What I like most about Aziz Ansari’s freshman novel is how it can be reapplied to so many vocations, not just our romantic lives. Social media has become as essential to public relations as the morning jolt of caffeine. While there is still a great value in working to cultivate or maintain personal relationships with reporters, the next generation of professionals is going to be faced with a dating/PR game that is growing increasingly complex.
When I first stepped into the newsroom as a reporter in the late 90s, everything was still done by phone and fax. As a TV reporter, your days in the field gathering a story were for the most part uninterrupted—you had a simple phone that could do nothing other than make a call. Most incoming pitches came in via fax or with a phone call to the assignment desk editor. It was simple.
Today the options for pitching are vast. It can be daunting to figure out how best to approach reporters. For the most part, email is the staple communication tool. However, there is no guarantee that your email will ever get read. On an average day, I get an average of 100 emails. About 40% are non-essential newsletters, another 20% are alerts I’ve set to track topics and stalk reporters, but the last 60 emails are either from clients or colleagues, and need my attention. I would be afraid to even ask how many emails overload the inboxes of top tech reporters.
Outside of email, the newest tool of the trade is Twitter’s DM tool. It used to be that a reporter had to follow you to send them a private message but that’s no longer the case. Now you can give anyone the option to DM you by simply clicking the privacy box that says “Receive Direct Messages from Anyone.”
So far, only a select few reporters have tested these waters (or at least the ones that interest me) but I think it will prove to be a useful tool for PR folks and reporters alike. Most modern reporters are already tasked with tweeting about what they are covering—so they are already engaged on Twitter. Meanwhile, PR pros are forced to condense their pitch into a couple of sentences—not because of any character limit, but an understanding that reporters won’t likely read past the “….” in the alert. For more insights and suggestions of what not to do, check out@DearPR and then to vent your frustrations via tweet at @dearjournalist.
Circling back to Aziz Ansari, modern PR like ‘modern romance’ is still a strategic game to be played that can get anyone’s head spinning with questions: “When should I follow up?” “Did I follow up too soon?” “They didn’t respond to my last pitch. Should I reach out again?” Unfortunately, like any new relationship, navigating the “no calls please” and other communication preferences of each individual journalist can be exhausting—but absurdly gratifying when it works.
Guest contributor Sarah Segal is the Director of Media Relations and Corporate Marketing at The Blueshirt Group. Feel free to DM her anytime @sarahsegal.