that self-centered approach to storytelling is not relevant to reporters. They view that as you simply conducting your business.
Journalists want to know how you are moving the needle (impact) with solutions; not that you are simply supplying a service. In other words, don’t pitch ‘ideas’ that are blatantly self-serving to your clients. Pitch a trend they fit into or offer expertise on a timely issue reporters might be writing about.
Be compelling. Show them why your company needs to exist among the competition. Your narrative will catch the reporter’s attention and get you closer to gaining the media coverage you seek.
TWO: Make it Relevant
According to Cision’s 2020 State of the Media Report, media outreach needs to be more targeted and relevant than ever before to stand out in this COVID-19 era. Cision’s report cites that only 1% consider 75%-100% of the pitches they receive as relevant. So, make it count.
Your first step is to know what the journalist covers, who their readership is and what angle they tend to take on topics. Yes, you have to do your research ahead of time and show them you align with a topic they frequently cover; it’s one of the most important aspects of the job.
Speaking of pitching, here are a few other things to do:
- Personalize your pitches to them by name and cite a recent article they bylined that is relevant to your company’s offerings. This shows them you know who they are and what they write about—and why they should be covering you.
- Don’t blast your pitch to a massive email list. Customize your pitches and take the time to send individual emails. A blanket email won’t cover it. Journalists want to know in one or two sentences why this is important for their readership—not just why it’s important for your company.
- Timing is paramount. According to the Cision report, Mondays and Tuesdays remain the preferred days of the week for journalists to receive pitches.
- While a phone call is imperative for a follow up, pitch via email. One pitch. One email.
THREE: Quotable Quotes
You should always strive to have two approved quotes for publication, and their respective sources available for interviews—a company source and a customer source. This gives the reporter an opportunity to write a well-rounded story and avoids your news being interpreted as self-serving marketing material.
Quotes from C-suite officials, especially CEOs or co-founders, are often considered most credible and trusted by readers. The company quote should narrate what solution your service is offering that your respective marketplace needs, and the customer quote should relay how your solution helped their business operations (saved them money, expanded their market reach, etc.). They should also include a statistic or two whenever possible. Having these experts available for interviews and data points cited in the quotes shows reporters your company is a reliable source and increases the chances of journalists returning to you in the future.
Invest in your Media Relations
Oh, and yes, please follow up and call your reporters. Trust me, they are not “too busy” to have a conversation that will provide them with additional information or exclusive content. The relationship between PR professionals and journalists is more important than ever, as reporters continue to find themselves strapped for credible, relevant sources. When you put the effort into building these relationships, you significantly increase the chances of getting more coverage, which ultimately can help elevate your brand to industry-leading status.