Getting a story in the media is not rocket science. But it does require the right approach. And a panel of experts across DFW media, marketing and PR outlets were on hand at WFAA recently to share best practices for the Dallas chapter of ColorComm. Our own BizCom president, Monica Feid, participated along with Eric Baker, general manager at Radio One; Lec Garcia, marketing producer at WFAA; Christine “Tiney” Ricciardi, entertainment reporter at Dallas Morning News; and Kathy Wise, executive editor of D Magazine. And here were the takeaways:
Know your outlet and your audience.
Know the best time to pitch.
Know how to deliver the information in a way that matters.
…and, please, include a hi-res photo!
As expected, there is often a difference between what a company thinks is news, and what the media is trying to deliver to readers, viewers and listeners. And it helps to tie an announcement to what that larger audience considers important. Best of all, PR professionals need to actually know the media contacts and the outlets they are pitching in order to make their news matter.
In other words, as Wise said, don’t pitch her on something after they just did a similar story. They won’t repeat a topic so soon. And Baker said, don’t email a pitch that ends with “if you’re not the right person for this, please delete.” You just informed him that you don’t even know who to contact. Ricciardi said, advance notice is critical. For example, (this event was Oct. 25) if you have something for Halloween, you’re already too late. And while everyone acknowledged that they don’t like phone calls, there’s a busy social media landscape and it helps to learn which channels to use. Garcia said, his personal Facebook and Instagram accounts are for friends. No stalking, please.
Across the board, everyone acknowledged that email was the best form of outreach for media pitching. And, yet, there’s a healthy list of examples where story opportunities are blown from the start.
Feid said, stay away from Fridays and Mondays when possible for sending a media pitch. You either get lost in the Inbox after a busy week, or you’re trying to stand out when everything is breaking Monday morning. Plus, press releases are not the springboard for feature-length coverage. If your media contacts want to read a thesis, think again. They receive tons of emails, and they decide quickly (meaning, in the first paragraph) if it’s something that peaks their interest. Everyone prefers a pitch, and you can always link to a release if they want to know more. Feid said BizCom pitches links to client blogs where opinion pieces from industry leaders have become a big win for coverage and even invitations for guest columns.
Wise said she prefers a short pitch, but keep it professional. Don’t write like you’re best friends and be so informal [Hey, girl…] that the delete key is how she answers. Baker said short and concise pitches are key too, but if he has a question to a pitch, you demonstrate that you actually know what you’re pitching when you can get him an answer.
And about follow up… How much is too much? One follow up query is reasonable. There’s the chance that your original pitch got lost. Media contacts always have deadlines that take priority, you know. But don’t hound the pros. If you’ve followed up and you still haven’t heard back, maybe you need to rethink the pitch, Wise shared. Meanwhile, Ricciardi reminded the audience to keep the followup part of the original pitch. Don’t send a new email “Did you see my pitch?” when it’s not further down in the same thread. She cannot go back through old emails and try to find it.
At the end of the day, it’s also about relationship building. Garcia loves people who have a passion for what they’re pitching. When someone is excited about what they are sharing, it’s the same way he gets excited about how WFAA will package and market stories to others. And speaking of relationships, communicating with the media shouldn’t only happen when you need something. Feid said, it’s important to be part of a devoted audience as well. Feid will congratulate media contacts on good stories even when they have nothing to do with her clients. She likes and shares coverage all the time that doesn’t directly include brands on the agency roster.
Do you have any headlines in your future? Contact Monica at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss how BizCom can help share your stories.