A core component of any communications program is media relations. Earned media placements, not to be confused with paid media placements or advertisements, are an important piece of any PR campaign to build brand awareness and reach specific audiences. Some journalists will receive literally hundreds of pitch emails and phone calls every day, so it’s important to keep your pitch concise and direct.
When working with the media, it is important to think carefully about who to contact and how to craft a pitch so it stands out. If you send a journalist pitches irrelevant to their coverage area, your emails could be ignored — or worse, blocked — moving forward.
Here are some tips for effectively contacting the media:
- Do Your Research. Go online and find the top 20 reporters that have written about your industry and/or your competitors. Your media list doesn’t have to be large, but it does have to be targeted and very well researched.
- Find a unique angle. Make sure that your pitch is newsworthy and that your company or client has a clear point-of-view. Is there a specific topic that has yet to be covered in the industry? Is there a controversy in the market that, as a thought leader, your spokesperson can comment on? Differentiate yourself in the field in a positive way. Ideally, you want a reporter to come back to you proactively for thoughtful comments in the future.
- Email First. Carefully craft an email that is concise and states up front what your request is and why you are contacting this particular reporter. What do you have to offer this reporter that will help them? Are you suggesting a phone interview and sending background information? Always make sure that your company or client’s company is hyperlinked in the email, and make the subject line short and specific about the nature of the email. If you would like to share the full press release along with your email, always paste the content into your email rather than using an attachment. Attachments can cause your email to wind up in a spam filter and can hinder the speed at which your email is delivered.
- Follow up with a phone call. This is a necessary step. Wait a couple of days after you sent your initial email and then try to reach the reporter live on the phone. Often, a reporter will completely miss your email or delete it without reading it. Avoid making calls first thing Monday morning or at the end of the business day. Immediately get to the point after you get a journalist live on the phone. Also, don’t start with “did you get my email?” Remember, reporters get hundreds. Instead, tell them you’re following up and give them a one-sentence summary and be prepared to re-send the email once you’ve secured interest.
- Be Genuine. Before you contact a reporter, ask yourself what your goal is, and if it makes sense to reach out to this person. Do you have something of value to offer this reporter? Many times you will only have one shot to make a good impression on a reporter.
A large part of a public relations campaign is spent on media relations. At the end of the day, you want your company or your client to be seen as a thought leader in the industry, with the ultimate goal to develop relationships with reporters so that your company or client becomes a trusted story source.