Periodically in PR, we circulate reminders about things like 25 Things Journalists Think You Should Stop Doing Right Now. It’s always a negative regurgitation of all the bad things public relations people do (admittedly I have seen some of my compatriots do some doozies and we as an industry deserve some rhetorical flogging for sure from journalists). But what if we flipped it toward the positive instead? What are five things you should be doing right now to get media attention?
#1 – Advise clients when they really have a story. Be honest with clients about when they really have a story (or don’t). Explain to clients what good story elements are. Just having a spokesperson who can comment on an already-done story is not good enough. What are the national trends that relate to what they can talk about?
#2 – Make sure your website and online press room are set up to provide information to reporters that they need. That means contact numbers and email addresses are easy to find and obvious (including after hours numbers). Stock your press room with press releases, backgrounders, statistics, photos, b-roll, and biographies so reporters can easily find what they are looking for.
#3 – Research reporters before you pitch them. Cruise Twitter, the web, etc. to learn more about the reporters you want to build relationships with and pitch stories to. Know in advance what a reporter’s interests are. Read what they write. Watch or listen to what they produce. Follow them on Twitter and re-tweet them. Identify reporters in key niche areas that relate to the types of stories you want to pitch.
#4 – Be clear and concise when you pitch a story to a reporter. Be succinct. A good email subject line and a long paragraph may be all you have or need. If you can’t define a story within those parameters, maybe your story is not flushed out enough. A pitch is just that – a pitch – you can provide more details later if they are interested.
#5 – Be aware of the news cycle and realize that timeliness is key. Know the daily news cycle and how that impacts the journalists you are trying to connect with. Don’t pitch a newspaper reporter at 4pm who is on deadline, or a TV reporter trying to get a story on the air at 6pm. If there is major news – elections, disasters, public events of major importance – they will trump incoming pitches. Those are not good times to pitch a new story that is not related to breaking news events. Be early – pitch your event well in advance of the date so it gets on planning calendars.
Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, a virtual and independent public relations practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media advice, writing services, and creative design for publications and websites. She blogs frequently about media relations, social media, public relations and other issues. She also reviews books on her blog about public relations, nonprofit life, work-family balance and social media practice. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven.