Public relations is about more than just sending a bunch of email pitches to reporters and hoping to garner coverage for your client or business. Rather, a good PR professional will think creatively and strategically about their media outreach process, and then they will look into securing the proper tools and resources to get the job done.
As someone who works in public relations and simultaneously receives a high volume of pitches from PR people for a separate blog I write, I have seen some great examples of the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to PR pitching. It often makes me cringe – and truly understand why reporters are often frustrated with PR professionals who don’t act very professional
I’d like to share my list of PR pitching best practices with you today – consider this a public service announcement from someone who has both sent and received PR pitches:
Make Your Own Media List
At big PR agencies, the person who makes a media list is often an intern or a junior account executive, while the person sending out the pitches is someone else altogether. No matter how senior or qualified you are (or think you are), if you’re doing the pitching, you should be making the media list. Doing so will help you understand exactly who you’re pitching, why you’re pitching them, and anything you learn along the way about that person that will help you customize your pitch.
Use the Right Tools
I recommend using online media directories, like CisionPoint and Vocus, as a starting point for identifying targeted media to pitch. Making a customized, highly targeted media list will ensure you’re pitching the right people and increasing your chances of success.
Conduct Additional Research
While Cision and Vocus can help you identify media to pitch, supplement outside research on each individual on your list is a must. Simply type a journalist’s name into a search engine and get a glimpse into a reporter’s or blogger’s past articles and interests. Most blogs even have an “About” page, which typically includes their bio, what they write about, and how they best like to receive pitches.
Never send the same exact pitch to hundreds of reporters. This is called spam. If you want to get a reporter’s attention, show interest in their past articles and customize your pitch to what you think a realistic partnership with them looks like.
Mind Your Follow Ups
If you haven’t heard from a reporter or blogger, it’s likely they’re not interested. One way to see if the writer opened your email in the first place is by using a tracking tool like ToutApp. If you still feel there is a need to follow up, it’s important to send a personalized follow up note – the more customized the better.
One of the best ways to be successful in PR is by building relationships with journalists and bloggers important to your client(s). Follow these individuals on Twitter and respond to their tweets on occasion. Leave a comment every so often on their blog posts (they’ll notice!), and send them an email to tell them you read their latest article and it’s something you agree with. Not every interaction with a reporter or blogger has to be about pitching them your client’s story. Show a little interest and they’ll reciprocate in kind when the time and story is right.
Understand Lead Times
Magazines, TV programs, blogs and online publications often work on a longer lead time. It’s likely a magazine is planning holiday coverage in June and July, a producer is booking December holiday segments in September, and a blogger is plotting out coverage for December in October. Offer journalists or bloggers ample time to read and digest your news and it will show them that you respect their time and understand the lead times they work off of.
Pitch Via Social Media Wisely
Nothing will make a journalist hit the unfollow or block button faster than if they see that your Twitter feed is full of @reply pitches to reporters with the exact same 140-character pitch. Use social media to be social, not to blanket the universe with a pitch. You’d be better off using social networks to listen and identify your influencers rather than pitch them for the first time.
What other PR pitching best practices to you employ? Sound off by leaving a comment.
Thoughts on new and traditional media, current events, life in Chicago and the occasional small Chihuahua photo.