Despite the fact they’re both in the business of media, public relations professionals and journalists approach their work very differently. Fewer journalists to pitch to combined with an increasingly competitive media landscape means thinking like both a public relations professional and a journalist is important. Assisting reporters with their work offers lasting benefits. Follow these tips and secure media coverage today and in the future.
Be easy to work with and helpful to journalists. Media professionals face tough deadlines and a great deal of stress when making writing decisions. Being pleasant and even fun to work with sets you apart from the throng of PR professionals they encounter every day. And while it’s important to stay on top of stories, working well with reporters means understanding that their schedule differs from yours.
Demonstrating patience and flexibility in terms of hearing back is as important as regularly checking with your contacts. It’s also important to respect the space of journalists. They have a right to say no to your pitches — giving negative replies is part of what they do. Handling such a response gracefully displays professionalism and ensures your consideration for future stories.
Have a story in mind before you pitch. As a publicist, you’re not responsible for writing the piece. However, you should still have a good idea of the story when you send the outreach email. Create an outline of the story when pitching it and show you’ve already thoughtfully considered the subject. Even if most of your brainstorming doesn’t make it into your pitch, there are obvious differences between a well-considered story and one sent off without much attention given to it. Also, if your contact needs clarification or prompts, you’ll be ready. Even if you’re not crafting a story yourself, reporters can tell if your pitch matters to you enough to have done some research.
Pick up the phone. Reporters receive many emails every day. While you shouldn’t stray from the typical practice of making the initial contact via email, following up with a phone often jump-starts a conversation. Phoning contacts may not be a favorite activity. However, doing so demonstrates commitment to a story and a particular interest in the writer or outlet. Allow some time after pitching before calling. Many reporters admit overly-eager publicists frustrate them. While a phone call creates an interested appearance, appearing impatient can backfire. Wait at least a few hours after that first email; if you’re so inclined, that phone call may pay dividends.
Do your research on journalists. Sometimes, getting a good response has more to do with who you contact than the pitch. Scout for the best reporter for your story within an outlet or local area. Reach out to larger, well-known names in media. While it’s easy to find contact information for a top-level editor, taking the time to locate the one writer who covers your beat as a publicist simplifies the publishing process for all involved. And, just like that key phone call, it demonstrates a commitment to your story going above and beyond what other PR professionals do.
Build relationships with your contacts. Send a follow-up note of gratitude after a story has been published. Familiarize yourself with your contacts’ work even when it isn’t yours. Let them know you’re interested in them beyond the scope of your own goals. Fostering positive working relationships helps you become known as a uniquely gracious publicist. For example, when your key reporters receive an award or publish a great piece of work, send a brief note congratulating them. Even if you’re not meeting someone face-to-face, manners count!
While none of these tips are failproof, when used in conjunction with each other, they help build a good name. Working in publicity requires patience and persistence, but consistent good behavior also has rewards.