When we think about New Year’s resolutions, they often apply to our personal lives – forming new hobbies, learning a language, eating better, exercising more, etc. But in public relations, there are also ways to make a large impact through small changes in our everyday work. Especially when it comes to media relations.
As public relations professionals, some of our most valuable relationships throughout our careers will be those we develop with members of the media. How this type of connection is formed and sustained has shifted over the years. More experienced members in our industry recall the days in which phone calls, faxes and in-person meet-ups were the go-to strategy. While these tactics are still an important component of successful media relations, email has become a primary method for PR people and reporters alike. With its efficiency comes many challenges and many opportunities to be better.
To avoid falling into a response-less void this year, we tapped the wide range of minds on our team to develop some tips for the best 2024 media relations resolution a PR professional can have: making your pitches stand out.
The internet hasn’t just pushed pitching to email, it has also provided a limitless resource for understanding reporters better. Through tools like MuckRack, we have the ability to view a journalist’s media profile: what they write, how they write, and who they write for. These platforms, along with public social media profiles, provide personal interests and preferences. In a nutshell, there is very little reason why, with a little research, your pitch shouldn’t be landing in the right reporter’s inbox and with a hook that will intrigue them.
Be tapped in.
In a digital world, the news is an insurmountable mountain of information and updates. While it can be an incredibly daunting task, having a solid grasp on the status of important stories is a challenge we must accept as PR professionals. One of the most important ways to do this is to maintain a connection between our pitching and the news around us. An impactful, news-based pitch hits a reporter’s inbox at the moment they’re looking for an angle on the topic. In the same line of thought, a good pitcher knows when to hold back from reaching out in light of major news breaks that may impact a reporter’s or publication’s normal coverage.
Be brief and direct.
Most reporters, from small trade publications to national outlets, are flooded with emails from PR contacts every day. To stand out, and as a sign of respect for their time, being brief and direct can go a long way.
A short subject line that gets right to the point is more likely to result in the email being opened. From there, more and more we’re seeing personalized instructions from reporters regarding brevity in the pitch itself. In fact, many want no more than three to six sentences. By following this as closely as possible and incorporating organizational tools such as bullet points, you can get your point across in the least amount of words possible. Additionally, using font elements such as bolding important messages can help attract the eye of a reporter.
For even the most niche reporter, their inbox is still likely full of pitches on dozens of topics. Through your background research, familiarize yourself with the reporter’s coverage and manner of reporting to help guide how you present the information to them. In many cases, to remain understandable, avoid using jargon and be meaningful in the level of technical detail you include in a pitch.
Personalization and good character can help a pitch shine. This goes far beyond just changing the name in the opening address of the email. Whether it’s tying a strong connection between their past coverage and your story or finding a unique way to break the ice (e.g. a similar favorite sports team, book, or interest), incorporating what you have learned about the reporter into the pitch can make all the difference.
Be a resource.
In more cases than not, the reporter has the power in this relationship, as they receive tons of offers for new sources and we’re working to elevate our clients over the competition. Instead of resenting this challenge, embrace your role as a helpful resource. Work hard to establish yourself as their go-to person for the topics your clients or team can offer expertise on. It may only represent a small part of what they work on but make it the easiest part of their day and you will both reap the benefits.
Mistakes happen, but don’t be careless. Small things – a wrong name, a mistaken interest, etc. – can be incredibly off-putting to a reporter and, in the worst case, burn a bridge that could be valuable in the future. Make it a goal to read through a pitch at least twice and get a peer review before it’s sent to a reporter to minimize errors. If mistakes slip through, don’t be afraid to apologize. Again, we’re all human and it’s OK to acknowledge a slip-up, even if it just preserves the connection for a future pitch.
All public relations professionals know the importance of crafting a compelling media pitch. This year, make it your goal to be a better media relations practitioner and watch your pitches stand out.