Relationships don’t guarantee media coverage: how can you increase your odds?
Or is it?
In business and in life, we know that relationships matter.
Having a good relationship many times makes the difference between getting what we want—or being ignored. This plays out in PR, too. That’s why PR practitioners spend so much time fostering relationships with reporters. It’s a big part of our role.
However, there seems to be a misconception for some when it comes to PR: relationships don’t guarantee coverage.
Yes, having a relationship with a reporter may mean your pitch is more likely to be considered – but it isn’t relationships that sell a story.
At the rate reporters are changing jobs, being laid off or just plain leaving journalism altogether, even if you have a relationship, it may be fleeting….and if they leave, you’ll need to start fresh to get to know their successor.
Then, there are those situations when you do have a relationship but your pitch still doesn’t get the green light. It happens. That’s because not every story is going to connect every time with every reporter.
So relationship or not, what can you do to increase your odds of your pitch getting read? The following will always be important:
1. A good story. First, you must have something newsworthy to talk about. This is the cornerstone of any worthwhile PR effort. Whether or not you have a relationship, reporters are looking for a story that will catch the attention of their audience.
2. The right reporter. Be sure to do your homework to find the reporter that’s a fit for your pitch. If you pitch the same reporters in your industry every time, that’s not an issue. But, if you’re pitching a publication you haven’t reached out to before, it pays to do some research to find the best contact.
3. Good timing. Do your best to make your PR outreach timely. Attention to timing is yet one more way to give your PR effort the best possible chance of being seen. This can be interpreted a few different ways:
Watch for trends and follow what your media targets are covering so that you can try to find a way to time your pitch so that it fits in with something they may already be covering. Or, take a look at their editorial calendars and pitch accordingly.
This may also be interpreted as the literal meaning of timing. Do you know a reporter is on deadline Thursday mornings? It may not be the best time to pitch. Is a major holiday coming up in two days, but your pitch is unrelated? You may want to hold off. Was there a breaking news event, such as a natural disaster or election results, that’s keeping reporters occupied? If so, it might be better to wait.
Got an announcement coming up? You don’t want to wait until the week before to start planning your outreach. Plan ahead and determine how to prioritize your efforts.
4. Strong writing. Good writing never goes out of style. Trends may come and go, but writing skills will always matter. Do your best to hone what you write. Review, rewrite and review again. Carefully proof for typos and grammatical errors. If you can, get another set of eyes to review it to make sure it makes sense and is error-free. Could you strengthen it? Then spend more time on it.
5. Follow up skills. When we talk about media relations, it’s not a “one and done” type of activity. Yes, you sent a pitch via email—but if it didn’t get a response, you need to follow up. You issued a press release on the wire—great! But you need to pitch it, too. Tenacity is vital in PR. Make sure you’re not overlooking this part of the effort.
The bottom line: If you don’t have a relationship with a reporter, don’t let that keep you from pitching. Practice these tips in your work with reporters, and soon, who knows, you may have that sought-after relationship – whether you really need it or not.
Michelle Messenger Garrett is a public relations consultant, speaker and award-winning writer with more than 20 years of agency, corporate, startup and Silicon Valley experience. She works with clients ranging from small businesses to enterprises such as Adobe and HP, assisting them in crafting and carrying out a PR strategy to help them get the word out, get noticed and increase visibility, prospects and sales.
Photo: It's all about relationships on chalkboard via Shutterstock