Tag Archives: journalists

Five Tips for Media Relations Success

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My last post – Relationships Don’t Matter MOST in Media Relations – sparked some spirited conversations last week. Most people who commented agreed. A few disagreed. One asked if I would share more about what I believe DOES matter most in media relations.

Here’s my take on that. It’s based on what has helped me hit media relations home runs so far in my career. These are the tips I’ve used to land a couple thousand great stories for my clients in places like Good Morning America, People magazine, The New York Times and The Today Show.

T-1. The Silver Platter – This is one of the two most important ingredients in media relations success. It involves going beyond developing a great story angle to pull together everything a reporter would need to tell the story. Dig up stats and trends to support your angle. Find a third-party expert willing to be interviewed on the topic and offer them up as part of the pitch. Make it hard for the reporter to say “no thanks.” Serve the story up on a silver platter.

T-1. Relevancy – Relevancy is the second of the two most important ingredients. The perfect pitch doesn’t matter to the wrong reporter. Don’t trust Cision or Vocus blindly. Before calling a reporter, look at the last five stories she’s written. What does she cover? Is your story relevant to her? Is it relevant to her readers?

3. Relationships – Relationships are very important. You build them by delivering on the first two tips above. Relationships get you returned phone calls, opened e-mails, incoming calls when a source is needed and, sometimes, allow you to mitigate or lessen potentially negative news. (Hey, I didn’t say relationships DON’T matter. I said they don’t matter MOST.)

4. Resourcefulness – Your ability to come through in the clutch will save stories from getting scrapped. I once worked with Good Morning America on a story that took a span of two months to pull off. It almost fell through three different times, but I kept sharing alternative ideas with the producers to keep it going. Don’t easily accept missed opportunities if you believe they are worthwhile. Hustle. Be creative. Be resourceful.

5. Guard the Gates – Protect the reporters you’ve built working relationships with during your career. Don’t hand off their contact info at the request of everyone in your department without first finding out what they are pitching. If it’s a poor pitch, tell them your contact wouldn’t be interested. If you must share the reporter’s info, insist that your colleague NOT use your name as a way into the conversation. Too many poor pitches that start with “David Mullen said I should give you a call” will quickly be bad for me.

What about you? What are your tips and tricks for generating more news coverage for your brand or your clients?

*Image by Rick Harrison.

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Relationships Don’t Matter Most in Media Relations

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It seems to me there are a lot of well meaning people singing the same chorus around the blog-o-sphere on the topic of media relations. Here’s the gist:

“PR people have to spend time building relationships with the people they pitch or will pitch – even if they don’t pitch them for months down the road. It’s all about relationships.”

That’s hogwash and I’ll tell you why.

Building relationships doesn’t scale for many PR folks on the agency side. Many PR pros work on multiple clients spanning vastly different industries. We target our media outreach to different beat reporters at different types of publications within different geographies. We’re pitching far too many reporters to develop meaningful relationships with each of them. It’s humanly impossible.

Lots of PR folks on the agency side work on project-based clients. That means the new tourism client he’s pitching right now to travel editors and publications won’t be around in six months. Is he supposed to keep chatting with the 200 reporters he just pitched for the past few months, if though he may never get another client in the travel industry?

Building relationships before having to pitch reporters doesn’t work for him either. How is he supposed to build relationships ahead of time with fashion and family reporters for the children’s clothing client he’ll get next year that he doesn’t even know about yet?

So what does matter most? Interesting, well-crafted pitches that are relevant to the reporter’s beat and her readers are what reign supreme. I’ve single-handedly landed a couple thousand stories for my clients in the last few years and the vast majority of the reporters I worked with didn’t know me from Adam the first time they got a phone call or an email from me. Create great pitches, make sure they’re relevant by reading the reporter’s last five articles and then share your news.

Don’t get me wrong. Relationships are important. You should pursue them when valuable and possible. But they do NOT matter most. That’s easy for people at niche agencies focusing on one industry and pitching the same reporters over and over to forget. It’s also easy for social media types to forget that the vast majority of reporters are NOT on Twitter and that even those who are may not want PR people engaging them there.

P.S. Thanks to Todd Defren for writing recently on blogger relations. He asked an interesting question on that post and the comment I left on it gave me the idea for this post.

UPDATE: If you’re one of the few people who have misread this post and think I’m saying that relationships don’t matter at all, then please read this for some clarification.

*Image by Mike Baird.

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Here’s Why PR Spam Won’t Stop Anytime Soon

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Journalists and bloggers share their disdain for PR spam regularly. Many PR pros write blog posts telling their colleagues why they should stop spamming reporters and offering tips. And, I might say, rightly so. But that’s not what this post is about. I want to talk about the reasons that PR spam is still going on strong, despite these constant pleas for it to stop.

I commented on a recent blog post on the subject from Beth Harte. (She’s brilliant, by the way. I highly recommend subscribing to her blog.) Yes, spamming reporters isn’t good. So why do so many PR folks still do it?

As I shared in the comment on Beth’s post, I believe the root of this industry black eye is three-fold. And until the first two change, PR spam isn’t going anywhere.

“Those” Clients – Many clients understand the value of building relationships with reporters. Many don’t. Many do, but don’t care because they have to justify the worth of their department to bosses who only want to see big impression numbers. So they put massive pressure on their agencies to “smile and dial” or e-blast. They want to see “call reports” and they’d better be long and chock full of details.

The bigger the client’s budget, the more leverage they have with their agency since most aren’t in a position to lose a big client. These clients don’t care about the long-term rewards of relationship building because they might not have a job at the end of the year if they haven’t produced impressive numbers.

“Those” Agency Account Leads – In many cases, the client lead on the agency-side isn’t standing up and saying “no” to the client. They’re worried the client will go elsewhere and no one wants to be responsible for losing a client. The truth is that telling your president that the client left because you wouldn’t blast client “news” to the far reaches won’t be met with “atta boys” most of the time. It’s unfortunate, but true. So, unless they see a true “ethical” dilemma, most aren’t willing to say “no.”

Another reason they don’t say “no” is because they aren’t the ones pitching reporters. They don’t have to hear the frustration on the other end of the phone or receive the reply emails. They call in their junior-level team members and hand out the commands. And, frankly, these agency folks don’t want to hear about taking time to research reporters and bloggers to target the pitch from the young guns. There’s no time for that. After all, the client wants a call report on your 400-person media list by Friday.

“Those” Young Pros – In these “stop spamming reporters” discussions, I see a lot of senior-level folks blaming junior-level account people as being the culprits of this. Pointing the finger at them is ridiculous. The only reason young pros get busted for it is because they’re the ones making the calls and clicking send on the emails.

Most of them aren’t willing to tell their supervisors “no.” They’ve only been working for a few months or years and they’re told “this is how we do it.” They’re scared of losing their jobs, so they do it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a junior-level pro share frustrations about a pitch their boss is making them do to a crazy number of media contacts because the client wants it.

I don’t agree with spamming reporters, of course. My point is that it won’t stop anytime soon because of these reasons, regardless of how many blog posts are written or how many seminars PRSA offers.

Why do you think so many PR pros still spam reporters? What do you think it will take to move the industry beyond it?

*Image by Peter Kaminski.

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Phone Pitch Tips for Young PR Pros

Last month, Jeremy Pepper wrote a blog post saying PR pros have become too dependent on things like email to pitch reporters. In the comments section, Jeremy says the post was mainly a primer for entry-level PR people not to use technology as a crutch.

That reminded me about the many times I’ve heard people point to junior-level PR types as the major culprits when it comes to not picking up the phone to pitch. That may be true, but only because they’re usually the ones doing all the pitching. Too many senior-level PR people don’t actually pitch stories.

Yes, that’s one of the main responsibilities for junior-level people. But it’s our responsibility to make sure we’re not throwing them to the wolves. I have a friend who was told to pitch The Wall Street Journal on her first day at her first agency job out of college. She stumbled through the phone call, annoyed the reporter and felt like a tool.

I think one reason younger PR folks avoid the phone is because they are petrified of getting yelled at or becoming the subject of a pissed off reporter’s new blog post. That’s why we need to be purposeful and persistent in sharing media relations best practices with them from day one

Jeremy shares a couple tips for them on his post in regards to picking up the phone to pitch. Here are a few more that I’ve found helpful:

  • Encapsulate the story in one brief sentence for your opening. For example, “Bob, my name is David Mullen. I have a story about a high-profile family overcoming personal tragedy to found a camp for sick kids. Do you have a minute?” Bob will know right away if he’s interested enough to hear more or not.
  • Don’t launch into your pitch without asking if he “has a minute.” That annoys most people, not just journalists.
  • Capitalize on a “no.” If he hears you out, but isn’t interested, take a second to ask what topics he is interested in for future reference.
  • Keep it in perspective. My first boss said, “if you call 10 reporters and seven say ‘no,’ that can seem like a bad media relations outing. BUT keep it in perspective. Batting .300 will get you in the Hall of Fame.”

Your turn to help. What tidbits would you add to help young pros approach media relations with more confidence and better results?

*Image by Alexander O’Neill.

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