When each day is constantly full of breaking news, and circumstances around the world – both big and small – seem to always be in flux, how do you maximize your media relations efforts and cut through the noise? We’ve put together four elements from our strategic approach that help us connect with journalists, share our clients’ stories and get results, even in this time where the media landscape is always changing.
It’s all about the story. Relationships are important, and the way you put a persuasive pitch together can impact whether a reporter or editor considers covering your news. But the most important part of any media relations initiative is the story you’re telling. At its core, every story needs to be timely, relevant and engaging. If what you’re taking to a journalist about meets those minimum standards, then you’re on your way. But that’s not all. Another key element that PR pros often forget about is the importance of finding the people in any story. It’s one thing to talk about an innovative product. But your story leaps to the next level – and to the front of the line – when you tell a people-centric tale.
Focus on the pitch. The pitch is the workhorse of media relations. A compelling email can open doors of opportunity for coverage, but as with anything, there are no guarantees. Journalists are often stretched thin, and many receive dozens or even hundreds of pitches each day. So, how do you make yours stand out? Be concise, yet thorough. A recent Muck Rack article shares stats from their State of Journalism 2021 survey, stating that “91% of journalists prefer to receive pitches that are under 200 words.” With their inboxes full, brevity is often your friend. However, the same article encourages those pitching to include everything a journalist may need to work on a story. A fine line to walk, but when done well can achieve great results.
Of course, as with anything, there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach to pitching. We’ve seen some industry trades that appreciate more lengthy pitches chock full of details. And, in some instances, we’ve seen success with just a couple sentences. Having a pulse on the nuances of the industries, outlets and journalists you’re pitching is crucial to make sure that your pitch doesn’t end up going straight into the trash.
Timing is everything. There are conflicting thoughts among industry pros as it relates to the best day of the week or time of day for pitching. In general, we believe a solid pitch and carefully selected target media list are much more important than exactly when the pitch goes out. That said, timing is definitely a consideration. Best practices we follow include avoiding pitching on days with major breaking news, during news conferences and on days with industry events. We also keep a pulse on what’s going on in the markets we’re pitching that may affect journalists’ bandwidth and ability to cover a story now. Follow-ups are also important to time. We find most journalists are receptive to receiving follow-ups, but it’s important to know when to check in and when to let things simmer. Typically, we wait a minimum of 2–3 days, pending how urgent the news is, before we send another note. If it’s pressing news, a phone call may be needed, but in our experience, we find emails are the most preferred method of reaching journalists.
And don’t be afraid to revisit a story that didn’t resonate with media a few weeks or months later. It could be that the timing simply wasn’t right, and with a few tweaks, a pitch could work better at another time.
Keep building relationships. Another important component of media relations is developing relationships with journalists. Whether that means following their current work, connecting on social media or making sure to deliver when working on a story with them, becoming a trusted, go-to source provides endless opportunities. We continually see the benefits of relationships we’ve fostered – some with reporters we’ve worked with for years, and others with newer contacts who are eager to stay in touch on a specific topic. While recently booking a series of live shots for one client, we took the opportunity to pitch stories from other clients to the reporter. It was easy for the reporter to say yes, since we listened to what they were looking for and pitched fully formed stories that fit the bill. And now, we have multiple client wins, and continue to show our value to the journalist. By investing in genuine relationships with journalists, you’re investing in your business – you never know when they may be looking for a last-minute story or a source and think of you.
In a media landscape that’s full of breaking news and no shortage of stories to tell, working smarter can ensure your stories break through the clutter. If you’d like to talk about how media relations can help elevate your business, please reach out – we’d love to connect!