After spending months trying to land a client, another handful of weeks preparing and presenting the perfect plan, an additional month wading through approval processes to create an incredibly compelling story that’s accompanied by award-worthy graphics, you send this treasure trove off to the wrong journalist.
Media relations is an artform. It’s knowing what journalists want, when they want it, and how they want to receive it. It’s knowing who covers what, where they are employed and (yes) if they are still alive.
Many agencies leave the media relations up to their junior staff members who have not been properly trained. The result is sporadic coverage of small stories in tier-two media.
If you’re going to use juniors, and please don’t, at least provide them with a basic education:
Do your research. Nothing is worse than pitching a story to a journalist without knowing who they are and what they cover. It has never been easier to familiarize yourself with their work and to know why your story is a good fit for their audience.
Adapt your pitch for your audience. Tailor and personalize your outreach so that it resonates with the journalist as a well-thought-out, strategic pitch that will ultimately help them fill in the gaps of their content.
Time your pitch appropriately. Yes, there is a 24-hour news cycle, but mornings are still the best time to get on legacy media’s radar and outreach after 3pm, when TV is editing and print/online pubs are writing, is still a no-no.
Use the right language. In Canada, if the media outlet you’re pitching is presented in French, then your pitch and your media relations professional should also be French.
Use a clear and concise subject line. A well-crafted subject line can be a make-or-break factor for journalists reading your pitch. Just ask them how many emails they get in a day. You get milliseconds to be seen, never mind acknowledged. Be clear and concise but aim to create something eye-catching that will spark interest.
When possible, offer an exclusive. Offering an exclusive interview with a company leader or expert is a great way to entice media to cover your story. It can also be a great ice-breaker and relationship builder for you and your client to reach a coveted reporter or publication.
Provide all necessary information in a simple, easy manner. With your pitch, make sure to attach your press release, images, charts, fact sheets, links, etcetera to the email so the journalists can easily access what they need to tell a compelling story - with or without an interview.
Get ahead of the news. Leverage personal relationships with journalists to be ahead of the news and know when your story is getting out there.
Be thoughtful with your follow-ups. Coverage is not always immediate. Allow some time in between your original pitch and your follow-up, and don’t follow-up excessively. In each of your messages, take the opportunity to offer further insight about the story that may further entice coverage. These gentle reminders can be appreciated, but limit it to one or two emails.
Above all, media relations is about relationships. Applying professional practices can make you a reliable source of quality content for journalists. Not applying them can see all your hard work fall victim to the swift strike of a delete key.
Jason Chennette is Vice President of CASACOM, Montreal, Canada.
This post is part of a thought-leadership series from The Worldcom Public Relations Group featuring media relations best practices and local market insights.
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