Media Relations – The Same As It Always Has Been
Hopefully that headline caught your attention and drew some questions, or even skepticism. If you read on, I think you’ll get an idea of why some media relations practices executed years ago are still relevant today.
When I started in the field of public relations, my first projects was to develop a pitch to generate coverage of Verizon Wireless’ Road Warriors program. The program consisted of two network engineers in Charlotte, N.C. who drove a $250,000 Ford Taurus station wagon full of electronics across the Carolinas, testing their own wireless network and the networks of their competitors.
My assignment was to develop a pitch about the program, send it to a reporter in the Associated Press’ Charlotte bureau, and secure the story (ah, it was nothing to give a rookie an AP pitch for him to earn his stripes). Here’s basically what I did for my very first pitch more than 18 years ago:
- Gather all the facts about the story
- Develop a strong news-focused pitch and put it in writing
- Find out the contact information for the reporter and research what he/she covers
- Call the reporter
- Email the reporter the story
- Offer help securing both digital and traditional coverage of the story
- Follow up via phone
To be successful at media relations today, you still need to do all of these things and do them effectively. The process hasn’t changed that much except now some pitches are made via Twitter, Facebook, or other social media channels. Or, if you’re doing a national media relations campaign, you might utilize a service such as PR Newswire, Business Wire, PR Web, or leverage a team of affiliates across the country like the PR Consultants Group.
Today, I would say that the majority of PR professionals just send a pitch via email to a reporter and hope for the best. However, that’s where the process of media relations can fail.
If young practitioners, and old ones for that matter, aren’t willing to pick up the phone and call reporters, build relationships with them as individuals, and get to know what they cover and why, as well as their schedules, success will be hard to achieve. I know this because I have been on the other side, working as a reporter for two different daily newspapers. When I was a reporter, sometimes my perception was that public relations professionals saw us as robots ready and willing to write about any and everything they threw our way. Remember, reporters have a core job to do, just like those working in PR do. They are busy and hear from us on the PR side all day long.
So, did I secure my first-ever media pitch with the Associated Press? Well, Verizon Wireless’ Road Warriors became famous based on that one phone call to the AP reporter and the program is still promoted today by the company.
This one experience set a foundation for how I practice successful media relations today, but the main takeaway was the a phone call and follow-up can make all the difference in securing that great client hit.