You’re hoping to place an important story for a client or your organization and expect results, yet the media has no time or interest to return your call. Sound familiar? So how do you satisfy your or your clients’ interests with those of reporters, when there are different expectations and needs?
In our business, there is ongoing pressure to get any coverage as quickly as possible, but fast is not always good. There must be a strategy for achieving success.
We all know that the media landscape has changed in recent years: Staff shortages and demand for 24/7 online content leave little time for media to respond to each and every PR request. They must pick and choose which to respond to and what information will yield the most immediate help. As PR professionals, we’ve all heard of the tricks of the trade that might garner attention, but tried-and-true tactics are easily forgotten as we chase down a lead when running against the clock. When every channel seems to be shut, let’s go back to the basics…with a twist:
1. Build Trust: Building strong media relationships starts with trust. Show reporters you understand and respect their time. For example, “I assume you are on deadline with more than one assignment. Can you tell me the most convenient time to e-mail you pitches? Help me understand what time of day is best to follow up.” Respecting their overwhelming schedules puts you in a better position to be heard.
And look for similarities. “I understand you’re a fellow Maryland Terp. Did you see that game last night? Either way, I really enjoyed your article last week about cost containment. Have a great day.”
Building trust also happens when you acknowledge what reporters have covered recently. The worst you can hear from a reporter is “Do your homework. I do not cover that.” Trust is immediately broken before it can even be gained.
A media contact will be more receptive to an e-mail that doesn’t ask how they can help you but what you can offer and because they genuinely like working with you.
2. Don’t Always Pitch: Pitch, pitch, pitch. Call as many people as possible and send out more e-mails than you care to count. Right? Wrong. Generating interest from a reporter doesn’t always start with a pitch. Start a dialogue first; pitches come later. For example, “I don’t want to pitch you because I don’t know what you need yet. Can you tell me what you’re working on and I’ll see if I have a client that’s a fit for you? Otherwise, I look forward to hearing from you whenever it’s convenient.”
Unconventional outreach can spark the interest of a reporter, simply because you gave them what they didn’t expect: respect.
3. Opposite Attracts: Do the opposite of what media expect and keep it simple. Less is more. Brief statements not only show your understanding of the reporter’s time, but are also more visually appealing. Why do you think Twitter is so successful? “Can you tell me your deadline for the November issue to feature IP litigation?” Done. End of pitch. You would be amazed how many people respond.
Feedback received following an e-mail with one question may not be significant, but it can kick off additional correspondences that put you in a better position to pitch with the right messages at the right time.
4. Ask a Question: In many cases, feedback, regardless of how significant, is meaningful to clients. Whether that feedback is positive or negative, any input from the media as a result of your outreach should hopefully be perceived as valuable. As long as clients understand that work now will pay off in the future, they should accept and appreciate the ongoing dialogue maintained with media.
To provide evidence of your outreach, spur a response to a pitch and close with a question. Never leave a paragraph open-ended or media will have no real reason to get back to you.
Which statement prompts an urgency to respond? “My client has availability for a deskside on Thursday or Friday and we hope you can participate,” or “Do you have availability on Thursday or Friday?” Don’t make it hard for media to determine what you need from them or what you are asking.
Even if you don’t receive the response you want, feedback is feedback. You may only learn that the issue is closed or that the deadline is six months from now, but learning that the issue was closed long before you were retained by the client avoids having to answer the cringe-worthy questions, “Why didn’t we know about this?” or “Why weren’t we included in this story?”
In the same way we respect our publics by sharing valuable information relevant to their interests, we must value reporters’ time and experience. It will not only make their lives easier, but ours as well.
This article was written Angela Ruggiero, account manager at Stanton Communications. Angela can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.