Webinar – Media Relations: 4 Reasons It’s Not Working For You

Some people say media relations is a lost art. Some people are right. In this 45-minute webinar, Katy Pollard  will remind us just how important our relationships with journalists are, and teach us how to recapture what so many of us seem to have lost.

In this webinar, former journalist turned PR pro Katy Pollard will share her tips on how to get journalists to stop ignoring you and best practices for media relations to earn high-profile media coverage.

It shouldn’t surprise you that people who write for a living are annoyed by bad writing. So, nail the basics.

Editors and journalists receive hundreds if not thousands of emails a day.  Your pitch has to get through the first hurdle of being noticed before it’s even opened. No. 1 rule: PROOFREAD.

Typos, poor grammar, and incorrectly capitalised letters are all culprits. Most people have access to spellcheck these days, but it’s not infallible. Make sure you carefully check all emails before hitting “send”.  Check email subject lines, email addresses, the body copy in the email and above all make sure you spell the journalist’s name correctly!

Once, you’re satisfied you do this, next ask yourself is the story you’ve sent really interesting?  No, I mean, REALLY interesting.  When we work in companies, agencies, offices surrounded by senior people who are ‘really excited’ about the new product/ service/ sales team, it is easy to be swept up in the enthusiasm that ensues.  But ask yourself, will anyone in the outside world care enough about your story?  We have something call the pub test here in the UK – tell me if you have it over there.  Basically, if you went to the pub or a bar with your mates and told them your story, would they be interested?  If no, it’s time to rework the idea.  Journalists live and breath stories.  They don’t care about your company, product, new launch, new office mascot.  They just want to hear good stories.  So give it to them.

The third tip is about relevancy.  Is your story really relevant to the publication you’ve sent it to.  Would you send a health story to a construction publication?  No.  The same principal applies to all publications.  Even if they are in the same industry, each one has a slightly different outlook, a different perspective or different regular sections.

Take a look at these two seemingly similar women’s magazines.  You may think that because they are in the same sector, they cover similar types of stories.   However, Cosmopolitan magazine targets women aged 18 to 30; their online site has a lot of blog style health articles and they have a heavy focus on celebrities and sex.  Stylist magazine is aimed targets affluent 20 to 40-year-old female commuters with high end content that includes fashion, travel, beauty, people and careers news.  The magazine aims to take an intelligent approach, covering a broader range of culture and tackling issues women face in their professional and personal lives.   So if I pitch a blog style article called ‘10 top celebrity sex tips’ to Stylist, chances are I’d get no response.  However, if I pitch the same article to Cosmo, they’d probably snap it up.

Ask yourself if the story you have sent is relevant to the publication you’ve sent it to.  Have you read the newspaper/ magazine/ website? If you don’t read the journalist’s publication – or section of publication – you’re unlikely to know what type of content they cover so you may have asked them to write an article or cover a story that is irrelevant to their audience. Take a look at the different sections they include.  Review the media pack to see what demographic they target.   Then tailor your pitch so that it fits their publication.

So, are you starting to see now how we are tailoring our approach to the requirements of each publication?

Blanket emails, or the ‘spray and pray’ approach is what we are often taught to do as young PRs.  Write a press release, distribute it on a wire to as many publications as possible and then cross every part of your body in the hope that you get coverage.  In my experience, this method is useful if you want to get out a news story quickly.  Often, freelance journalists will scour the wires looking for ideas for stories and may quote your release in a feature article.  So it has it’s uses.  However, I find it more effective to think like a freelance journalist and tailor each pitch to individual publications.  Yes, it takes a little longer but if you put in the effort, you get better results.

How do you usually contact journalists?  Email?  Phone?  Both?

Journalists are like human beings (!) They each have preferred ways of working, times of day when they are more proactive and work schedules to follow.  Some prefer email.  Some prefer phone calls.

For example, on daily papers, journalists usually have a very early morning meeting to determine the stories for the day, they then spent most of the morning writing those stories to a lunchtime deadline and then will spend the afternoon looking for new stories for the following morning’s meeting.  Chances are if you pick up the phone at late morning, you will be faced with a writer on deadline who does not welcome your rambling ‘hello, how are you today?’ lengthy greeting.

Have you ever asked the journalist what they prefer?  Emails? Phone calls?  What time of day is best to contact them. If you make a journalist’s life easier, they will be more receptive to your advances.  By and large, a good rule of thumb is to email first.  If you know the journalist is receptive to calls or if you have a good relationship with them, then follow it up with a call.  A note of caution – leave it a while so they have actually had chance to see your email!  Imagine how annoying it would be if everytime YOU receive an email, you also immediately received a call from that person asking if you’d received the email?!

This leads me neatly onto my third tip – don’t be annoying!!  I remember working in a newsroom and having persistent regulars who phoned daily with “stories”. They usually turned out to be rambling, shaggy-dog stories with no newsworthy element at all. As you can imagine, they were treated with the kind of disdain usually reserved for mud.

At best, they were laughed at; at worst, ignored. This sort of person may have had a particularly amazing story one day, however they were not taken seriously, so we will never know. Don’t be that person. Now I’m not saying never call a journalist, just that if you do, don’t be annoying.

Sometimes a niche publication will target exactly the right group of people who need to hear your message.  If you sell animals clothes, chances are a Ferret magazine will reach your target audience better than any national publication can.   And think a bit wider here too.  Don’t just go for the obvious sector you think your company sits in.  So, maybe you sells shoes and you’ve been sending press releases to retail publications to support your sales team.  You hear that your Marketing team has some research results that the shoes you sell are being bought by seniors because they are comfortable and hard wearing.  So, consider revising your PR plan to target publications that market to seniors.