A few weeks ago as the new year approached, I took a stroll down Fresh Ideas memory lane by re-reading some old posts. As I did so, I ran across one I penned back in February of 2010, titled The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same.
Word geek sidebar: Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, a French journalist, and novelist in the 1800’s, is credited with the epigram “the more things change, the more they stay the same,” (technically, “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” translated to “the more it changes, the more it’s the same thing”).
Once again, I was struck that not much has changed in the realm of media relations. Sure, delivery methods have evolved with technology but really not much else. As a matter of fact, it seems to be the opposite is occurring—we’re going back to the basics.
It used to be that blasting out a bland press release to a ginormous number of media outlets was the thing to do — not because it was a good tactic, but simply because technology made it easy. We got lazy — and so did reporters. It became not uncommon for a newspaper to publish the release verbatim, passing it off as a story. So you got the “hit,” you scored eyeballs, people saw it. That means your media relations campaign was successful, right? Um, no, not necessarily—not if those eyeballs weren’t the right ones.
Let’s say your client is opening a new pub and grill catering to the young professional crowd. Are you going to target the AARP magazine? Okay, so that was a bit extreme, let’s try another example. Your local veterans organization wants to notify residents of a memorial for a soldier killed in action, so a release is blasted out to every media outlet and community groups in the area—but no one really looked at the list. If they had, someone would have noticed the Westboro church bulletin was on it. Essentially, you’ve just formally invited a hate group—known for protesting such events. Oops.
We’ve come to realize that just because it’s easy to do something doesn’t mean that’s the way it should be done. We are taking a step back—back to the basics. It’s okay to use the tools available to you (media directory database) but that’s the starting point.
- Do your research. Know who you’re pitching to. It’s easier now than ever to quickly look up a journalist’s (or blogger’s) body of work to confirm what they write about.
- Customize your pitches. Whether you use mail merge or truly customize each pitch email, there’s no excuse for “Dear Reporter” and other generic communiques.
- Think broadly. Link your pitches to greater trends, offer up newsworthy angles, tie your pitches into the media agenda, and be sure to seek great visuals. Media professionals are very receptive to thorough on-target pitches.
As this diagram shows, the realistic PR sweet spot tends to be with communications that are more personalized (though not necessarily individually-tailored), and sent to a select few, not just one person, and not massive email list.