Social Media Week DC Report: Media Relations Tips from Synaptic Digital

Laura Pair, VP, Media Relations, Synaptic Digital

Laura Pair, VP, Media Relations, Synaptic Digital

I attended my first Social Media Week DC event this morning and it was very well done.  Synaptic Digital presented a panel of four experts at the National Press Club who spoke on various aspects of media relations, one of whom was their engaging Media Relations VP, Laura Pair.

With ten years of media relations experience (in addition to other career experience), Laura shared ten lessons learned about media relations.

Her first point was that media relations professionals serve as a bridge connecting the needs of two “masters:” their clients and journalists.  “We need to help [clients] craft their message and we need to craft the message to suit the media,” Laura stated.

In her second point, she mentioned that it was the media relations professional’s job to help the client define their goals:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • What is the crux of your messsage?
  • What do you want people to do?

The third lesson she cited was the importance of consuming the media you are pitching. With online access these days, there is no excuse, says Laura, to not thoroughly examine tv and radio broadcasts, and newspapers before you pitch them, where ever they may be located.  “You can go online and watch the clips from a station in Alabama.”  There are several good media relations reasons for this approach

  • Helps you think like the journalist
  • Lets you see how much time was devoted to the topic in the broadcasts
  • Understand the weight given to the topic by the journalist
  • Observe how the stories about that topic are handled and “teased.”

“What’s the headline and the subheads?” said Laura. “Once you know how they are teasing the audience, you know how to pitch them; you can mimic it.”

“Less is more” was the pithy lesson #4.  A good media pitch should be no more than two-three sentences long.  Craft the email subject line like an attention-grabbing headline.

When pitching on the phone, keep the voice mail message very short. “If they are interested, they’ll contact you for more.”

It’s important to learn everything you can online before you pitch — the lesson #5.  “Look up everything for the topic you are pitching, especially if you are a freelancer,” said Laura, as freelancers may  not be as knowledgeable about the topic as agency staff or corporate communications departments.

Also, research the journalist online before you pitch him or her.  Look at previously written articles and Twitter profiles.  You will be able to learn how they approach certain stories and how they have covered angles in the past.

Lessson #6 was about making full use of multimedia.   TV media needs video, radio needs audio, and print media needs images.  Really, all media need video, even if they do not incorporate it in their stories.  Laura urged the audience to ask their clients for all the multimedia assets they can find before pitching the media.

One idea is to have the client produce a 1-2 minute video — not b-roll — that promotes the idea of the story to be told.  Laura said this was an especially good asset to provide to bloggers but that all journalists would find it useful as background information.  She also mentioned that b-roll was a good asset to provide to TV stations, as well.

Appropriately, lesson #7 was about social media.  Make sure everything you distribute (e.g., news releases, websites, online news rooms) can be shared socially, through hyperlinks, shareable multimedia assets, and share buttons.

Journalists are not the only conduit for your pitch and lesson #8 was about taking your client’s story directly to the audience.  For example, said Laura, if you are doing a broadcast interview, it shouldn’t be too hard to convince your spokesperson to also do a Facebook chat, Google + Hangout, or Twitter chat. “Don’t just do one-off  interviews; put your spokesperson on social media.”

Not all stories will be picked up by the national media, but local placements can make a big impact, too.  Lesson #9 was about remembering to find the local angles of your story.  “Journalists in local markets have an obligation to provide information about their community,” said Laura.

One tactic is to obtain local data (e.g., from a government source) and provide that to a reporter, such as “how many people are unemployed in Cleveland.”  Laura emphasized how journalists rely on media relations professionals to provide this type of useful information.

In her final  point, for lesson #10, Laura said that remember you are pitching to a human being.  Above all, be nice!  Respect the reporter’s time and keep your pitches short and to the point.  Learn their deadlines and get to know them. Always keep in mind that the media is your “other client.”

Laura’s presentation was very useful to me and the audience was clearly appreciative of her tips and anecdotes.  Watching the presentation was a great way to start Social Media Week DC.




About Mary Fletcher Jones

Mary Fletcher Jones is a mom, teacher, and blogger. Her blogs include Autumn in Virginia, Cool Yule Blog and You Can't Make This Stuff Up, among others. She is also the creator of "Living Well With Autism," an online resource for caregivers of children, teens, and adults with autism and related special needs.

Posted on February 20, 2013, in Public Relations Tips, Social Media Tips and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.


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