The relationship between PR professionals and media contacts is a little tricky, to say the least. Journalists need information, sources, quotes, and story ideas that PR pros can provide and PR folks need their media contacts to help get the message out. But while this seems like it should be a match made in heaven, there is some tension. Journalists can’t (and shouldn’t) be a free advertising channel for brands. They have standards to uphold and need to stick to the fundamentals of good reporting if they want to keep their audience (and their job). This can be frustrating for PR teams because we don’t have any control over what the media contact decides to share or when.
In order to improve your success at earned media and becoming a favorite of your journalists contacts, it makes sense to envision the world from their point of view. How can you make their lives easier? What do they need from you? So, a few things press contacts consistently say they want from PR.
The fastest way to erode your relationship with your media contacts is to pitch stories that don’t contain any real news. If the first 5 pitches you sent don’t contain any newsworthy content, why would they even bother to open the 6th? Every story idea doesn’t have to be a blockbuster, but there should be something new and of note in each one. Repackaging information that has already been pitched or is already in the media will simply get you relegated to the SPAM folder.
Your pitch might be chocked full of news, but that doesn’t mean that every reporter on the internet will be interested. Rather than filling up journalists’ email boxes with stories they aren’t likely to tell, it pays to target your pitches to the right publications and the right authors. Doing so will increase the odds of your idea getting noticed and help you maintain your reputation as a useful source of information, rather than someone who throws everything at the wall to see what sticks.
There’s an old mantra in journalism, “A good article is one you grandmother would understand even if she doesn’t know anything about the subject.” This is hard for a writer to achieve if your press release and pitch are full of technical jargon and industry buzzwords. Don’t assume that the writer (or their audience) will be familiar with all of the acronyms, product names, and ten letter words that may be second nature to you.
Journalists work on tight deadlines, which means you have a deadline too. If a reporter has asked for some follow-up information, quotes, or more details, don’t make them wait.
In this information age, people look for facts and figures to back up all sorts of claims. Your media contacts want to be able to write meaty stories that are credible and well researched. Make that easy on them by providing accurate data. For example, don’t just say that your new product saves time. Define how much time it saves and provide studies, reports, or quotes to back it up.
Everything from a blog to a tweet that has visual content gets more audience engagement, more clicks, and more value for the publication and journalist. In fact, many reporters won’t publish content without great visuals. Make their job easier and your pitch more attractive (literally) by including relevant video, photographs, infographics, screen shots, maps, or other visual content that helps bring the story to life.
Most of us would abandon a friendship if the only time we heard from our friend was when they needed something. Don’t be that person with your media contacts. If you can, take them to lunch or out for a drink when you don’t have anything to pitch. Send holiday and birthday cards. Congratulate them when they achieve professional accomplishments. Be more than just another email address in their inbox.
One way to become an asset to your media contacts is to engage with and share their work. Of course, you will do this when you promote the earned media related to your brand, but it pays to do it with their other content as well. Theoretically, they are writing about topics of interest to your audience, so why not share it widely.
Journalists can spot BS, it’s a big part of their job. Some spin is fine, but don’t let yourself get into the “fake news” zone by stretching the facts beyond all rationality. You have a reputation as a source, don’t damage it by spinning things so hard they fall apart.
Your media contacts want you to be useful, responsive, and authentic. If you keep that in mind each time you interact with someone on your contact list, you’ll improve your chances of consistent, positive, and relevant coverage.
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