During a course at the New York Times Travel Show, one of the professional development focus areas was travel industry media, blogging and social media. Some journalists and bloggers that attended the event made several negative statements, such as: “emailed press releases often arrive addressed to someone else, so clearly they’re distributed to many journalists … why would I be interested in information that was sent to every media outlet?” and “I get press releases about topics that are completely irrelevant to my coverage area, so clearly the PR person hasn’t looked at my work.”
We were surprised to hear that, and honestly thought these days were way behind us. When we began our careers, public relations was rarely included in a business strategy and few managers believed PR had any impact on business development. And with pitching strategies like mail-merge and “PR by the pound” who would be surprised.
But that’s no longer the case. Nowadays PR works together with other marketing practices, enhancing brand image and customer experience. But even though we are respected and appreciated among our marketing peers, it’s pretty clear that the same cannot be said for the PR-media relationship, if we consider the journalists’ comments at the Travel Show.
Competent PR Pros know that it’s vital to research media targets and target pitches based on each reporter’s interests, so why were so many journalists at the trade show claiming they still receive pitches like those made last century?
Maybe it’s time to regroup, re-evaluate, and have a look at the list of “Don’ts” that ensure your PR work is hand in hand with journalists, and can therefore have a bigger impact on the business or brand you’re promoting.
Don’t send mass emails to journalists you don’t know. These are professionals that see right through generic communications and will just ignore it! Instead, try to form relationships with target media, keep them in the loop with press releases you know they won’t likely cover but that keep them up-to-date with your company’s activities. Remember, you have to send a tailored pitch if you want a reporter to pay attention your story angle.
When pulling together your media list, don’t just run a search in your media database for all journalists who cover a certain topic and then just throw the information into a spreadsheet. Use this information as a starting point, and take your research to the next level by reviewing coverage by the specific journalists to clarify accuracy.
Don’t forget about the follow-up calls. Many journalists are open to receiving follow up calls, but one thing is sure: you have to give it time. Don’t call a reporter within minutes of sending them an email, they will surely resent it. I’m sure you check your email regularly, but you don’t sit there reading and immediately responding to every note that comes through. And that’s especially true if you think about the sheer volume of email journalist receive. Unless your pitch contains breaking news, take a day or two before following up. But if you are dealing with breaking news, just pick up the phone from the start.
We all know that PR people also often receive praises from journalists for providing critical access and information to support their story development. There are many excellent PR Pros out there, but let’s not forget these important pitching strategies!