August 12th marked one year since I began my journey at Stanton Communications, a recent college graduate with little experience in public relations. In the year since, I’ve learned more than I could have imagined. The journey ahead, however, is still long, and I have plenty more to experience. For now, here are the four essential things I’ve learned in my first year as a communicator.
The Value of a Robust Media List
Earning positive media outreach for your clients starts by creating an effective media list. This spreadsheet or database includes up-to-date information for reporters, editors and other media contacts, such as their email address, phone number, outlet and the topics they cover.
A useful tip in building a custom media list is to break it down by coverage area and specific pitch. I’ve found this to be helpful when I was contacting reporters covering the 2020 election. This extra research for a targeted media list made sure I was connecting with the right journalists instead of pitching those who don’t cover politics.
Reporters can change beats or publications, so regularly updating your media list is just as important as creating one. Doing so will save you valuable pitching time when you’re up against a deadline. PR tools like Critical Mention are useful for finding journalist contact information, but a simple Twitter or quick Google search also works.
The Art of Pitching
Several of our blog posts have covered the importance of a captivating media pitch, including our most recent feature, Declare Independence From These 4 Bad PR Practices. This explained several ways to avoid boring pitches like tailoring relevant story ideas to specific reporters.
I’ve also found success in grabbing a reporter’s attention with an eye-catching subject line. This increases the likelihood that they’ll open my e-mail and read my pitch. Perhaps you’re pitching an expert on workplace management to a reporter who recently covered a company’s extended remote work policy. A catchy subject line that grabs their attention, and shows you’ve done your homework, could be “Your WFH story. More on how to beat the winter blues?”
Almost as important as your initial pitch is the art of the follow-up. A reporter’s inbox is constantly filled with dozens or hundreds of daily pitches. They may have missed your initial email, so following up acts as a reminder to read your story idea. Including new information about the story’s relevance can help further the conversation instead of coming off as a pest.
Developing Client Partnerships
Clients are at the core of our work. We support their communication efforts to enhance their business goals and company strategies. Knowing your client behaviors and preferred style of communication can enhance your daily interactions.
It is important to remember that not all clients are the same. Some may be more laid back and casual and others more formal and professional. Some clients may prefer virtual check-ins, phone calls or e-mail updates. Learning these different preferred communications styles will go a long way in building a healthy agency-client relationship.
Write, Write, Write
Written communication is also an essential tool for effective public relations. Whether it’s creating pitches, press releases, bylines, op-eds, crisis communications plans, or other forms of messaging, we are constantly writing. Sharpening these skills is critical in ensuring top quality content for both your company and your clients.
There are numerous online writing courses that can help improve your pitching, grammar, and press release drafting. No matter if you’re in your first year, like me, or have 10 years of experience under your belt, there are always ways to improve.
The Work Continues
After one year working in public relations, I have learned the essential principles and key aspects of a PR firm and how we add value to our client’s communications goals. I’m excited to continue this journey and celebrate more yearly anniversaries with Stanton Communications.