Developing a Next-Level PR Strategy: 4 Takeaways from the Inaugural NABJLA Media Summit

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Last year, the Los Angeles chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJLA) held its inaugural Media Summit, and the event proved to be an invaluable opportunity to learn, engage, network and brainstorm with journalists and fellow public relations professionals. The breakout sessions were held at USC’s Wallis Annenberg Hall and focused on both the journalism and PR side of media.

Here’s a look at key takeaways from the four sessions I attended:

  1. “Way More Than a Google Search” was moderated by Amara Aguilar, digital journalism associate professor at USC. This session focused on best practices for successful online research, including how to best search for statistics, experts and trends or locate academic articles.

Two resources that stuck out, many of which people may not be taking advantage of, were Google Trends and Google Scholar. Trends analyzes the popularity of top search queries in Google Search across various regions and languages. This can help guide subject matter for your media pitches to tie in popular topics people are searching for or even avoid if the topic has already been covered at length. Google Scholar allows you to search through all scholarly literature from one convenient place and locate the complete documents with citations, authors, etc. Accessing articles, books and even court opinions, can be helpful in validating trends and forecasts you’re including in pitches and can possibly be a starting point for brainstorming topics.

Interestingly, though the session was aimed at journalists, the information was equally relevant for myself and my colleagues at Berbay, as we’re frequently required to research trends, corroborate facts and identify topics various audiences are Googling so we can craft media pitches and press releases.

  1. The second session, “Writing to Capture Attention & Trust,” was moderated by Chris Little, president of RTNA and news director at KFI AM-640. There was no denying the relevance to PR firms as well. Much like journalists hope to attract readers, PR professionals want to capture the attention of the reporters, editors and producers we routinely pitch as part of our public relations efforts. Here’s a look at a few of the best practices Chris shared in order to write stories that grab readers’ attention within just 3-4 seconds:
    • Be descriptive by using “word pictures.”
    • Use a conversational tone.
    • Avoid telling people what to do.
    • Avoid using clichés.
    • Make sure you’re entertaining yourself (or else you’re unlikely to entertain readers).
    • Remember to make the last line the most memorable.
  1. In “Managing Brands Through Issues & Crisis,” the four speakers focused on identifying what constitutes a crisis for a company, what determinations need to be made, along with what plans need to be implemented before, during and after a crisis happens. Tips included proactive measures to take, including the creation of a risk mitigation strategy during pre-crisis stage, reorganization of time (as you’ll be managing a lot of information in a short period of time) and maintaining a strong PR campaign even as the crisis is unfolding.

Attendees were reminded that PR strategies should proceed during a crisis and that journalists are considered by the public to be the experts, so PR professionals can’t afford to be wrong when delivering information. Moreover, journalists need to be kept up to date on other newsworthy events at the company so they are always the proverbial “smartest person in the room.”

  1. The final session, “How to Secure Coverage in a Crowded Market,” reiterated what we know to be true—it is a crowded market, with a 24/7 news cycle, so breaking through the noise requires skill, extensive knowledge of what targeted journalists are looking for and building relationships with the media. A few strategies from the panel included:
    • If a reporter declines your pitch, be sure to follow up and ask what they are interested in writing about to continue the discussion.
    • Don’t just pitch all of the time—offer to meet with journalists in person or have a brief call to talk about what they’re working on. This creates a relationship beyond receiving emails from you asking to cover a client’s story.
    • It goes without saying, but be honest with your clients and reporters. Manage expectations with each, and if there’s something you won’t be able to deliver on for any reason, be upfront from the start.

By all accounts, the inaugural NABJLA Media Summit was informative and engaging and provided an excellent opportunity for brainstorming with fellow PR professionals and journalists. I’m already looking forward to next year’s summit.

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