Philadelphia Media Members and Communication Professionals Provide Practical Tips for Media Relations

May 27, 2010

On Wednesday, May 12th, Business Wire Philadelphia hosted “Media Relations Boot Camp,” a breakfast and panel discussion about media relations best practices.  The event, held at the University City Science Center in Philadelphia, brought over 50 PR practitioners, industry professionals and business executives looking to learn from leaders in the media and communications industries.

Moderator Michael Smith, LaSalle University

The panel discussion was moderated by Michael Smith, PhD, Associate Professor of Communication at La Salle University and featured the following speakers:

Below are some of the key points from each of our panelists:

Mike Armstong, Philadelphia Inquirer

  • When asked what he looks for in a story, Mike said “the key word is interesting.  If you’re going to reach out to the media, it better be interesting and it better be important.”  He also added that pitches should be short, to the point and preferably delivered by e-mail – not over the phone or via fax.
  • If you’re going to call Mike at the Inquirer, he suggests doing your research.  Flowery language doesn’t work for him.  A better approach is to read his articles and find a connection between your pitch and what he covers.  He added that “the brutal truth is that just because you exist, doesn’t mean you’re a story.”  To be successful, organizations need to recognize trends and find how you fit into these bigger stories.
  • Despite being the editor for the PhillyInc Blog, Mike does not heavily rely on social media for news tips.  There is no must-read blog for him at the moment.  Although he keeps a list of blogs to follow, he only checks them about once a month.

Bernard Dagenais, Philadelphia Business Journal

  • For Bernie and the Philadelphia Business Journal, a good story is about a lot of money and/or a lot of jobs.  Journalists bring their independent judgment to the newsroom when it comes to determining whether or not something is newsworthy, but for the most part a good story is one that will be interesting to the entire business community – not just your specific industry.
  • When sending an e-mail to an editor or reporter, the subject line is very important.  It is a PR professional’s job to get the attention of the media and a subject line is one way to do that.  If a story is really good, it is not a bad idea to call the reporter and resend the e-mail once you’re on the phone so the reporter doesn’t have to search for what you’re talking about.  When calling Bernie with a pitch, a fact-driven approach works best.  He wants to get his job done as efficiently and effectively as possible so provide the information he needs up front.
  • Make sure you are sending quality e-mails when you contact reporters.  Bernie actually set up a junk filter for people who have sent too many useless e-mails in the past.  According to Bernie, “why would I want to contact them?  They don’t get what it is that we do.”

Alex Hillman, DangerouslyAwesome.com and Indy Hall

  • Organizations should remember that sometimes less is more.  Not everything an organization does is newsworthy so there is no reason to constantly broadcast announcements if they are not important.  “If everything is a hot story, then nothing is a hot story,” he said.  “Shut up and listen before you shout and hope someone listens.”
  • Alex referenced Seth Godin’s book Purple Cow, encouraging the audience to do something interesting and to be remarkable.  “Be worth remarking about.  You’ll keep hitting the same walls [with the media] if you continue to do the same thing.”
  • When it comes to using social media and new technology, he recommends taking a quality over quantity approach.  Consistently putting out quality posts and being thoughtful about your social media strategy is more effective than high volume.  Social media tools like blogs allow people to express judgment in what they are sharing, and organizations should recognize this important aspect when creating content.  In regards to negative comments on blogs, Alex recommends not deleting them but instead viewing them as an opportunity to engage.

Panelist Michael Wood, PPL Corporation

Michael Wood, PPL Corporation

  • Although more and more organizations are incorporating social media into their communication strategies, it is still important to use outlets like the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Business Journal.  “You need to consider all media to reach your audience.  You need to integrate your message into a number of different vehicles and traditional media is part of that plan,” he said.
  • According to Michael, “credibility means everything to someone working in media relations.”  Know what makes a good story for the media outlet you are pitching and know what information they need to do their job.  Be selective when reaching out to the media so they are more likely to pay attention when you pitch.
  • When writing a press release, make it more about the story and less about the organization.  Revise your headline to be about the current trend you want to discuss and have your company serve as one of several sources within the release.

Local Business Wire offices host dozens of events each year on PR, IR, SEO & media topics.  Check out the Business Wire Events page to find upcoming events in your area.

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