Posts Tagged 'media'

Pitching in a Summer of “Big News:” Cutting Through the Noise When Other Stories Seem More Important

It’s not even August and we’ve had enough headline news this summer to last several months. It all started with the Facebook IPO in May, which was followed by events such as SCOTUS’ healthcare ruling, the Diamond Jubilee, buzz around the Olympics, and the Marissa Mayer news. Oh yeah, we’re also in an election year.

News junkies might rejoice at this continual cycle of “big news,” but I don’t think I’m the only PR person who’s felt like they need a giant, “woe is me” cocktail. After all, when reporters are totally focused on the latest major story, and that story doesn’t involve your client, how can you cut through the noise to get the media’s attention?

I asked my colleagues to share the pitching tips and tricks that have helped them get through this summer. So stop drowning your sorrows and read on for some great insight on meeting coverage metrics and keeping your clients happy when it seems that reporters just don’t want to talk to you.

  • Make the big news YOUR news. Is there a way to tie your client to the big story that everyone’s writing about? Can one of your executives provide relevant commentary, or make projections about the larger industry outlook? Things like healthcare, the election, and even the Olympics are ongoing stories that will be covered again and again, and reporters are going to want new people to talk to and new story angles. So be creative. That said, do pay attention to what reporters are saying on Twitter, Facebook, and their blogs. You don’t want to be “that person” who offers expert commentary just after a reporter tweets that he doesn’t want any insight on the individual mandate.
  • Make new friends, but keep the old. If you aren’t making headway with your media friendlies, now is the perfect time to expand your contact list. Spend some time researching new contacts at your key outlets—is there a rookie reporter who seems to be getting the “leftover” (i.e. non-big news) assignments? Contributors or bloggers who have the flexibility to write about whatever they want? Also, don’t limit your research to just new contacts—be on the lookout for new outlets, too, whether it’s print pubs, newsletters, or blogs. Once you give yourself some time to see what else (and who else) is out there, you won’t feel like you’re beating a dead horse when your go-to contacts aren’t picking up the phone.
  • Don’t try to fit a square peg in a round hole. One of the teams in our NY office had a client launch that essentially coincided with the Facebook IPO. They originally planned to do an NYC media tour with one of the executives, but the only CEO on anyone’s radar was Mark Zuckerberg. What to do? Accept that this strategy simply wasn’t going to work. Rather than push against an unmovable wall, the team focused on tactics that would create momentum, such as pitching relevant targets for launch coverage that weren’t preoccupied with Facebook. The team ultimately secured more than 22 million impressions in just 3 weeks, resulting from coverage in regional print/broadcast media, local search, and business outlets.

The Space Between: Digital and Traditional PR Look Really Similar These Days

By Dave Levy, @levydr

I have at least one or two media contacts with whom I rarely, if ever, email. It’s not that I’m not doing my job; it’s that whenever I have a pitch or want to soft-sound a story idea, I have to shrink the thought into way-less than 160 characters so I can direct message them on Twitter.

It will not surprise you to learn that most of these “Tweet First” contacts are bloggers. A few years ago, blogger engagement was a separate category from traditional media activities. In fact, during the growth of digital PR back six or seven years ago, we had two distinct teams with their own tasks related to either traditional pitching or blogger engagement. I was working in the latter camp, and by way of talking to people who blog, and who were some of the first on Twitter, it was kind of a natural progression to stop emailing each other and then just tweet.

Blogging looks a lot more like mainstream news these days (or mainstream news looks more like blogging, that’s a chicken or egg post for another day). Along with that, the space between what I’ve been doing in my career around online news sources and what colleagues who have filled more traditional media roles has gotten really, really small. Sure, my leading example here talked about how bloggers and I talked through Twitter direct messaging. But it isn’t only bloggers who rely on Twitter for everything from news to getting leads from sources. There are even reporters who have grown in their careers to join traditional outlets by way of being active online bloggers (and, again, plenty of writers who once wrote for large organizations have jumped to independent, online outlets).

When I got into this business, it felt different to be talking to a blogger, but maybe it shouldn’t have. I don’t know if I’m ruining some big secret, but there really isn’t that much that’s different in terms of what we do when we reach out to an online-only reporter. Journalists and bloggers alike are writing stories, and sometimes we as PR professionals have – or think we have – a tip that will help them create content. Ultimately, we have to take the time to get to know the writer, what they consider relevant and the best ways to reach them. That process doesn’t change on the basis of reaching out to either a blogger or a traditional journalist.

As a final bit of homework, I’ll challenge you to think about what pitching a story in a direct message is like. It’s really, really good practice to take your pitch and try and get all the important parts into less than a sentence. If you can do that, you’ll have a better sense of your story and what you are trying to say – no matter who you are reaching out to.

 

Media Q&A with Real Simple’s Amy Bleier Long

Over the last few weeks, the brilliant Tumblr blog, “99 Problems But A Pitch Ain’t One,” has captivated us, entertained us, and yes, sometimes gotten us through the day. Some of the best posts are humorous observations of the relationship between PR professionals and media – refer to exhibits a, b, and c. Of course, in real life, no one wants to be an angry elf mid-meltdown, even though he gets to rock a sweet fur collar (see exhibit a). So, to help us avoid making any of Tumblr’s “PR vs. media” scenarios a reality, I asked one of our editor friends to provide some insight on how she likes to work with PR folks, and what we should keep in mind throughout the pitch process, from initial outreach to final fact check.

SHIFT’s Overstock.com team has had the good fortune to work closely with Amy Bleier Long, assistant market editor at Real Simple, on several occasions this year. She is sadly leaving the publication this Friday, but the thoughts she’s shared below are fantastic reminders about how to build mutually beneficial media relationships. After all, if we’ve learned anything from Dwight Schrute, you never know when you could get shunned. Hopefully, these insights will help you avoid it.

As an editor at a women’s lifestyle glossy, what is your biggest pet peeve when it comes to the PR community?

I am going to offer two pet peeves, if I can. First is lack of communication. Sometimes we ask a PR person to help us secure a product or get more information for us and we don’t hear from them for a long time. Then, too late for a meeting or run-through, we hear from them with either no explanation for the delay or they tell us they were waiting for their client to respond. I worked (briefly) in PR so I know that a lot of times, it’s a matter of getting information from your client. But we appreciate when you let us know that, let us know that you know we’re on a deadline but you are on it and haven’t forgotten. Or if you find out a product we’ve requested is unavailable, we appreciate you going the extra mile and looking for an alternative, but let us know you’re doing that – because otherwise we might think we’re getting something we need, when we’re really not. And, if you’re the only person that works on an account and you’re going to be unreachable – please put an out of office message up so we know!

Second to that is probably when someone gives the impression (or flat out states) that we can have a product by a certain time for a shoot and then right before the shoot all of a sudden cannot come up with the product. We go through several layers of approval on products to shoot, and when a PR person tells me something is available and that we can have it in time for a shoot, we start counting on that item, and sometimes base other items around it. So if, at the last minute, we can’t get that item anymore, it really throws off our planning. At best, it means we have to scramble to replace that item; at worst, it could ruin a planned shot.

Do you have many or few relationships with PR folks – i.e. people you go to again and again for product ideas or story angles? How were those relationships established?  

I would say I have built many strong relationships with PR people that I go back to again and again for products or information, or to pick their brains on a story I might be working on. Mainly those relationships have been developed by working with these people over the last several years and having the experience always be pleasant. The people I work with the most are quick, responsive, and come through with products 90% of the time or more, even with very short notice. It helps, of course, when their products are really well-designed and match our magazine’s aesthetic. And also, no matter how many times I’ve worked with certain companies, they always remain grateful for the support, which isn’t a requirement, but it is really nice to know that they appreciate our relationship, too.

What do you find is the best way to get to know about the topics you write about each month? Outreach to friends in PR? Individual research? What can PR people do to make the research process easier?

I don’t write much, I mostly do the market work, but every once in a while I will reach out to my PR contacts to see if they know someone else in the industry who might be a good person (in terms of expertise on a specific topic) to talk to about ideas, inspiration, or a specific story topic.

A lot of media contacts dislike phone calls from PR reps (vs. receiving email inquires). At glossies, would you say that’s the general sentiment? If so, what should PR folks keep in mind when writing email pitches to increase our odds of getting a response?

I feel similarly in that I prefer email to the phone, though some things just need to be done on the phone. One reason I prefer email is because it gives me a written record of products requested, status, and any pricing or details so later, if I’m told something different, I can go back and question/confirm it. I hope this doesn’t sound terrible – I think the main reason editors seem to prefer email is that people get to the point quicker. Everyone is so busy and I think with email, people just get right down to it, which frankly, I prefer. When pitching, please be sure you’re targeting me appropriately. Take two seconds to confirm what department I work in. I know my title can be vague, and when I started at Real Simple, I think some of the listing companies put me on the wrong pitch lists (i.e. fashion or food), but I get an enormous number of emails that are not for my area at all. And also, if you’ve sent me an email about a product or story idea, please, please do not call me literally 5 minutes later to see if I got the email. I probably did but am either in the middle of something or it doesn’t apply. If I see something that is right for the magazine, I will definitely respond, or I will tell you which department to contact if I’m not the right person.

 


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