Pitching” to journalists and bloggers remains an indispensable PR skill despite the rising influence of social media. As PR pros develop content marketing, social media and video programs, they can’t neglect media relations. When done well, media relations can reach more people, create greater awareness and generate more leads than typical social media activities. Successful media pitching entails offering relevant ideas and content to targeted publications, succinct writing, and building relationships over time.
Get the basics right. Spell names correctly and target the appropriate publications. To prevent mistakes, carefully review and proof the initial draft of your pitch or press release. Strive to eliminate unneeded words, fluff and buzzwords.
Employ patience. Telling an editor you need to know soon if they’ll accept your story proposal or not indicates your program lacks a news-making angle. “Journalists don’t work according to your clock. You have no idea about what other stories they are working on or what their deadlines are,” says advises Arthur Solomon, a former journalist and former senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller.
Be honest. If you pitch a story to a more prestigious publication after you tell a lesser publication that it’s exclusive, you will leave both publications feeling misled. “Waking up one morning and seeing a story you offered them as exclusive in another publication before they used it is a good way to make them very unhappy,” Solomon says.
Don’t complain about coverage. If there are factual inaccuracies in an article you placed, you can respectfully request a correction. If you simply didn’t care for the quote they used, complaining will only discourage the reporter from working with you again. Most likely, the PR practitioner didn’t adequately brief the client on plugging the product. The best PR pros understand how to make a plug newsworthy – and train their executives to deliver punch lines well. If you already have a good relationship with the reporter, the plug may be included because most reporters understand why the interview was arranged.
Respond promptly. Journalism is deadline driven. When a reporter expresses interest in your pitch, promptly provide the information they need — before deadline. This will increase your credibility and the journalist will be more likely to work with you again.
Don’t Facebook stalk. Despite the rise of social media networking, Facebook is for private affairs, says Pure Performance Communications. Stick to work-related accounts rather than searching for personal social media profiles. Messaging a media contact at their non-work profile is intrusive — and a little creepy. Many journalists, however, do accept work-related contacts on Twitter.
Don’t refuse to take no for an answer. Sometimes “no” means “no,” and you have to respect that. Harassing a reporter after they clearly showed no interest will only hurt your chance of working with them in the future.
Never ask to see the story before it’s published. In order for companies to have lasting relationships with journalists, there must be trust, says True Blue Communications. If you ask to see the story before it’s published, a journalist may take that as you don’t trust them to do their job. Sometimes a comment like “If you’d like me to fact-check the article, I’d be happy to help” will get a positive response. But, you must confine your comments to fact-checking.
Bottom Line: Media pitching forms the bedrock of public relations skills. For successful media pitching, it’s essential to take the editors’ and reporters’ needs and viewpoints into account. These key tips from PR veterans show how to do that.
William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, media measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.