The Myth of Advanced Media Relations

In the past several years I’ve attended seminars, webinars, and a couple of conference sessions about “advanced media relations.” You’d think after the first one I would have learned, or you’d think after spending dollar-after-dollar and hearing the same thing over-and-over,  I would have figured it out: advanced media relations is a myth.  Yet, I kept attending, focused on professional development and perhaps hoping that I’d find that magical key to making media relations easier. I didn’t. 

To save you the time, the cash, and the hand-to-the-forehead moments, take confidence in mastering the four basic elements of media relations:

1.       Research the media you want to pitch.

You can’t just build a media list from a database, you have to qualify it. Research each media outlet and each reporter to assure you’ve got the right media outlet for your product/service and the right reporter who’d be interested in your pitch.

2.       Pitch on target.

Never, ever send the same pitch, worded the same way, with the same info to every single reporter on a list (also known as mass emails). Take time to research the reporter and his/her current or related stories. Then, customize each email or phone pitch to tell them why his/her readers, listeners, viewers would want this story and how you can help.

3.       Be polite and be professional.

While seemingly obvious, I’m always amazed at the stories we hear about supposedly experienced PR pros acting like idiots when it comes to pitching journalists. Start by reaching out through the channel they prefer – email, phone, DM or whatever they’ve listed or told you when you qualified your media list.

Next, when calling a reporter, ask if you’ve caught them at a good time. Do not leave multiple voicemails or send four emails in a row. Value their time by having your pitch and reasoning lined up. Be brief, consider bullet points instead of prose or if you’re on the phone, get to the point in under a minute.

If a reporter rejects the story, thank him or her anyway and offer to be a resource in the future. If they tell you they don’t cover that area, apologize for being off topic and be sure to remove them from future pitches. And hard to believe I have to say this, don’t ask to review his/her story before it publishes or airs, reporters have editors already.

4.       Follow up as promised.

If you offered visuals, research stats, more information, or an interview, follow up and deliver it exactly – if not before – you promised.  If you said you’d call back tomorrow, call back. If you said you’d email a confirmation, do so. As with most things in life, follow up matters and reporters tend to remember the reliable PR pro who delivered as promised.

Every single “advanced media relations” session I attended was really a thinly-veiled review and reiteration of these four elements.

You’d think we’d all get it by now, but click for a short visit to the Bad Pitch Blog and read on in horror to see first-hand evidence that basic skills aren’t always that common.  And before send you or your team to that promising “advanced media relations” seminar with its slick copy and headlining speakers, save your time and money and re-read this post.

JR Schmitt (@cloudspark) is the founder of CloudSpark, an award-winning strategic communications and social media company. The microagency specializes in helping new and emerging companies answers the key questions of “What now?” and “What next?” With experience, expertise, inspiration – and a spark or two – the company provides answers that help business stand out and achieve results.  Jenny is a veteran public relations and marketing professional and a sought-after conference and keynote speaker who presents on communications and social media issues nationally. A frequent media contributor, she has been quoted in USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, BrandWeek, among others; she regularly contributes to blogs relating to social media and public relations.

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