Five Tips for Starting Out In Media Relations
Posted on March 27, 2012
This week’s entry is a little selfish. In my quest to become a well-rounded PR practitioner, I’ve realized that one skill is not fully developed: Media Relations. I’ve dealt with members of the media in the year that I’ve been in the field, but I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered media relations. So, this week I’ve researched pitching and other media relations tips to make you and me better.
OK – you’ve just finished this amazing press release and now comes the time to distribute to the media. How are you going to distinguish your client’s story from the other hundred stories that reporter just got? It’s all about how you pitch.
1) First, like Collin said in our “Meet the Media: Atlanta INtown” entry a few weeks ago, know the publication in which you’re submitting. After building a targeted media list of the publications that may have an interest in what you’re pitching and determining which journalist you should be talking to at those publications, read a few articles the journalist has published lately. This will offer valuable insight into his or her professional interests and areas of journalistic expertise. It’s always best to only send relevant, timely information to journalists who you’ll probably submit to again. You don’t want to send a story about something the journalist covered yesterday!
2) Next, develop relationships. (Oh … media relations – got it!) Someone told me in the very beginning that you should know which journalists cover your clients’ industries – on a first name basis. One extremely easy way to get the conversation started is via social media. I follow so many journalists on Twitter. I try to reply to their tweets and not just hit the “Retweet” button every now and then. (This could quickly turn into a social media etiquette post, but I’ll save that for another time.) You should also network as much as possible. Go to Atlanta Press Club events or any business association meetings or socials. I recently met a few journalists at a Buckhead Business Association breakfast. Breakfast, networking and hearing Ed Baker speak? Not a bad way to start the day. (Invite journalists for coffee, lunch, drinks or anything and just get to know them and their journalistic interests.)
3) As a general life rule (I can give life rules now – I’m 24 years old), I recommend finding a mentor. I’m lucky enough to work in a small firm where I can interact with my boss daily; therefore he can pass on his wisdom to us easily. Probably the first piece of advice Chris gave me was the first time he edited a press release I had written. As a journalist turned PR practitioner, Chris knows what journalists look for when emails pop in their inbox. “Write like a journalist.” If you were the journalist receiving this email, would you read it or press delete? Well, I’m pretty sure he would’ve deleted my first draft, but instead he reminded me to write releases and even emails in inverted-pyramid style – news at the top. You can’t wait until the second paragraph to get your news hook in; if you do the journalist will most assuredly trash it. In emails, you have to hook journalists in the subject line.
4) Do your research. Know and respect deadlines. As soon as a journalist gets a story assignment, the countdown to deadline begins – and there’s no option of getting an extension. Be sure to have all the information and images to journalists as far in advance as you can.
5) Never mass pitch a story idea. Try to customize each individual pitch. Also, know the unique differences between pitching newspapers, TV, radio and blogs.
– For example, because TV emphasizes visuals, you should look for stories and angles that permit interesting or engaging video footage. TV news producers and editors like action, especially fast-paced action. They also favor stories with a local twist. Try and localize your story – make the news relevant and appealing geographically to the television station concerned.
Media relations is both an art and a science. I’ve been told it gets easier with practice, but it always requires research, creativity, finding the real news or story hook, persuasiveness and, most importantly, tenacity.
Here are some links that I found particularly interesting pertaining to media relations:
- Sarah Funderburk