Back to the Basics: A Crash Course in Media Relations

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Michiko Morales

As PR professionals, we’ve all been there – with mile-long to-do lists, it’s often a race against the clock to meet deadlines and get our clients noticed. But how often do we stop to reconsider the subject line of our pitch or find stand-out ways to separate our news from the rest of the noise out there? It’s always good practice to take the time to slow down every now and then to actually think about why we do what we do day in and day out.

Whether you’re a media relations vet or brand new to the tech PR and marketing industry, the same rules still apply. And while there’s no “one size fits all” method for building media relationships, there are fundamental best practices that we should all strive to follow.

So, without further ado, take your seats, because class is in session! Join us as we review the Dos and Dont’s of communicating with the media and best practices that PR professionals should live and breathe by.

Remember: Content is Always King

In some rare cases, more is more. And PR is sometimes that exception. Any PR expert knows how important it is to catch the attention of a reporter and make it as easy as possible for that person to understand your pitch and take the news and run with it. So on some occasions, it makes sense to send more information than less.

It’s a good rule of thumb to try to adopt the mentality of the reporter. Before clicking send on your email, think for a second about how you would interpret the news if roles were reversed. Does it make sense? Would you have enough information to run with the news and write a story about it? Is it relevant to what’s trending today? As a best practice, take the time to ask yourself these questions and make sure you have an answer before pitching the media and blindly hoping they’ll cover your story.

Be Mindful of Time

As any good PR professional knows, deadlines are everything. The same holds true for reporters. Anytime we pick up the phone, there’s always the chance that we’ll catch a reporter working on deadline. Be mindful of their time, and begin each conversation by saying, “Is now a good time? Did I catch you in the middle of something, or do you have a few minutes?” If it is not the best time, ask if you can call back later that day. It’ll show persistence, but also respect for their time and hopefully earn you a few brownie points when you do finally catch them at a later date.

Separate Yourself from the Crowd

As the saying goes, you only have one chance to make a first impression. Similarly, in the PR world, we want our pitches to be informative and to the point, but also exciting enough to catch a writer’s attention. Truth be told, a reporter is likely going to read your headline along with the first 2-3 sentences of your email and make a decision to either continue reading on because you’ve caught their interest, or toss your note straight into the trash bin.

Do yourself and your clients a favor and craft your news and pitches in a way that sets them apart from the crowd. If email pitching isn’t garnering the results you’re looking for, mix things up and try pitching via social media. No two reporters are identical (making our job more difficult), but as PR professionals, it’s our responsibility to pick up tips along the way and adapt to new ways of doing things. The takeaway – don’t confine yourself to just one method of media outreach. Try new things to see what works, and create a system of doing things for yourself that helps you create a new normal. 

Work to Build the Relationship

It’s no secret that relationships take time and require effort. The same goes for building relationships with the media. No relationship is ever built overnight. So as a PR person, do your homework (and a little investigating) to see what makes a reporter tick. If you can uncover any common interests or tailor your message to what they’ve written about recently, you’re likely to get noticed. There’s nothing worse for a reporter than receiving a pitch that has nothing to do with topics they cover (and we know this because we’ve all had it happen to us before). Mistakes happen, reporters shift beats, life goes on. But as a PR person, do your very best to kick your relationship off on the right foot with a reporter by doing your homework first.

Make Sure Your News Is in Fact… News

One of the worst mistakes we can make as PR professionals is to inundate a reporter’s inbox with information that really isn’t newsworthy. If we’re lucky enough to have our email opened or get those few minutes over the phone, we better have something good, and it better be relevant. Otherwise, we run the risk of being permanently banned to the junk folder – a place that’s often considered impossible to bounce back from. Our advice – tread lightly.

If you feel hesitant about your pitch, rework it or pull back until you have something groundbreaking to announce. Any PR veteran with years of experience has worked to build up a list of reporters they pitch routinely because they’ve come to a solid understanding of what that person will or will not cover. Conversely, if you do your job well enough, the day might even come when a reporter turns to you for a story because you’ve built a good relationship and are known for delivering newsworthy content.

In summary, we unfortunately have no secret formula to share when it comes to building a perfect relationship with the media. However, practice makes perfect, and by implementing these tips on a routine basis, you will be setting yourself up for a bright future ahead.

Have a new product or service you want to get in front of the media? Contact Gabriel Marketing Group to learn how our strategic public relations and marketing services can help build brand awareness and get you noticed!

From the Blog

Leah Nurik