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.

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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.

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My Soul To Be Social Mediaicized

Posted on February 7, 2012. Filed under: Public Relations, Social Media, Society | Tags: , , , , |

English: Joseph Stalin after 1943 in military ...

Image via Wikipedia

Get socialized!

It’s my new thing, a sort of accidental New Year’s resolution: know more about, and do more in, the social media world.

Reminds me of the ’60’s line, “My soul has been psychedelicized” by The Chambers Brothers.

Were I writing in the 1930s, you might take me for a convert to Leninism — if I’d been so bold as to confess to a longing to be socialized back then. They had a crude form of social media back then — think postcards, think telegrams, think street corner preachers and sidewalk barkers for the music halls and burlesque theaters — but they didn’t call it that.

Lenin doesn’t much figure into my thinking today, although it is intriguing to muse about what uses he and other lions of the Russian revolution might have found for social media technologies.  Nothing fun, that’s for sure. Apps for instantaneously snitching out your counter-revolutionary neighbor, hair stylist, mother. Streaming video from the show trials of fallen Bolshies. Stalin posting pictures of his bare-chested virile self on Twitter. That kind of thing.

The Social Leap!

My leap into socialization has to do with Facebook! LinkedIn! Twitter! Google+! Blogging! Flickr! Tumblr!

Need I go on?

I think not.

So what did I learn today, in my revolutionary journey through the social media jungle? (Not to be confused with the “urban jungle” again ca. the early years of the 20th century, see George Bernard Shaw or Nelson Algren).

Online Tellers, Beware

Wonderful and unsettling information was what I learned today.

Take “creativity,” for example. That’s generally a wonderful thing, especially for the artistically, marketing and Ponzi scheme inclined. But it’s not such a wonderful thing to cite as a skill or attribute on your LinkedIn profile, so I learned. Better to show your creativity in your profile, than to self-ascribe it. I think that makes sense, too. It’s the first thing you learn in Writing 101 – show the reader what you’re talking about. (Oh, the horror — a reader bored is a reader lost forevermore.) Being Creative On LinkedIn Won’t Do You Any Favours

Banish Those Banalities

So be creative in your use of social media, but don’t say you’re creative. Saying so makes it seem as if you are not so creative. And that’s not what you want. You want to cut a bold figure on the Internet. (To cut a figure, as in “he cut a fine figure,” a figure of speech encountered rarely today, where it would not have been out of place to say of Theodore Roosevelt or Babe Ruth, “there goes a fine figure of a man.” And if you ever saw Joe Stalin in the street, you would have most certainly said something to the effect of “there’s as fine a figure of a man as ever walked the Soviet earth.” If you said anything at all.  For to say ill of Joe would almost certainly have earned you rough carriage in a Black Maria to Lubyanka Prison, and denied all access to the Internet or a Tweeting machine.)

So, yes, be creative in all your online endeavors.

That’s what I learned today on the path to full 21st century cyber-socialization! And you?

[Editor’s Note: No Bolsheviks were abused in the writing of this post.]

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