Executive Summary

PR News Media Relations Next Practices Conference

December 11th, 2015 – The National Press Club, Washington, D.C.


8:45 a.m. — Media Pitching & Social Media: What's Working Now

Michael Smart, principal, MichaelSMARTPR

  • Social media has caused PR upheaval in the past several years. Fragmentation makes it harder to break through the clutter but also gives us more ways to do so.
  • Challenges: media fragmentation, media seem to have no time for relationships, media are driven by different incentives.
  • Find new outlets, including large social media accounts, that are already reaching your audiences.
  • Improve influencer relations rather than just thinking about media outlets.
  • "Read & React": consume reporters' content and let them know you did. Their most common complain about PR people is that they don't watch their show or read their content.
  • Older reporters care about getting on the front page. Younger reporters care about page views. Older content can be effectively repurposed; it's not so important anymore that it's "old news." Pitch content that is already performing well online.

9:45 a.m. — How to Measure Media Coverage and Tie It to Organizational Goals

Johna Burke, CMO, BurrellesLuce

  • Keeping up with Barcelona Principles helps you tie your efforts to organizational goals.
  • "Ghost metrics" are not your friend. Think like a stakeholder and determine whether coverage is positive or negative.
  • You must have goals in place to make reporting valuable.
  • Micro-targeting and priority tiers can help you focus on the most important channels.

Heidi Mock, senior director, analytics & insights, Time Warner Cable

  • Understand your company/client goals.
  • Make a connection that matters to the c-suite, and make a connection that matters to the target audience.
  • Develop a method for tracking your team's objectives with measurable and reasonable metrics.
  • Tie results and success to organization goals.
  • Measurement from the beginning is the best plan.
  • Track your progress toward each goal.

10:45 a.m. — Case Studies: Media Pitches That Worked

Gay Pinder, director of media relations, Towson University

  • Subject line: make it short and catchy, and make sure your story lives up to it.
  • The pitch: make it personal: challenges, redemption, human qualities.
  • Directly appeal to the interests of particular reporters.
  • It's hard to break through to national media: it takes trusted relationships between reporters and PR. Know their schedules and preferred mode of contact.
  • Give reporters what they're asking for, or failing that, suggest a slightly different angle
  • Know your media outlet. Read/watch/listen to it.

Allison Robins, director of global public relations, Zumba Fitness

  • PR needs to be integrated into every aspect of your organization.
  • Journalists are valuing trends like original video and mobile-friendly content.
  • Images still perform higher than video.
  • Editor events are still a great way to connect with media.
  • Create content that can work across multiple channels.
  • Be a fly on the wall and listen.

Christopher W. Ullman, managing director and director of global communications, The Carlyle Group

  • Pitching best practices mimic dating best practices.
  • Take these into account: exclusivity, empathy, passion, offer something, authenticity, timing, joy.
  • Focus on what the actual goal is.
  • Have a high bar for news.

12:00 p.m. — Keynote Panel: Journalists on Chairs—How Their Jobs Have Changed, and How That Changes Your Job

Helena Bottemiller Evich, reporter, Politico

  • Many reporters, just like PR people, also disagree with editor's headline. She encourages people to speak up; you'll be surprised by how receptive your media contacts will be.
  • She's a big fan of giving a heads-up to somebody about the content of the story, even if they'll hate it.
  • If you're given info you're not able to share publicly, call your favorite reporter and give an off-the-record tip so that they're not blindsided.

Abha Bhattarai, reporter, The Washington Post

  • Reporters have broader beats and responsibilities today.
  • The most memorable pitches are offbeat looks at something you wouldn't normally see in a press release.

Amy Brittain, reporter, The Washington Post

  • People are not consuming large investigative stories in the same way. Newspapers are shifting from three-installment stories to tracking an ongoing story all year.
  • The editor doesn't make changes without her present. Her philosophy: no surprises. She doesn't want PR person to read a story and be surprised by what's in it. Neither party wants a correction to be necessary.
  • She prefers that people who have a problem with a story contact her, not her editor.

Kevin Baron, executive editor, Defense One

  • Today there is a lot of pressure to have a different take, not the same news stories as other outlets.
  • The best PR pros are the ones that he knows and trusts.
  • He prefers that people who have a problem with a story contact the editor.
  • His Facebook presence is more important for sharing content; Twitter is more important for clout.

1:15 p.m. — Social Media Tactics That Make Your Organization a Media Brand

William Gray, media relations specialist, Center for Public Integrity

  • Experiment with your personal social media profiles before trying something new on your brand profile. Keep experimenting.
  • Choose one specific goal when using social to get coverage.
  • If your story gets big enough on social you’re going to lose control of that story, which can be a very good thing.
  • Know your social media policy, and make sure you have a strong policy.
  • Build your message for the specific medium, and design it to be shared. For instance, a three-minute video might thrive on YouTube but die on Facebook.
  • Attentive.ly can help you know what your audience is talking about and not talking about. CrowdTangle and SproutSocial are also very useful tool.

Isabel Lara, director of media relations, NPR

  • NPR uses Twitter much more often than Facebook, yet most of its audience engagement is on Facebook.
  • Use tagging to reach out beyond your natural audience on social media.
  • On World Emoji Day NPR listed its most popular shows using emojis, to great effect.
  • Taking a page from NASA, NPR holds meetups with its fans, bringing a select group to its headquarters.

Kurt Wirth

  • The average person on an average day will see 5,000 advertising messages. Social media is a way to break through that noise.
  • If you care about social media, you’ve got to embrace the fact that social is data—it’s a science.
  • Engagement rate is the be-all and end-all on social media. At its core engagement is a confirmation that someone received your message.

2:00 p.m. — Media Training Clinic—Managing the Message When the Heat Is on Your Organization

Julie Murphy, partner & VP, public relations, Sage Communications

  • Cardinal rules haven't changed: be open, ethical, proactive.
  • Pressure on journalists to report fastest and loudest is at an all-time high, so there is higher potential for widely-read inaccuracies.
  • We're global: thanks to widespread media, there is no localized crisis.
  • Your reputation can suffer from multiple mini-incidents; there doesn't have to be a huge crisis.
  • Build your presence: a comprehensive presence can help minimize crisis.
  • Brainstorm hypothetical crisis scenarios, and categorize them by worst-case.

Tara Mullens, VP, media influence, Ogilvy Public Relations

  • Map your resources. Determine who stakeholders are and who spokespeople will be.
  • Use a "blueprint" that functions like a flowchart, helping you take action at each step.
  • Employ a "follow the sun" model to ensure 24/7 monitoring during a crisis, utilizing a global network.
  • "No comment" is not a comment. It looks like you have something to hide.
  • Take control of your own narrative and define it. If you don't, someone else will.

3:15 p.m. — Media Pitching Clinic: Work in Teams and Have Your Pitch Evaluated

Regina Davis, director of communications, National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners

  • Keep the "cute" out of it. Reporters want to get to the heart of what you're pitching.
  • Don't start out with a lot of questions; be careful with puns; use superlatives judiciously and accurately.
  • On social media: stimulate topic interest; share visual elements; do hashtag campaigns; apply social media etiquette.

Raschanda Hall, director of global media relations, Business Wire

  • Use contrast. For example, REI going against the grain by closing on Black Friday.
  • Leverage a common enemy: Hackers, cancer, etc.
  • Target an audience and tap into their fears.
  • Pitch: answer "what?" "so what?" and "now what?" as quickly as possible.
  • Avoid vague, fluffy language and buzzwords.
  • Don't waste prime real estate with phrases like "for immediate release."

Erica Moody, associate editor, Washington Life Magazine

  • She prefers being told a story in a pitch, as opposed to bullet points.
  • If there's a media event, put it in the subject line.
  • Don't overwhelm with information in a pitch: stick to the heart of the story.
  • If it's an exclusive, let the reporter know in the subject line.