Media relations have always been the bread and butter of our business. Our job is to get clients names in the headlines. That’s why when I came across a story earlier this fall about the art of the pitch, written from a journalist’s perspective, I was intrigued to hear what she had to say.
Since journalists are on the receiving end of most PR efforts, they have just as much say in how these relationships should work. It’s no easy task delivering a perfectly crafted email with a clear and concise angle in mind… that also creates the “spark” for a story. PR professionals and the media are constantly running against the clock, so everything should have always been done… like, yesterday. But in order to appease both parties there has to be a middle ground.
Based on experience, the subject line might be all the writers ever read. If you fail to catch their attention or you scare them away with some awful lead in (i.e. THIRD ATTEMPT: …), you might have lost them forever. It’s got to look appealing and effortlessly roll off the tongue. Like a Tweet, you have to learn to say what you need to say in a compelling way with limited words/characters. Some want it creative and some just want you to get to the point already, so knowing your audience and catering to their interests is a top priority in this case.
PR pros that are best at what they do respect their industry and those who work in it. While there is always the pressure from clients to get the job done and get it done quickly, handling every media opportunity with respect will go a long way. Building relationships with writers isn’t always easy, but you live and learn and eventually it comes naturally. Communicate with them like they are humans, because they are. Avoid emails written like advertisements or robotic messages. Put in a little personality – did a “Have a good weekend!” ever hurt anyone?! Send a thank you when you’ve worked with someone on a piece. They’ll appreciate knowing there is a person behind the pitch.
What some might forget – even the most experienced PR pros – is common sense. You might be thinking, well, duh! But it’s more common to forget common sense. It’s easy to get caught up in a press list and just start sending. But cross referencing is the best thing you can do when reaching out to media contacts. Did they write this already? Will it appeal to them based on their most recent work? Is the angle I’m using fitting for this outlet? Every writer is different. Every outlet is different. So pay attention and research.
So, what’s the best way to go about your daily PR research? Stay connected. Social networks have done wonders for PR and the media as a whole. It might require a little more time and effort managing all the various channels in which you can find news, writers, ideas and more, but it’s worth it. Consume the news. Love the news. Why? Because without it, would PR even exist?
This certainly isn’t all we need to know about approaching our peers in the media world, but it’s a start. If you genuinely believe in your story, writers might feel that spark, too. And let’s be honest, nobody wants to crash and burn.