Posts Tagged ‘media pitching’

Pitching the Media – The 2014 Edition

Thursday, October 16th, 2014
Pitching the Media BurrellesLuce Public Relations PR Software Media Monitoring news clipping

L to R: Hammerand, Drew, Putz, Lebens. Schwartz, Ojeda-Zapata and moderator Rachanda Hall. Photo by Debbie Friez

by Debbie Friez*

Your pitch needs to be a great relevant headline in the subject of your email. (“Yes, I know,” I think as I listen to yet another media panel. But, do I always follow this advice?) So, I continue to listen to the panel of six journalists for this combined Minnesota PRSA, NIRI Twin Cities and Business Wire event. The 2014 edition of this annual event turned out to be one of the best media panels I’ve attended.

Let’s get it out there. Do I call, email, tweet, Facebook, Google Plus message or text a journalist? They all agreed, email is the best option. Duchesne Drew, managing editor for operations, Star Tribune, reminded the audience you can usually find reporter’s emails on the publication’s website, and getting to the right reporter will make all the difference.

The follow-up call to see if they received the press release, on the other hand, is usually annoying. (And all PR folks hate that call!) But, several panelists agreed, they are extremely busy with very full email boxes, so reaching out via different means (even a phone call) is not a bad idea if you don’t get a response in a few days. Andy Putz, executive editor at MinnPost, says you can call him, but avoid calling him in the morning. Julio Ojeda-Zapata, a technology writer for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, is actually quite active on Google Plus, and, if you follow him on Twitter, he’ll follow you back, so you can direct message, if needed. Other panelists said it is OK to find them on social media and text (yes, text!) them if you have a relationship and their cell phone number.

As young PR novices, we learned we should take reporters out for an informational coffee to develop a relationship for future stories. It seems the practice is still worthwhile for most reporters working a beat. Jim Hammerand, digital editor at the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, says his day is very busy, so he finds breakfasts or happy hours work better for him.

Embargoed releases are fine, if the reporter has agreed to it ahead of time. (Wow! I’m thinking about all the times I’ve seen these go out blindly!) But Ojeda-Zapata says he doesn’t have a problem with embargoes.

The sportscaster of the group, Dave Scwartz, KARE-TV, doesn’t usually use bloggers for sources. In the sports world, he finds most are just big fans. He also assured us that sports guys do wear pants. (I’m not sure we found that information relevant?)

The actual hard deadline is less relevant in the 24/7 newsroom, although some still exist. Hammerand commented on the need to fill the Business Journal’s 3 p.m. daily email and the paper edition needs information one to one-and-a-half weeks in advance. Nancy Lebens, editor for Minnesota Public Radio News, has about 30 newscasts to fill, so she is always looking for stories at all times of the day.

Reminders from the panel for your own organization’s website media room:

  • Include complete contact information (not the generic on their organization’s website.
  • If you don’t want your mobile number on your website, be sure to have it in your voice-mail.
  • Remember to post press releases as you send them out, so they can confirm information.
  • If your company has a product, post easy-to-find and downloadable images and background information.
  • Don’t make your media room password protected, where the reporter is required to sign-in. They may not do it.

Even in this digital age, reporters and PR folks still need each other, and we can continue to learn from each other. Happy pitching!


Debbie Friez serves as tech editor for the Capitol Communicator and is also a consultant. Previously, she worked as Vice President, Major Accounts for BurrellesLuce. She originally joined BurrellesLuce at their Minnesota Clipping Service affiliate.

Friez was a senior account director for West Glen Communications, a broadcast PR services company. While at West Glen Communications, she was a frequent contributor to the DC Communicator newsletter.

She has a broad understanding of the technologies that are transforming the marketing and communications profession. She serves on the advisory board for the Capitol Communicator, the membership committee for the Minnesota chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, the national marketing committee for the Association of Women in Communications, and is a member and past president of Washington Women in Public Relations (WWPR).



Five PR Takeaways From Groundhog Day

Friday, January 31st, 2014

Five PR Takeaways from Groundhog Day Ellis Friedman BurrellesLuceGroundhog Day, the Howard Ramis film starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell, long ago achieved cult status. If you haven’t seen it, it’s about Phil Connors, a self-involved weatherman who goes to Punxsutawney to cover the Groundhog Day ceremony and finds himself reliving Groundhog Day over and over again.

That’s right woodchuck-chuckers, this Sunday, February 2, is the real Groundhog Day, and in honor of its approach (and hopefully the imminent arrival of spring), we examine five PR lessons from the 1993 film.

Recognize your shadow

At its core, the film is about a man who sees his own shadow and realizes how his actions impact other people. Just like Phil finally learns that love, kindness, and being a better person overall are what’s important (and ultimately broke his cycle of eternal February 2nds), PR pros – and people in every field, for that matter – can benefit from stepping back, reassessing, and figuring out what’s really important.

Do number of tweets a day matter, or whether or not you are engaging with your communities? Is it important to churn a white paper every month, or to create four quality white papers in the year? It comes back around to getting rid of GIGOGarbage In, Garbage Out. Focus your energy on what’s important, and you’ll come out with a better result.

Engage on a deeper level

In the middle of all his Groundhog Days, Phil stops being cynical in his broadcasts and instead speaks poetically, and ends up drawing a considerable audience. He also engages more deeply with Rita to ultimately win her over, and gets to know almost everyone in the town. You probably don’t have eternity on your hands, but you can make the effort to interact with people and their digital presences more genuinely.

Ask and answer questions, got beyond what’s required for clients or consumers, and really listen to and notice what’s going on around you. Don’t forget to connect with yourself, too, because engagement isn’t about answering questions, it’s about being a connected part of a community, and you can’t engage if you aren’t taking care of yourself.

There will be a tomorrow – use it

Phil asks a phone operator, “What if there is no tomorrow? There wasn’t one today.” In the real world, there’s always a tomorrow, and unlike Phil, you can’t act like there won’t be.

Our actions now impact what happens in the future. What’s great is that in knowing that there’s a tomorrow, you can make plans, so don’t skimp on the metrics. Analyze your situation, measure the progress and efficacy of your PR campaigns, and examine recent patterns and trends to accordingly reorient your direction.

Turn negatives into opportunities

When Phil realizes he’s living the same day over and over, he turns to suicide and crime. But he makes a real turning point once he realizes that he has the opportunity to do things he’d never done before: ice sculpt, play the piano, learn a foreign language, get to know everyone. Phil turned a negative – eternity – into an opportunity to improve himself.

We all know the adage about learning from your mistakes, but it’s true. However the only way to learn from said mistakes is to acknowledge them in the first place. It can be embarrassing or disappointing to stare your imperfection in the face, but coming to terms with past errors can make you more effective at what you do.

Don’t keep doing things that don’t work

Phil may have turned to crime and suicide, but he stopped once he realized it wasn’t working – he didn’t stay dead, and it seems the allure of crime wore off. Neither should PR pros continue doing things that don’t work. Not getting enough bites from media pitches? Change your pitching style, who you’re pitching to, and the content you’re pitching. Not getting enough shares from online content? Change your content and the way you share it.

Change seems hard, and it is, but shaking up your game – and measuring your progress – is the only way to break bad habits and see real results.

The overall takeaways? Use your setbacks and failures as opportunities to learn. Didn’t get as much media coverage as you’d hoped? Examine what happened and use that experience to pivot into more coverage next year. Stalled on a project? Use that lag to determine what went wrong and how it can be fixed, and you’ll avoid that problem again, making tomorrow’s projects even better.

And oh yeah, don’t drive on the railroad tracks.

Media Relations: Back to the Basics

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

Media Relations Back to Basics Tressa Robbins BurrellesLuce Fresh IdeasA 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.

Put in the time and focus necessary to make your pitches relevant, timely and of good quality. Or, as Johna Burke would say: “Say ‘No’ to GIGOGarbage In, Garbage Out.”

How to Engage Journalists and Influencers on Social Media

Friday, December 13th, 2013

flickr user Rosaura Ochoa

flickr user Rosaura Ochoa

by Alfred Cox*

Yesterday I attended the PRNews Media Relations Next Practices Conference in Washington, D.C., at which BurrellesLuce was also a sponsor. Some of the most persistent questions in media relations center on reaching out to journalists in the most efficient and effective manner.  I attended the session “Find and Engage With the Right Journalists and Influencers on Social Media,” which addressed these issues and more.

The sessions guest speakers were Kathy Grannis, senior director of media relations at National Retail Federation; David Ringer, director of media relations at National Audubon Society; and David Wescott, director of digital strategy at APCO Worldwide.

Grannis started out with her suggestions, and emphasized the importance of building relationships with journalists and influencers; she recommended keeping in touch through Twitter, to reach out and congratulate a journalist when they move organizations and positions. Such communication not only sustains a relationship but helps you stay on top-of-mind. Of course, communicating is key, but Grannis stressed that learning how to communicate correctly requires full-time dedication.

When it comes to relevant conversations on social platforms, Grannis recommends contributing transparently, positioning your brand as an expert on the subject matter. But Twitter is also about more than your message; Grannis point out you should be using Twitter to keep up with your competitors and what they’re tweeting, as well as what they’re publishing on other social media sites.

Finally, she advocated blogging. Content marketing has become integral to marketing, PR, and media relations strategies, but Grannis also pointed out that blogs are a tremendous source for getting your statement out there, and even stated getting your message out in your blog is just as important as getting your statement in The New York Times.

Ringer offered his insights next, and pointed out that too much email is boring. He said that Twitter is the best tool to interact with journalists, and that it’s important to find and engage with the right journalists and influencers on social media platforms. He strongly suggested following new journalists right away, and thinking of Twitter not as your personal account, but as your new Rolodex. The list-making function is a great organizational tool to make that happen.

Ringer suggested that once you’ve selected those key journalists and influencers, you should care about what they care about, even their more personal tweets, and interacting with those more personal tweets, and retweeting their tweets, helps build a relationship. But he also pointed out that everyone likes a name check on Twitter, so be sure to credit people for their work by @ing them.  And don’t limit yourself to interacting with well-known, established media figures; befriend those bright new media stars, too.

Wescott followed with his observations, saying that Twitter is the best tool for PR people, and that they must have a presence. Something else that enhances your presence is having Twitter public conversations as well as private conversations, which also helps build relationships that will get new business.

Wescott advised that Twitter and blogging are excellent tools for presenting yourself as a thought leader and a bridge builder between PR pros. He also advocated for citing sources with @s, as well as using hashtags for context and engagement. Wescott recommended finding journalists not just on Twitter, but also on sites like LinkedIn and Muck Rack.

What other social media strategies do you have for engaging journalists and influencers?


Bio: Alfred Cox is a rare commodity of a performer who combines a relentless drive to succeed with the ability to provide “first-person” touch to his clients, creating loyalty and repeat business. He has a hard-nosed work ethic in a results- driven environment and he is often called the “Network King.” Alfred has been in the PR industry for the past 18+ years and joined the BurrellesLuce team in 2011. Connect with him on Twitter: @shantikcox Facebook: BurrellesLuce LinkedIn: Alfred Cox

Old Truths and New Ideas for Pitching the Media

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Old Truths and New Ideas for Pitching the Media BurrellesLuce Fresh IdeasThe opportunity to meet a reporter or blogger you need to pitch and interacting personally is hard to pass up. For this reason, media panels draw PR folks like flies to honey. I attended two such panels this past month. One was hosted by Business Wire and the National Investor Relations Institute (NIRI) Twin Cities Chapter, and the other by Minnesota chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (MNPRSA). The NIRI panel focused on business media editors and engaging them in a digital and social world. The MNPRSA focused on blurred media lines and included a non-traditional media panel. Here are some of the key points from each of the panels.

The truths in pitching

  • Use email as your first resource and keep the subject short and to the point.
  • Yes, journalists are all on social media, but it is probably not the best place to pitch them. They are using social media to find story ideas and share their work.
  • Be professional.
  • Don’t send automated emails with “Dear (wrong name or no name).” It’s obvious it’s not a personal email.
  • Find a way to tell them what is different. Give them the story behind the story.
  • Photos can differentiate your pitch, but don’t make them look like an ad.
  • Bullets and lists in your email pitch make it easy to digest.
  • Follow-up calls are annoying, but they often work.

The new and interesting

  • Consider differentiating your pitch to a web publication with a professional video that is not sales oriented.
  • Social media buzz around an ad can lead to media coverage.
  • Missy Berggren, Marketing Mama, says a Tweet to follow-up with her on a pitch is OK with her.
  • Reporters often go around the PR person and use social media to confirm stories. Dirk DeYoung, editor at the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, used LinkedIn to confirm layoffs at Target.
  • Most of the bloggers are more open to having you reach out to the editor and various contributors than traditional outlets, because there are fewer full-time staff at the blogs.

David Fondler, business news editor at St. Paul Pioneer Press, reminds folks to own their negative stories, because any employee can confirm it to an editor on Twitter at any time.

Creating good quality content on your corporate or personal blog is a great way to get your message to consumers. Smaller specialty blog posts can lead to attention by larger blogs or mainstream media. MinnPost has the Minnesota Blog Cabin, where they highlight one Minnesota blog with good writing each day.

Need More?

I created a Storify of the NIRI event. Missy Berggen wrote a great post with tips for working with bloggers on her blog.  Plus, check out tips for pitching broadcast media and smart tips for media pitching success.

Debbie Friez BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas Blog Debbie Friez serves as tech editor for the Capitol Communicator and is also a consultant. Previously, she worked as Vice President, Major Accounts for BurrellesLuce. She originally joined BurrellesLuce at their Minnesota Clipping Service affiliate.

Friez was a senior account director for West Glen Communications, a broadcast PR services company. While at West Glen Communications, she was a frequent contributor to the DC Communicator newsletter.

She has a broad understanding of the technologies that are transforming the marketing and communications profession. She serves on the advisory board for the Capitol Communicator, the membership committee for the Minnesota chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, the national marketing committee for the Association of Women in Communications, and is a member and past president of Washington Women in Public Relations (WWPR).

Friez is a graduate of the University of North Dakota. She lives in Minneapolis, MN with her husband Paul Croteau, their two cats, Smokey and the Bandit, and Gus, the dog.

LinkedIn: dfriez Twitter: @dfriez