7 Strategic Ways to Step Up Your Media Relations Game
Journalists are really outnumbered. There are far fewer reporters today than there were 15 years ago. In fact, some estimate that 50 percent of newsroom jobs have been eliminated. Meanwhile, the public relations industry has grown so much that there are now six PR pros for every media professional. At any given moment, thousands of PR practitioners are all competing for the time and attention of busy, stressed and overworked reporters. It’s no wonder why it can be so hard to get a story placed.
The question becomes, then, how to make your pitches and press releases stand out from the rest – and sometimes, the less obvious tactics work best. We rounded up seven strategic takeaways from a recent media relations training panel hosted by Public Relations Society of America (PRSA):
- Want to get on TV? Try print first. If your ultimate goal is to get your client on TV, pitching a producer might not be the best first step. Television reporters are constantly scanning newspapers and online outlets to find story ideas. It seems counterintuitive, but securing a written story can be your pathway to the evening news if it intrigues a TV reporter. Find out what producers are reading (for example, Los Angeles Times is a good bet for Los Angeles-based TV stations) and focus your efforts there, first.
- Don’t forget Spanish speakers. Especially in regions with large Latino populations, it’s increasingly important for PR professionals to expand their media outreach efforts to include Spanish-language publications – otherwise, you’re missing a huge segment of the population. You don’t necessarily need to translate pitches into Spanish, since most outlets have bilingual editors (although if you do want to translate something, make sure you have a trusted professional do it rather than Google Translate). And of course, you should always make sure that your pitch is relevant to the Latino community.
- SEO shouldn’t be an afterthought. In a click-bait world, reporters have to be impression-focused out of necessity. Before getting the go-ahead to report on an interesting story, journalists first have to prove to editors that the piece will get views. Your pitches should not only pique reporters’ interests, but also the interests of their readers and viewers as well. Before sending a story idea, ask yourself, “Will this help this reporter get more clicks?”
- Being on time isn’t always important … Pitches and press releases usually get sent out at specific times, often at 9:30 am or 10:00 am. These times are chosen for a reason, but pitching a reporter at an exact time can work against you when dozens of other PR pros have the same idea. Try hitting send at an odd time, like 10:08, so your email doesn’t get lost in the :00 or :30 rush.
- … except when it is. Media outlets don’t tend to operate on a normal Monday through Friday schedule, and deadlines from one outlet to another can be drastically different. Knowing your target publication’s schedule can help you be strategic about when you pitch. For example, most story assignment meetings at TV stations happen at 10 a.m., so pitches should be in reporters’ inboxes by 9:45 a.m. at the latest. At print outlets, plan your pitches to align with their operating schedules.
- It’s okay to follow reporters on social media. Journalists are people, too. They have pop culture obsessions, music preferences and quirky interests they love to talk about, just like everyone else. Following reporters on social media, listening to their podcasts and reading their personal blogs are all acceptable ways to learn more about reporters’ personal lives. Finding common ground can help you break the ice and build rapport, and when the story calls for it, you can use pop culture references as a hook for pitches.
- Brake for breaking news. The worst time to contact any reporter is when breaking news is happening. Even if you’re pitching a totally unrelated story to a reporter on a niche beat, breaking news is all hands on deck. Everyone is working on the big story, whether it’s related to their beat or not. Save your pitch until things have calmed down or find another way to get into the news cycle.