PRSA-SF’s Top Tips for Pitching Journalists
December 28, 2020
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It is indisputable that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the landscape of nearly every job in the country. Public relations is no exception to this rule. In fact, the field of public relations has had to be incredibly adaptable in a world of crisis and constant breaking news. This is particularly noticed among our PR colleagues who navigate the realm of media relations. Those colleagues who previously had to think creatively to grab the attention of always-busy and on-the-go reporters now must be even more dynamic and innovative to stand out to reporters whose inboxes are overflowing. What is more, they also must think creatively about the stories that reporters would be interested in telling and that their audiences would want to read amidst a pandemic.
Which is why the PRSA-SF Bay Area Chapter outgoing 2020 Board of Directors and their committee members have come together to bring you a media relation focused list of their best advice for successfully pitching journalists. So, strap in, you will want to take notes.
We asked: What advice do you have for your fellow PR colleagues on successfully pitching journalists?
Don't be lazy with your email. It can be tempting to take shortcuts when work gets busy, but it is critical to do your research on journalists and craft a conversational pitch. Read the journalist's articles and follow them on Twitter. Go a step even further and quote a Tweet in your pitch to make the email even more personal. Last, it is very important to give your subject line attention, don't be lazy with it, this is the first thing a reporter will see after all.
-Jocelyn Arellano, Account Executive, Zeno Group; PRSA-SF Director of D&I
Do the research. Take the time to make sure your story/client is the right fit for the journalist and the journalist is a good fit for you. It's also a great practice to keep up to date on publications and writers who are already working on related topics and when you are ready, target them under the "keep it relevant" principle.
- Katina Tinka Bush, 2020 PRSA-SF Awards Director
Stats make a story. Include stats and figures, especially from relevant research reports whenever possible. How can this be related to a current event or trend? Think outside the box and you will be surprised how your product can probably tie in.
-Jenna Watson Gudgel, PR & Communications Manager at HR.com; PRSA-SF 2020 President
Remember to be a human. Seriously, treat journalists like the humans they are, who have real emotions, real lives, and real challenges of their own. Not to mention, in addition to COVID and BLM, their industry has also been devastated by newsroom layoffs. Approach each interaction with professionalism and empathy.
-Brooks Wallace, Nectar Communications Director; PRSA-SF Communications Director
Become a valuable resource. Offer up yourself or other sources from your network that you feel may help the reporter do their job. For example, a reporter asked me if I knew of any sources who can comment on a story around cybersecurity. I didn’t have any clients at the time that were in this space, but I had a former client who was an expert in cybersecurity and offered them up. The reporter spoke with the former client and included them in the story. Again, be a resource and spread the love. Read even more tips from John in his recent article: A 5-step guide to media relations success.
- John McCartney, Principal, Jmac PR; Immediate Past President, PRSA-SF
Focus on relationships. Developing ongoing relationships with reporters who cover your beat/industry is much more effective (and fun!) than taking a more transactional approach. Keep an eye on what reporters are writing and let them know when you like or appreciate a story they wrote -- even if it's not about your company or your client. When you do get great coverage, follow-up with a note of thanks.
- Scott Wintner, Deputy Director of Aviation, Marketing & Communications, Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC); PRSA-SF Treasurer
Keep it short: Whatever you do, do not bury the lede. Reporters are incredibly busy these days and their inboxes are overflowing. When you pitch a journalist, keep it at a few short paragraphs, give them the highlights, but do not write the story for them.
-Sarah McBride, Associate Director, Marketing & Communications, University of Texas at Arlington; PRSA-SF Communications Committee
Try Twitter pitching. For journalists active on social media, reaching out via DM or responding to a recent Tweet on a specific topic is a way to avoid being buried in an inbox and forces you to keep the pitch short, sweet and to-the-point in 280 characters or less.
-Harper Schmidt, Account Supervisor at PAN Communications; PRSA-SF Board Secretary