Helping younger PR staffers be happier, more successful media pitchers
Picking up the phone to pitch can be scary. These tips may help.
If I have learned anything from a career in agency PR, it is this: some public relations professionals are not exactly that passionate about pitching the media.
And here we thought it was reporters who didn’t like PR people = not vice versa.
Not every journalist dislikes PR professionals, bit apparently some do. My Google search (“media pitching dislike”) produced such headlines as “5 reasons why reporters hate your PR pitches” and “The Journalist and the PR Pro: A Broken Marriage.”
In my experience, many senior level PR pros in agency settings (and maybe non-agency settings, too) feel that they have “graduated” media pitching. Strategists strategize. Media pitching? That is something for the intern or the entry level hire- not the seasoned professional.
Why not look at things a different way? If you embrace media outreach and dedicate yourself to being a better coach, your younger colleagues may begin realizing that media relations is pretty cool. They will dedicate themselves more to the art of the pitch, and your business can only benefit as a result.
Here are five coaching tips that can make everyone better media pitchers.
1. Do it with them. Don’t just hand a junior colleague a pitch list without putting some skin in the game yourself. Take a share of the list. Don’t just delegate the lesser lights; entrust your less experienced colleague with some blue-chip outlets, too. How else will they learn (after all, how did YOU learn how to pitch a major daily or a desired national target?) As you hand off some of the top-tier, why not take on some smaller targets? It helps you walk the talk that you truly are in this together, that no one is ABOVE calling the Hometown Weekly Journal. Ask everyone on the team for input on mid-pitch adjustment strategies . Make the whole undertaking a true team effort.
2. Encourage your colleague to consume media- and share examples from your own consumption. Why don’t more PR people follow the news? Professional fitness is like physical exercise. You need to set up a routine and stick to it. No shortcuts. Look beyond your media directory or your Excel list! Encourage your colleague to set aside time each day (15 minutes at least!) to read a newspaper, watch a news show, troll Twitter, listen to a podcast and so on. And demand the same of yourself- be the example that you want your protegees to emulate. Media consumption is so critical on at least two levels. It helps you learn about the world around you, and you get a daily look at what gets covered, who is covering it and how they are covering it. And you can communicate what you learn from media consumption with your colleagues (who, in turn, are ALSO consuming media and sharing their findings with you).
3. Stress the point that anyone has the capacity to build a meaningful media relationship. You don't need to have 20 years in the business to develop rapport with a journalist based on trust and respect. You can just do it. One reason why: Like your entry level team member, a journalist may also be in their 20s and therefore could see your colleague as a peer, not a pest. And, like your young colleague, that reporter is working to be promoted to higher positions- meaning that the value of your co-worker’s relationship with that journalist may increase as their media contacts rise through the ranks.
4. Stay humble. Talk about your successes BUT also share some failures. Yes, I have gotten front page placements and placed clients on national TV. But I’ve also called the wrong contact, been hustled off of the phone and sent hundreds of unanswered pitch e-mails. Not everything works out wonderfully, so let your junior colleagues know it is okay to fail. They key is in the hustle, not the highlight.
5. Celebrate wins. Being a good teammate in a PR setting is a lot like being a teammate on a sports team (even at the professional level). Everyone likes to win. Moreover, younger colleagues LOVE when their hard work is noticed by a veteran on the team. So give a high-five, send around a shout out email and set up a "hit of the month program.” Teams share credit- and that definitely applies to media relations, too.
Dealing with reporters is a job for EVERYBODY! Relegating and delegating media pitching exclusively to the lowest-ranking members of your team sends a negative message.
But taking the opposite approach, meaning that media pitching can move beyond being the dirty job that no one wants to perform.
Everyone on your team will pitch more effectively and have fun doing it. Who wouldn’t approve of that?
Adam Dvorin is Media Director of Winning Strategies Public Relations in Newark, New Jersey.
Photo: Businessman calling by phone via Shutterstock