10 tips for effective media relations

As both a freelance journalist and public relations consultant, I’ve been on both sides when it comes to media relations. I’ve done my fair share of crafting press releases, developing media lists and pitching media. But I’ve also been on the receiving end of media pitches. For instance, I had received a pitch from a technology startup a few days ago.

Photo credit: Aramil Liadon

Photo credit: Aramil Liadon

Therefore, I thought I would share 10 tips for media relations, which I’ve developed from both my journalism and PR experiences.

1. Build relationships with key media contacts.

It isn’t just about pitching. Build relationships with journalists first – both online and offline. Connect with them via Twitter or praise them on a particular story. That way, when the time comes that you do pitch them, you’ll make yourself all the more memorable.

2.  When you do pitch, make sure you have a newsworthy story.

As I learned in both my educational and professional PR experiences, the relationship between a journalist and PR pro is – or should be – mutually beneficial. The PR pro seeks coverage for his or her organization, brand or client, and the journalist seeks newsworthy stories. The key word is newsworthy. Just because you think it’s a good story doesn’t necessarily mean the journalist will agree.

3. Do your research before pitching.

Make sure you know to whom you’re pitching, and that he or she is the appropriate editor.  Also, it’s imperative to do your research on the media outlet. Know what sort of content they run, who the audience and, most of all, brainstorm a suitable story angle that reflects the outlet. In other words, put yourself in their shoes. Before pitching, ask yourself if you think this particularly outlet will care about your story. Some outlets, especially magazines, have editorial calendars available as well. Overall, your media list should focus on the outlets you think would be interested in your news.

4. Generate a number of story angles.

It’s a good idea to generate a number of story angles for a media relations campaign.  For example, suppose you work for a startup that just launched an educational app. Clearly, there’s the technology angle in play of a startup launching an app, but another story angle may be the educational aspect of how students are using the app. It’s a good idea to think creatively and create several different angles to tell your story.

5. Personalize your pitches.

If you send out one mass email pitch to all those on your media list, you won’t get anywhere. Instead, take the time to craft personalized pitch letters for each of them. Tailor each pitch to the journalist’s background, interests and beat.

6. Keep your pitches simple and succinct.

Journalists don’t want to read long pitches. Instead, get to the point quickly. A quick sentence should sum up your story nicely, with just a few other key details to entice.

7. Know the journalist’s pitch preferences.

In 2011, PWR New Media in Chicago surveyed 200 journalists about their press release preferences and found that – not surprisingly – 87 per cent preferred to get media information via email. However, journalists may have their own individual preferences. But whatever you do, don’t call them when they’re on deadline.

8. Don’t ignore bloggers.

In this day and age, communicators are turning to bloggers to pitch their stories, events and products just as much as traditional journalists. As Amanda George wrote in a 2011 blog post for Marketwired, “depending on the blogger, he or she can leave either a positive or a negative impression about your pitch to his or her many faithful subscribers.”

9. Follow up.

Some journalists may respond to your pitch quickly, but unfortunately, most do not. If that happens, consider following up a week later to gauge their interest. Instead of simply asking if they’ve received your pitch (you have to assume they did), you can also use this opportunity to elaborate on your pitch.

10. Keep in mind that media relations is an art.

Journalists and influential bloggers receive dozens of pitches a day from PR pros. It takes skill, timing and even luck to successfully pitch and secure coverage for your organization, brand or client.

Whether you’re a journalist or PR pro, what are some of your tips for effective media relations? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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