Media Relations 101

What do reporters and editors really want from publicists? What is the best way to pitch a story to them? And, importantly, how do you avoid annoying them?

Pitching With A Purpose
Journalists attest that pitches with a twist got their attention. They look for quirky and fresh story angles on holidays, seasonal trends, and news. For example, don’t pitch golf gifts for Father’s Day. They especially wanted great story ideas during the slow news months of July and August.

The Fundamentals of Media Relations
Hoping to build a relationship with a journalist? Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the name and beat of the individual reporters, the panelists suggested being friendly and reliable, and seeking out ways you can make their jobs easier—such as providing photographs, research statistics, and product samples. Checking in once a month or so to see if there are any stories you can help with is acceptable; e-mailing them once a week is not.  Some journalists say they receive from forty to two hundred e-mailed pitches daily.

Media Relations “Do’s” and “Don’ts”
• DO demonstrate that you are familiar with the style and format of the media you’re targeting, and tailor your pitches and releases to that publication or broadcast.
• DO e-mail concise press releases, with important information about the topic and date in the subject line. Write press releases with the Blackberry in mind—if you can’t convey your communication in two clicks, you’ve lost the reporter’s interest.
• DO e-mail relevant and timely updates, when appropriate.  Don’t discount the importance of the one-line, e-mailed tidbit of information; a reporter can sometimes build a story around it.
• DO orchestrate your media events for success. Generally, the journalists are not enthused about attending press conferences.  They are more likely to attend a media event that was held in a convenient location, after business hours, with refreshments—but then only if it appeared to be fun or interesting.
• DO return calls promptly. The most annoying pet peeve cited by journalists was publicists who did not return their calls for two days or more.
• DON’T send attachments or high resolution images with your e-mailed press releases and updates, but DO let journalists know that high resolution images are available for the asking.  Great photographs are always appreciated.  Consider creating a web site with high resolution images—even stock photography—that could be accessed by journalists, as needed.
• DON’T make multiple follow-up phone calls, but DO leave a voice mail message the first time you call, and be patient about the return call.
• DON’T expect journalists to view video news releases or b-roll.  Journalists just don’t have the time.
• DON’T fax press releases to an anonymous “Editor.” Any fax without a properly spelled contact name goes right in the circular file.

Please feel free to post your tips on effective media relations!

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About Mary Fletcher Jones

Mary Fletcher Jones is a public relations and marketing consultant, and owns Fletcher Prince (www.FletcherPrince.com). Follow Mary on Twitter @FletcherPrince.

Posted on April 27, 2009, in Public Relations Tips. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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