During my nearly 14-year career as a journalist, I received my fair share of pitches from public relations agencies that highlighted the good aspects of a company, product or organization. Some were helpful. I crafted numerous stories sparked by an idea from a pitch or reported timely news from information gathered from these professionals; however, it pains me to say (especially now that I’m on the other end of the emails!) many were deleted.
Here are four ways to avoid the dreaded “delete” and instead help the message stay in a journalist’s inbox – and turn it into a story.
Get the message to the right people. Even though I worked for a dairy newspaper, I received emails from companies completely unrelated to the industry. I remember having to sort through emails about medical devices, dairy alternatives, and motorcycle parts among others. It’s important to create the correct media list for each unique client and campaign, paying close attention to both the outlets and the titles to find the right targets. While media databases have come a long way, they’re still not perfect. So, we spend time carefully combing and adding to each list before distributing a pitch or release to ensure the message will end up in front of the right person, and not in the trash.
Make a connection. For the outlets that do make the cut, pick a few journalists to reach out to personally. I was more likely to read messages that had an individualized message or were from someone I knew. Although networking through in-person events was always one of the best ways to meet people and develop story ideas, I also think connecting through LinkedIn or an introductory email is always a worthy use of time. Also, be sure to maximize opportunities to connect and say “thank you” to journalists you’re working with for a piece, whether that be a personal note or a shout-out on social media, these two magic words can go a long way toward building a mutually beneficial relationship.
Share a compelling story. Sometimes pitches I received were boring or didn’t have anything relevant to share. It’s important to take a step back and ask a few questions: why should anyone care about this information? Will the audience find this interesting? Think like a journalist. Make sure the information being shared is timely, relevant and compelling.
Let pitches breathe. We probably have all encountered someone who calls shortly after they texted without getting a reply to ask, “Did you get my message?” Chances are, we did, and we just didn’t have a chance to respond yet or it might not be relevant now. Pitches can be similar. While a follow-up is important (sometimes things get lost in the shuffle), leave room for the pitch breathe and avoid being a pest to someone you’re trying to help. Give journalists time as they navigate interviews, writing and deadlines.
When it comes to media relations, giving a little extra time and a lot of attention to detail pay off. And a well-balanced approach incorporating these tips can help amplify organizations’ stories while also giving journalists the information they want to share.