Posts Tagged ‘Media Contacts’

Media Pitching: How to Get Past the Clutter

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

This article first appeared on The Agency Post 6.19.12 and is cross-posted with permission.

You’re probably thinking, “Of course I know how to pitch the media.” But do you really? The days of simply pulling a media list from a media directory service and blasting out a press release to hundreds (or thousands) of media contacts are over.

Of course, some of the basics haven’t changed:

1. Stay on top of breaking news. Know where your client may fit in, so you aren’t pitching at an inappropriate time.

2. Put yourself in the reporter’s shoes — understand, appreciate, anticipate.

3. Act with integrity and respect — never lie.

4. Be accessible and straightforward — deliver well thought-out responses and never “ad lib.”

Like other professions, journalists are now doing more with less. They’re covering more beats/subjects, writing more stories (and in many cases also writing blog posts), and doing so with shorter deadlines.

You’ve no doubt heard the adage, “If you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem.” This really applies here! We must be diligent in digging deeper — looking at past stories, reading the journalist’s or outlet’s blog, virtually getting to know the person so we’re confident our news is a good fit.

Marketing thought leader Seth Godin hit the nail on the head when he said, “Once you overload the user, you train them not to pay attention. More clutter isn’t free. In fact, more clutter is a permanent shift, a desensitization to all the information, not just the last bit.” He was talking about digital media marketing, but it applies in modern media relations as well.

Here are five questions you can ask yourself before pitching a story:

  • Is the content pertinent and fresh (aka newsworthy) — not too far past, but not too far in the future?
  • Have you stated actual facts in your news release — products, services, events, people, projects, while avoiding jargon or specialized technical terms?
  • Do you have facts, statistics, photos, quotes, backup stories, video or audio, and experts available where you need them?
  • Have you tailored the pitch to the specific interests of the targeted journalist/ blogger?
  • Are you capable of presenting your pitch — complete with the significance of the story, the unique angle, the connection to their readers, and its relevance — in 30 to 60 seconds? (Note: It’s not a bad idea to practice your pitch with colleagues or friends.)

This isn’t intended to be an all-inclusive checklist, but if you answered “yes” to all five it certainly stacks the odds in your favor.

Storytelling for the Digital Age: 2011 PRSA International Conference

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

This post first appeared on PRSA ComPRehension 10.27.11 and is reposted with permission.

Even though the PRSA International Conference was my 12th in the past 13 years, I was excited about this year’s theme of Envisioning the Future of Public Relations. As I’m a PRSSA mentor and adviser, and vice president of BurrellesLuce Media Contacts, the future of the profession is close to my heart.

One of the sessions I attended was led by my colleague Johna Burke, on the topic of storytelling and its importance in this digital age. I came away with two pages of typewritten notes, but here are what I believe to be the key takeaways.

Burke began by stressing that storytelling is the core competency in the public relations profession, next to great writing. She talked about this being the “Web 2.0” of storytelling. No more is it just local library readings, storytelling festivals and other analog channels. We now have multimedia, hypertext, social media, user-generated broadcast, etc. Public relations professionals must leverage the art form — make your story compelling, make it stand out.

Blasting your message out to the masses is not the way to reach everyone. The most important considerations:

  • Where is your audience? Target your story through the proper channels.
  • What matters? Understand who your community is and what they want. 
  • What is sustainable? Understand how your organization makes and spends money. Channel your resources in the proper way so that you aren’t wasting time and money talking where no one is listening.

In the spirit of being in Orlando, Burke referenced Walt Disney as one of the best storytellers of all time; he knew who his audience was. He knew that kids were his primary market, yet he recognized his secondary market was the parents (using allusions above the kids’ heads to amuse the adults). He also didn’t forget there’s always a tertiary market — audiences we may not have originally anticipated but who still matter and who take an interest in our stories. These audiences should be identified as they emerge. 

The key is to understand what your brand means. Being generic dilutes the message.

Public relations professionals must empower their audience by digging deeper, driving the story. She warns to beware of the desire to be the newest, coolest — using the “all sizzle, no steak” analogy. People see through this, and will not support long-time relationships, which is what you need. You do want to be relevant — visuals, videos, info-graphics are powerful, but don’t miss the opportunity to tell your story.

Tressa Robbins is vice president of Media Contacts for BurrellesLuce. Tressa is a regular contributor to BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas blog, a member of the St. Louis PRSA chapter, Champions for PRSSA section member, PRSSA mentor and Professional Adviser. She recently served as a panelist for the PRSSA National Conference and speaks at the local and regional level. Connect with Tressa on LinkedIn and follow Tressa on Twitter @tressalynne.

The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same

Monday, February 8th, 2010
Flickr Image: David Reece

Flickr Image: David Reece

Now that 2010 is well underway, I thought it would be interesting to go back and read some articles and posts from the past couple years to decipher what’s changed in the realm of media relations. 

I was a little surprised to find that not much has really changed!  (Not entirely surprised as this was what I suspected.)

Your target media now may not be just traditional media but also bloggers, ezine/webzine editors, streaming webcast producers, and freelance writers. However, the qualities or traits that define good media relations have remained essentially the same: Before preparing your press release, do your homework and familiarize yourself with the chosen topics as well as recent writings of your target journalists and bloggers. Then do some additional checking to ensure that your intended audience is also the audience for the media you’re about to pitch. (BurrellesLuce 2009 whitepaper “New Rules for Media Relations”)

In early 2009, Jeremy Porter conducted interviews with PR professionals in an effort to gauge what the biggest challenges were in dealing with the media. The results shared on his Journalistics blog could have been written today!  Some of the challenges included were:

  • Having accurate media contact information – keeping up with ongoing changes
  • Breaking through filters to reach the right contact, at the right time, with just the right information
  • Leveraging new media like Twitter in appropriate ways
  • Having better access to what journalists are writing about and what information they value most
  • Measuring the value of media outreach and placement – beyond impressions, release pickup and ad value
  • Developing more effective processes for media relations – moving away from one-size-fits-all pitching

With the exception of Twitter, this sounds like the same challenges we had 15 years ago when I was working at a St. Louis PR agency.

I’m not oblivious to the fact that public relations and the media are changing in some ways (that may be the topic for a future post), but in many ways it seems that the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Am I wrong? What similarities or changes have you seen occurring in the world of public relations and media these past few years?

Should You Send a Release?

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009
Flickr Image: josh.liba

Flickr Image: josh.liba

Contrary to some, the press release is far from dead and continues to be a useful tool for public relations practitioners.  In fact, a recent poll conducted by Ragan Communications and PollStream found nearly 50 percent of corporate communicators believe press releases are “as useful as ever.”  

By definition, a press release (aka news release) is an announcement sent to (targeted) news media for the purpose of letting the public know of company developments, events, or other newsworthy items.

My esteemed Twitter friend, Bill Prickett, APR, recently wrote some benefits of a well-planned, well-placed news release – an inexpensive way to get publicity, which includes:  building your brand/image/reputation/business, providing consumer information/education, lending credibility to your message, and driving traffic.

But the question at-hand is should you send a release?  Years ago, I attended a marketing and sales training workshop where the trainer taught us about the “so what” (or “who cares”) test. The same concept applies when determining whether your release is newsworthy enough to send.  For example, if you say the headline/topic aloud – “XYZ company opens new location,” you should then follow it up by thinking like the reporter or reader, and asking “so what?” or “who cares?”  It might mean that locals won’t have to drive so far or they will have more selection and shorter lines, etc.  In other words, if your release can’t pass the “so what” test and illustrate why the news has value, then don’t send it! 

I’m not saying that a press release is the only or best way to get your news out to the media – and, ultimately, your stakeholders. Journalistics recently reported that he believes blog posts and tweeting may be a better way of sharing news with your stakeholders.  According to MarketingCharts,’s Lindsey Miller noted that corporate communicators are increasingly using social media as a way to get around “canned” information, and to personalize, target, and reach reporters.

Every circumstance is unique and not all situations will warrant release to the media, but the press release is still an integral part of the PR toolkit.  Do you agree?  Why or why not?