One of the lessons I’ve learned in my PR career is that making the right pitch to the right reporter at the right time is vital to publicity success.
It’s also important to know how the news media operate and have a good understanding of what makes a newsworthy story if you want to have effective working relationships with reporters.
Public relations and advertising are very different, and failing to understand these differences can be fatal to an agency’s publicity efforts.
The following are three easily correctable mistakes advertising, digital and media agencies often make when dealing with reporters:
Mistake #1. Failing to do adequate research.
Whether you’re dealing with your local paper, an industry publication or a national media outlet, you need to take the time to find out which person covers the particular area you are interested in pursuing.
It’s equally important to research the reporter’s previous stories. Learn all you can about what the reporter covers; his or her interests and reporting style; and follow the reporter on social media before making contact. The more you can demonstrate that you understand a reporter’s audience and story preferences—and how he or she wants to be approached with ideas—the better your chances of success.
Here’s an example of helpful information such research can uncover. In the “Contract Notes” section of a media directory for print and broadcast outlets, a computer/high tech reporter notes the following:
- Works from home, but prefers all materials be sent to the paper.
- Prefers to be contacted by e-mail and hates follow up calls.
- Interested in the ideas behind technology, not the products.
This is helpful information to know before you contact that reporter.
Mistake #2. Wasting reporters’ time with irrelevant pitches.
Reporters are busy people who work under constant pressure and deadlines; don’t waste their time with pitches that aren’t appropriate.
When presenting a story idea, the most important things you can tell a reporter are who will care about it and why. Get to the point right away because media people don’t have time to hunt through your pitch to get to the news. Be clear and concise, including all the necessary information—but nothing more.
Here’s a simple test to determine if your pitch passes the “so-what” factor: Put yourself in the reporter’s shoes and ask, “Would this story be interesting to my audience?”
Mistake #3. Writing like an advertising executive instead of like a reporter.
Trying to get earned media by sending disguised advertising or editorializing your story idea is a sure way to get your information trashed and lose credibility with the news media.
Craft your pitch as objectively as possible emphasizing its news, trend or human interest aspect, and your expertise to comment and provide insights. If you’ve done your homework, you will know the reporter’s audience and area(s) of coverage so you can customize your pitch accordingly.
The more you can provide reporters with relevant, factual information that is timely, meaningful and targeted to their audiences, the more likely they are to take you seriously and provide positive coverage for your agency and clients.