Los Angeles’ New Media Reporters – PRSA Panel Recap

I recently attended the Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) Breakfast with Los Angeles’ New Media Reporters, including a panel of journalists from Buzzfeed, Time Out L.A., and Moms L.A. The discussion ranged from the best ways to get their attention to 2017 new media trends, pitch tips and pet peeves. Below are some takeaways from the discussion.

Humanize Your Pitch

The panelists estimated that about 30% of their stories come from pitches, and with journalists, bloggers and editors receiving anywhere from tens to hundreds of pitches every day, it’s your job to make your pitch stand out. It isn’t as simple as merely using a reporter’s or editor’s first name and the name of the publication you’re pitching, but it certainly helps.

Sending pitches individually sounds daunting, especially when your media list expands beyond 20 – 30 publications, but this approach might be worth exploring for a more targeted media list. The panelists all agreed that the best way to communicate is through a personal email, and if you can, reach out to the reporter or journalist and try to build a relationship before you ask them to cover a story. Here are some tips to make your pitch stand out:

  • Make sure you pitch the appropriate person within a publication—try to put those short notes in Gorkana and Meltwater to good use.
  • Score points by humanizing your email and directly appealing to what they do, topics they’ve covered and their ideology.
  • Look over their editorial calendar and reference it in your email, noting that your topic would be a perfect fit for a specific issue.
  • Use original photos as it saves the publication time and money they’d have to spend getting those photos, making your pitch lower-hanging fruit.
  • Most importantly, be mindful that the ever-so-tempting copy and paste tool is not always your friend. Save yourself the embarrassment of sending an email with a person’s name or publication in a different font, or worse, with the mother of all copy and paste mistakes, the subtle and often overlooked light-gray highlight.

Subject Lines

In the age of growing technology, it’s no surprise that a lot of business is conducted on the go, and while we as PR professionals craft catchy subject lines while sitting in front of our desktop or laptop, we often forget about the people who will be receiving our email on their mobile devices. The panelists pointed out a flaw in our witty 40+ character subject lines: most of it gets cut off on mobile devices. Use your space wisely, which means avoiding the use of “BREAKING:” and “NEW STORY:” etc.

Pet Peeves

Diligent follow-up is a crucial aspect of pitching to media, but you don’t want to be known by a journalist or editor for the wrong reason. Try to avoid these pet peeves the panelists mentioned, including:

  • Receiving unsolicited products and being expected to write a review – it’s an invasion of privacy and quite audacious.
  • Being pitched old news – unless you can add something new to the story, don’t pitch it.
  • Being pitched embargoed content – the journalist/editor didn’t agree to the embargo, so don’t screw yourself.
  • Receiving pitch emails that take too long to get to the point – journalists/editors just pass over these emails after the first few sentences.
  • Receiving calls from PR professionals on their personal cell phones.

2017 Trend(s)

Lastly, the panelists unanimously agreed that politics is the most prominent trend so far in 2017, and while publications like Time Out L.A. stay away from politics, the overwhelming trend has turned many non-political journalists into political journalists. For now, it appears that we will have plenty of opportunities to capitalize on topics related to the current political administration.

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