Written by Paula Toole
There’s much more to a good media relations strategy than just having a great story.
Knowing what to say, how and when to say it and who to say it to are critical to the success of your sell-in to the media. But what is effective media relations, and how do you ensure your news pitch is successful?
Media relations is constantly evolving so having a strategy at the outset is key. Today’s journalists have more routes to finding a news story than ever before. There are a lot of brands clamouring for the same space, so journalists have more choice, meaning the need to stand out is more important than ever.
The explosion of social media – often breaking a story even before a media outlet can – has also impacted on the speed of news reporting. This, in turn, has shortened the reaction time required by PR consultants to maximise an opportunity on the back of a trending topic.
More brands are now creating their own media outlets and publishing platforms, meaning news has become more accessible. In addition, Covid-19 has changed the way journalists operate. With many working from home and a large proportion furloughed over the last 12 months, reporters are time poor and their need for high value, relevant content, packaged correctly and delivered at the right time is more important to them than ever.
But despite the challenges and an ever-changing media landscape, there are still some fundamental principles of good media relations that you can follow to ensure you get results:
Know your audience
Read. Watch. Listen. To be a good PR practitioner you need to understand your client’s audience and that of the media outlets you’re targeting. It’s important to be constantly tuned into what is happening in their sector.
For your news pitch to have credibility and authenticity, it must give the journalist what they want, written in the way they want it. Read the publications you’re targeting regularly, look at the outlet’s social media accounts and see what topics and news it is posting about, then tailor your pitch to suit the same tone.
Always be switched on, track online conversations around your topic and use social listening tools to spot trends that you can react to. Being on top of the latest happenings in your client’s sector, and the issues that are high on the news agenda, will also give you the ability to weave more knowledge and credibility into your pitch. It shows a journalist that you’re on the ball and you really understand what makes news for their readers.
By this I don’t mean hounding a journalist, but there’s a lot to be said for going the extra mile. A sustained follow up strategy and a polite request for feedback either way on the appeal of your story will usually get a response.
Whilst many journalists today prefer an email pitch in the first instance don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and speak to them. A good old-fashioned conversation can reap many rewards.
Most will appreciate this and give you honest feedback, but don’t forget you could be one of hundreds calling on any given day. Factor in the time poor, work from home scenario most journalists are dealing with right now and, if you don’t hear back after a few attempts, then let it go.
Timing is everything too, so be aware of the deadlines for the publication you’re targeting and the current day’s breaking news agenda. Something may derail your story through simple bad timing so be cognisant of other factors that could be deemed more important and back off until the time is more appropriate.
You may not get that immediate bite on day one but if they’re interested, they will come back to you when they’re ready.
When creating your pitch think about why the media – and their readers – will be interested in what you’ve got to say. Also consider how it can be packaged for maximum impact and why should they take notice amongst all the other stories that will be flooding their inbox. The answer is simple – great storytelling.
No matter how much the way we consume media or pitch it may change the skill of the PR consultant in telling a great story will always be vital to its success. Identify your news angle and answer all the questions a journalist is looking for – the who, why, how, what, where and when.
Make it engaging and fit for purpose. Don’t over embellish, use the right language and tone of voice for your target publication and always keep the reader in mind.
However, building the reputation of a brand with a good PR strategy and sound storytelling isn’t just about media relations. It needs to involve a robust social media and content strategy too. As brands become publishers themselves and the masters of their own voice, don’t forget to think about where your client’s owned media can be outreached for positive impact.
The old adage ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ is absolutely true. A good (or bad) picture can make or break a story. No picture at all? Well, you might not even get a look in! Great images can also be used on your website and social channels too so you should always advise that your clients to invest in good photography.
However, to get the most out of your media relations activity and gain more trackable results of a story’s impact you need to consider a mix of traditional and digital assets. Impactful video content, infographics, website landing pages – they all help underpin the story and give the reader a place to go to find out more. These value-added visual tactics can really help tell a story that stays with the reader for much longer.
Roll out the experts
Many media outlets still want expert voices and comment from business leaders. Thought leadership and relevant comment that provides value and insight is very popular and desired by journalists.
Whether it’s a long lead opportunity or newsjacking, expert comment is a highly effective approach to getting your client’s voice heard in the space they want it to be.
Moreover, with the widespread rise in video interviews due to Covid-19, national broadcast coverage with expert voices is now more attainable and much more accessible than ever – no matter where you are located. This method of interview looks set to continue long after Covid-19 has gone so don’t put off that national broadcast pitch – it’s yours for the taking.
Are you looking for support with PR and media relations? Contact us today or get in touch with our associate director Paula on t: +44 (0)7950 682202 or e: firstname.lastname@example.org