With the emergence of cell phones and email over the last two decades, public relations professionals have been forced to change their pitching tactics to keep up with the evolving times. Now, as cell phones are becoming more like handheld computers and social media has taken over the breaking news market, we are having to take another look at our current pitching tactics.
I recently attended a PRSA National Capitol Chapter event in D.C. about Media Relations in the Age of the Mobile Device, where four reporters from top national organizations shared these pitching tips.
- Treat others the way that you want to be treated.
This one hasn’t changed over the years, but is important to remember. If you are open and honest in your communication with reporters, they are likely to be open and realistic with you. Do a little bit of research on the reporters — what have they covered lately? Why are they likely to cover to your story? Has anyone else covered your story? What new angle do you have for them?
- Email, email, email.
Phones are old school and while reporters get hundreds of emails a day, they would rather get one more from you than a phone call. The only exception to this rule is reporters that you have a good relationship with. If you have worked with them before, feel free to call.
- Subject lines are EVERYTHING.
Some reporters at the event admitted that if the subject line doesn’t grab their attention, they probably won’t even open the email. The subject line is your first chance to impress the reporter, so make sure you have something newsworthy and catchy to share. Remember: You need to stand out in a sea of emails.
- Keep it short and simple.
Keep your pitch short and simple. Get to the point in the first paragraph (and don’t make the email longer than two!). Why is your story important? What is new about what you are sharing? Bullet lists are great to show what you have to offer. If you have visual opportunities for what you are pitching, share those too. It may entice the reporter a little bit more.
- Connect and step out of the way.
As PR professionals, we often are tasked with making the initial connection between our client spokespeople and the media. However, once the reporter has shown interest in the story and you have set up a time for them to talk with your client, step out of the way. At that point, reporters like to deal directly with the expert and no longer want to go through the PR pro. They also don’t want you to follow-up post interview. If the client said that you would send additional materials, no problem, but don’t just follow-up to see how it went; ask your client.
At the end of the day, relationships are key in media relations. Something else important that we learned, was that reporters don’t only blacklist people; they have a tendency to blacklist entire companies if they don’t feel that they were treated well by an individual within the company. So when you reach out to place your next story, know the reporter that you are pitching, be open and honest about what you can offer them, follow through on those promises, and then step out of the way.