In an increasingly challenging media environment – where there are now seven PR pros to every one journalist – my colleagues and I are always on the hunt for tips and tricks to secure top-notch coverage and opportunities for clients that expect results. Journalist jobs are down 30% since 2008, and while the odds are unfortunately not exactly in our favor, there are always ways to enhance our proactive media relations in an effort to develop relationships with reporters, editors, bloggers, and journalists.
I recently participated in a webinar in which Omar Gallaga, former technology and culture reporter, joined a panel of TrendKite executives to discuss the good, bad, and future of pitching, along with general do’s and don’ts to keep in mind. There were several that stuck out and a few that we certainly already know, but it was good reinforcement to hear from a long-time journalist who’s been on the receiving end of it all.
- Keep it short: We know, we know – journalists’ attention spans are not very high and we obviously should avoid sending a 1,500 word email with a huge explanation. But taking it even a step further, PR leaders should now actually think with mobile in mind. Many writers are on the move or not at their desk and are viewing many pitches from a smartphone. A mobile friendly pitch is much easier to consume than a crazy, long-winded novel.
- Be a human, always: A lot of PR professionals, especially those just starting out, tend to sound more like a robot when pitching media instead of a human. For those of us in the B2B tech space specifically, we can sometimes fall into the trap of using too muchjargon from our clients, which can unfortunately land many of us in the email trash bin. It’s key to eliminate this forced, unnatural way of writing by breaking down concepts in an easy to understand way, and personalize emails as much as possible. Of course, don’t get too personal if you don’t actually know the reporter well (because that would be creepy).
- When is the best time to pitch? The panel agreed that avoiding first thing Monday morning (unless it is around breaking news) or late on a Friday afternoon when reporters get news dumps or are getting ready for the weekends / weekend news is best. Tuesday through Thursday is ideal timing, but make it mid-day, since first thing in the morning is when many journalists gear up, read through a mass amount of emails, have meetings, etc.
- It’s okay to ask questions (when appropriate): When the time is right, sending a more casual intro pitch that asks, “What should I be pitching you?” or “What are you most interested in?” can sometimes go a long way. Don’t be afraid to ask for clear direction on what they’re covering and are looking for – you’d be surprised how few ask and how willing some journalists might be to answer.
- Give enough lead-time: Journalists hate when you invite them to come to some event happening the next day. It will likely be a no, unless it’s urgent. Reporters’ schedules can fill up a month out, especially for feature writers, so keeping this timeline in mind is key. That said, if it comes down to it, Gallaga recommended sending a note that says, “Hey, I know this is last minute but this just landed on my desk.” This puts a human face to it (remember, be human) and lessens the blow — if you just communicate that, it can go a long way.
- Embargoes: Many clients expect day-of coverage when they’re releasing a news announcement, report, or product launch. Unfortunately we’re in an age where extensive, day-of of coverage is happening less and less for smaller brands or lesser-known companies. If you’re not a Google, Microsoft, Apple, or Facebook, it’s harder to achieve that level of mass coverage. With this in mind – while we think embargoes are a way to achieve this by giving reporters the scoop ahead of the news – the webinar’s panel surprisingly noted that reporters hate embargoes and (less surprisingly) prefer exclusives. According to Gallaga, reporters know they’re not the only ones getting the embargoed information and are waiting for someone to break the news. Instead, some reporters would rather get a simpler heads up without the promise of an embargo and a shared press release day-of.
The world of PR is changing in parallel to the evolving media industry and the future and fate of the work is still to be seen. Today though, PR pros are still a vital part of companies’ strategies to elevate their brands and drive exposure. While some reporters might hate to admit it, through the right tactics and consideration of how writers like to operate, PR leaders can continue to serve as quality resources and partners down the line.