Pitching The Media, Channel Basics

Posted on April 3, 2014. Filed under: Media Commentary, Public Relations, Public Relations Commentary, Public Relations Pointers, Public relations practices, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Reporters even today, in this most post-modern of post-modern worlds to date, prefer to get their pitches from PR people under cover of email. Or, get this, they’ll even take a story idea by telephone — yes that strange little talking device that pre-dates even the VCR, microwave ovens and the use of the designated hitter in baseball — over getting hit up with an idea by, say, a Tweet.

Not to say that all reporters, news producers and the like eschew the social media avenues for pitch contacts. TV reporters and program producers seem to get an abundance of their story ideas from social media sources, according to the 2014 Vocus State of the Media Report. This makes sense, since television news is particularly keen on reaching out to viewers for news tips and just generally more open to engaging with viewers via social media.

Best Bet – Email!

Email emerges as the favorite medium for story pitching for a number of reasons. One, it’s private. Two, it’s fast and also because people pay more attention to what’s happening in the email streams than they do to what’s being beamed at them on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and the like. Three, it’s easier to keep track of pitches sent via email versus the social media circuits.

Keeping things private, Edward Snowden aside, is pretty much a given when working with the news media. Some news people — outside the aforementioned local TV news realm — are receptive to receiving tips via openly public media such as Twitter. But putting a story idea up on a public Twitter feed also cues competitors in to what a reporter may be doing. It’s no way to pitch an exclusive story, that’s for sure. Most reporters that I know and work with seem to work under the assumption that whatever story they’re doing is their own private business — and they just don’t want other people outside their organization to know what they’re working on until they’re ready to reveal it themselves. This makes email a better choice than a public Tweet, especially if you’re pitching a particular story angle to a particular reporter. Using the private DM channel on Twitter to contact a reporter is a better approach – assuming you have that option – but again, there’s the chance that the reporter isn’t checking the Twitter feedline that often.

By Any Means Possible

A nice option is to use Twitter as a story-pitch alerter – signaling the reporter that you’ve got a newsy idea to discuss, with a note that you’ve sent an email – if that’s the case or left a voice-mail message if that’s the case. Use it as another tool for getting a news person’s attention, in other words.

Reporters often use Facebook and LinkedIn as means of tracking down sources. LinkedIn has its advantages with its built-in InMail feature, which allows users to send private emails to others in the LinkedIn system.

I find Twitter to be of immense use as a media relations tool, less for direct pitching of stories than for staying informed about specific media outlets and reporters. In fact, I often find myself browsing through my list of people I’m following on Twitter to find reporters and media outlets that might be interested in stories I’m currently pitching. The list changes all the time, depending on what I’m working on.

Personal Contact Is Essential

But for pitching story ideas – when you’re the pitcher – the best approach still seems to be a combination of email and followup telephone contact, perhaps supplemented by contacts on Twitter and other social media outlets where the news person maintains a presence. The unsettling thing about email is that you’re never sure if your pitch has been seen by a reporter who probably gets bombarded by email all day long. (There are unobtrusive email tracking systems that you can use to see if your emails are being opened; they just let you know if and when someone’s clicked open your email. (I’m not real familiar with the technology, although I’m interested in hearing from anyone who does know how effective such systems are and so forth.)

And yet, there are no absolutes — whatever works best with individual reporters and news people is the best approach.

Active media relations is very challenging work. The digital age has made it all the more complicated and demanding. People who do media relations work well tend to live and breathe the media world. Many are former journalists — more of them now than say 10 years ago. Now I’m speaking of media relations as the practice of reaching out to the media to generate coverage for clients. This goes beyond the idea of simply pumping out a press release, throwing it out on a paid distribution service, and sitting back to see what happens. Many companies do this for quick-fix SEO – search engine optimization reasons. Nothing wrong with that. But if you’ve got a good story to tell, one that you believe should be of interest to the media, then it’s worth taking the time to personally pitch the story to the media as well. The keys to great results, as the Vocus study shows, are persistence and using the appropriate means of contact.

Good Stories Buried With The Bad

Let me finish with a quote from a reporter at a national news media outlets in Southern California, as identified in the Vocus report. The reporter responds to the question of whether she is open to receiving pitches via social media. Her response appears to indicate that she isn’t currently receiving many pitches via social media.

“Yes, I think. It is hard to say what the long-term effect of my social media experience will be if my Facebook instant message or Twitter Direct Message box becomes packed with pitches like my email box is now. I routinely miss important emails as it is now because they are buried within the stack of “story ideas.” I think a more elegant solution is ahead of us, I just don’t know what it is yet.” – See more at: VOCUS State of the Media Report.

She sums up the crux of the matter, from a media relations perspective, very well when she says that a lot of important emails get buried under the stack of story ideas in her email box. That’s where good media relations people earn their keep – by finding ways to call pitch-saturated reporters’ and editors’ attention to their clients’ good story ideas. (Because a good story is a terrible thing to waste, damn it!)

Hats off to VOCUS for doing the report.

Got a media relations story to share, commentary on my commentary, etc? I’d love to hear from you.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Social media: love is not enough for most businesses to live on

Posted on February 6, 2014. Filed under: Public Relations, Public relations practices, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , |

Strikes me that one of the hardest things for companies to do is to do social media properly from the inside of the company.

So natural to use the time/digital space to talk about the company and its wonderful culture, accomplishments, etc. But is that of real interest to the readers companies most want to attract?

Employees and their families, company “friendlies” – the “choir”  — naturally like to see that. If that’s the target audience, fine.

Detached observers, such as prospects, probably want to see something else – content that makes them think, entertains them, inspires them, informs them, hits them where they live.

Content such as journalists, and outsiders such as PR agencies and freelancers, produce.

It’s great to be loved by those who know you. Even better for businesses to be loved by strangers who may want to do business with you.

More on the subject here, from an MIT study: If You Like It They May Not Come.

I like to help people get the most for their marketing and PR money. If you think you could use some help making your social media strategies more effective, maybe we should talk. I’m almost a certified outsider, journalist, agency guy and freelancer all in one. I’m at Doug Hovelson or simply respond to this post.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

PR Prose: Once More, With Feeling

Posted on January 24, 2011. Filed under: Public Relations, Public Relations Commentary, Public relations practices | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

“The writer is always tricking the reader into listening to their dream.” Joan Didion
How good are you at getting readers to listen in on your business dreams?

Good writing is good PR and good marketing, whether it’s a 140-character Tweet, a  Facebook post, a press release, website copy, a blog, a brochure, a presentation…

Annoyance Avoidance

Advertising Age writer Bob Knorpp recently riffed about the often lamentable state of “PR prose,” as he termed it:

“I promote myself every bit as much as the worst spammy PR offender on Twitter…,” Knorpp wrote in his blog, The BeanCast. “Yet time and again, I’m specifically called out by people saying ‘You do it right.’ How so, he asked – and people said, “You aren’t as annoying.”

His secret: he looks for the interesting angle.

Shock alert!

He writes to be read, in other words.

Give ‘Em A Reason To Read

Not such an earth-shaking revelation. Really, it’s J-School 101 stuff, and yet — here it is, 2011, well into the information age, and what have we?  Knorpp, a respected writer, certainly one on the receiving end of untold number of fuzzily focused PR pitches and abysmally written press releases, needs to remind PR people that their first duty to their reader is to be interesting.

So, we’re not talking about fancy writing. We’re talking about writing that people actually want to read, writing that they can understand and absorb. Writing that will motivate them to do something that corresponds to your underlying reason for communicating with them in the first place. To visit your store or website, for example. Buy your book or call you to discuss a new project. Hire your firm to handle their business.

Write with care, write with the needs of the audience in mind. When in doubt, rewrite. Consult the AP Stylebook. Good writing – part of that all-important “content” equation — is always a good business investment.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

  • Most Viewed

  • Back Posts

Liked it here?
Why not try sites on the blogroll...

%d bloggers like this: