Media relations, like most elements of public relations, is not a one-size-fits-all strategy. Your targeted media outreach will need to be adapted specifically to your goals and objectives. Are you launching a new line from an international fashion brand? How about sharing the news of a brand new iPhone app? Or what about a celebrating a local restaurant opening? It doesn’t take a PR guru to tell you that the strategy for these cases would be vastly different.
Each of these scenarios is going have a different PR goal, and how you reach this goal will be unique to each campaign. Most importantly, the media outlets you plan to target will be different and so will the journalists willing to write about these topics. Ultimately, you’re trying to reach a specific audience – whoever is going to buy your product, use your service or otherwise benefit from your brand.
No matter what you are promoting or what journalist you are trying to reach, there are four elements any public relations professional should consider keeping in mind when executing a successful media relations strategy:
As a PR professional, the most important part of my job is figuring out storylines that resonate strongly with the news outlets and blogs’ audiences while ensuring our clients’ key messages are being shared and publicized properly. And this is just the beginning – ideally you are going to want to pull together everything a reporter might need to gather for their article before you do any outreach at all. This entails work such as competitor and industry research, preparing to offer other examples to support your trend and providing stats and other metrics to back your position. Make it hard for the journalist to say no.
- Who is this story about – who are you?
- Who is it relevant to – what is the audience you’re seeking to reach?
- When and Where is your story taking place – will it impact a specific region or people nationwide?
- What is happening?
- Why is this valuable for people to know about? Why are you (or your client) doing this?
Outline your information like you would any other story.
After you’ve developed the perfect story or pitch, you want to make sure you are targeting the correct journalist. If you are pitching the launch of a new phone app, you are not going to want to pitch that topic to someone who only covers the food industry. This might seem elementary, but knowing exactly what the journalist who you are speaking to covers is half the battle. Your perfect pitch wrapped in a bow is going to do you no good if you send it to the wrong journalist. Would the reporter you’ve found be interested in our topic? If not, find someone who would.
How should you prepare for media outreach?
- Research the contact information, titles, beats and previous stories of reporters at each outlet
- Gather notes on attitudes and perspectives already voiced about your industry or story
- Scan social networks for ongoing conversations to better prepare for positive and negative feedback your story may attract
- Understand your competitors’ value and what reporters already know about them, and know how to differentiate your brand
In public relations, people are always talking about relationships. It is in our title for crying out loud. But what does that mean in the age of social media and email conversations? By following the first two suggestions, you are on the right track to building a decent relationship with a journalist. Giving journalists what they need and not burdening them with emails they don’t need develops trust. That is an important part of the process.
Often, this also means helping a journalist with a story even when it doesn’t involve one of your clients.
“Being useful rather than “successful” makes reporters realize that you care about more than a cheap score.” – Ed Zitron, “The Best PR-Reporter Relationships Are Selfless”
You want to be a credible resource for the reporters and bloggers with whom you are connecting. Take the time to build this relationship and it will pay off in the long run.
Most brands can’t expect the media to come to them every day. Yes, this does happen occasionally from time to time, but if you want the media to cover your client, you need to be proactive and be the one to start the conversation. You must stay up-to-date on all relevant conversations already ongoing (this isn’t a new suggestion – it’s one of the skills every media relations pro needs).
How should you keep on top of news? Here’s just a few ways:
- Set up Google alerts for key terms relevant to your industry, such as products, competitors, services and people
- Set up advanced Twitter searches and create Twitter lists to follow relevant companies, industry members, reporters and news outlets
- Be an avid consumer of all news articles from relevant sources
- Touch base with clients regularly on industry news and topics to see what they’re reacting to or curious about
Once you find a relevant story, consider how you can be a part of it, without being pushy. How can you be helpful in the dialogue?
When you do proactive outreach, remember to follow up and be persistent. There is a fine line between journalist stalking and persistence, and finding this balance is crucial. If a journalist tells you he/she is too busy to cover your client at this time but to follow up at a later date, make sure you do! Reporters receive hundreds of emails a day. If they do not get to your pitch, do not get discouraged. My journalist friends might hate me for saying this but if you truly know your pitch is a good fit for their audience, there is nothing wrong with being persistent until you get the journalist to respond.
These four elements have helped my team secure several media relations home runs. Having the opportunity to work with a variety of clients from tech startups to professional equestrian horse jumpers, we execute these principles on a daily basis in order to get our clients’ message properly publicized, all while remaining a resource for the media on which they can rely.