Getting Coverage for Your News Should Be Easy

If you work in media relations today, and you’re having a hard time getting coverage for your news, you’re doing something wrong. Journalists exist to write about news. If you have a legitimate news story, you shouldn’t have a hard time getting coverage. When I reflect on the 15 years I’ve been doing some aspect of media relations as part of my job, I can’t think of a single instance where I had a hard time getting coverage for news.

When I’ve had problems getting coverage – while I didn’t realize it at the time – it was because the story wasn’t actually newsworthy, or I was talking to the wrong journalists. The purpose of this post is to help you figure this stuff out much sooner than the 15 year mark in your career.

First, Are You Talking to the Right Journalists?

Who covers your news? Which reporters write the most about the topics related to what you do? You should know who they are off the top of your head. If you don’t, start there. Subscribe to the publications they write for. Read the stuff they write. It only takes a couple of minutes a day to do this, and you’ll quickly find that you know exactly who to talk to when news bubbles to the surface in your organization. [Read more…]

13 Ways to Keep Your Pitch From Getting Deleted

In survey after survey, journalists consistently cite email as their preferred method of contact – provided the email pitch is relevant and targeted to the particular journalist that is. What other steps can you take to keep your email pitch from being deleted? Here’s a quick rundown of the advice I’ve found most effective at getting pitches noticed:

  • Attention-Grabbing Subject Line – With email, you only have a second to grab the recipient’s attention. Assuming your news is relevant, the most attention-grabbing subject line might be your release headline. Try to avoid humor in the subject line, as some people might not get the joke. You should also try to avoid common words used in junk email or spam, such as “FREE” or “Congratulations”. Also be sure not to use excessive punctuation, such as exclamation points or dollar signs – commonly used by email spammers. Use a quick, descriptive subject line that leaves no question of what your email is about.
  • Keep It Personal – If you really want to keep your email from being deleted, make it personal. Demonstrate that you understand what the journalist writes about and that you’ve done your legwork. You should NEVER cut and paste a pitch or use mail merge software of any kind to switch out names and details in a pitch. Journalists can smell this tactic a mile away and will almost always click the ‘delete’ button. Write the pitch as though you were emailing a family member about the news. You should have that level of comfort and knowledge of the recipient before sending. If you tailor the pitch to an individual, you are much more likely to receive a response. If you do cut and paste, or you do try to mail merge, you will screw up. You will call him a “Mrs.” and you will call John “Sally”. Don’t do it.
  • Keep It Brief – Long emails get deleted by journalists in an instant (unless they know you really well or asked for a thorough pitch). Consider keeping your pitch to 3-5 sentences. If you have a lot of information to share, link those resources from the pitch – but don’t try to cram it all in there. Journalists are used to being pitched via Twitter these days. Shorter email pitches are more likely to be read by journalists than short ones. See how few words you can use in your pitch. Keep rewriting your pitch until you get it down to as few words as possible. You’ll be surprised how good you’ll get at this after a little practice.
  • What Do You Want? – Make sure you specify what you are looking for. If you want the journalist to interview your spokesperson about the story, say so. If you’re offering an exclusive, make sure you point that out. If you just want to provide some background for future consideration, say so. Don’t make the journalist guess about what you want. 
  • Ask What You’re Doing Wrong – If a journalist is unresponsive to your pitch, or they give you a no answer, be polite and ask them what you could do better. Ask them what would make your pitch interesting or compelling to them. Ask them if there’s something you should keep them in the loop about in the future. You’ll be surprised what you can learn by asking a journalist for their opinion. [Read more…]

Selling the Story – What PR Can Learn From Sales

I’ve been fortunate to work in both media relations and sales over the course of my career. I see a lot of similarities between the two. For starters, you’re selling a product to the journalists and bloggers you’re targeting… they are your prospects. Your pitch, your story, is the product. I’m not talking about used car sales here – think more complex, consultative or solution selling.

It’s your job as the sales rep (work with me here) to do your best job at communicating the features, benefits, differentiators, and value of your story to them – to get them to buy. If you fail to get them interested in a couple of seconds, you’re never going to get the sale. They are overwhelmed with other offers all day long.

So, what do the best sales people do that help them meet quotas consistently quarter after quarter? [Read more…]