What Cision’s 2017 State of the Media Report Tells Us About the Future of PR

With the media landscape constantly evolving, it’s essential that all PR practitioners are aware of current trends and shifts in order to remain at the forefront of their industry. In practicing digital public relations, it is particularly important to be aware of how journalists’ preferences are changing to better engage their growing online audience. Cision, a media communications database, recently released the results of their annual State of the Media Report, which surveyed more than 1,550 media professionals about their preferred practices, biggest challenges and trends to be mindful of. Here are some of the key takeaways from this report.

Know the journalist’s beat before you pitch

According to survey results, 51 percent of journalists reported pursuing a story because of a displayed knowledge of their work, a 16 percent increase from last year.State of the Media ReportBut how can public relations practitioners accommodate these preferences in a practical way?

  1. Create specialized pitches for industry-specific publications and research each outlet to find one reporter that is most likely to pursue your pitch. This way you’re targeting niche publications in a strategic and efficient way.
  2. Create a master list of reporters you have already established relationships with for each industry. This will not only make your life easier when trying to find specialized reporters, but they will appreciate you respecting their beat.
  3. Take one reporter from a few top publications out of your media list and do the necessary research to really personalize those pitches. Maybe reference an article they recently published or trend they often write about. By doing so, you’re showing a vested interest in them and establishing yourself as a quality resource. Even if you may not land an opportunity that time, it will build the foundation for a lasting relationship. Who knows, they might reach out to you again for a similar story in the future.
  4. Take advantage of resources like Help a Reporter Out (HARO), where reporters post story ideas and request reputable sources for them. By using this database, you have the opportunity to find specialized story topics that will leverage your expert sources while increasing your chances of successfully landing an opportunity.

Get creative with multimedia

With the news shifting to become shorter and more interactive, journalists are searching for elements to use in their stories that will both entice and engage readers. Nearly 70.5 percent of survey respondents reported almost or always incorporating multimedia into their stories, and they ranked the type of multimedia that they value the most as follows:

  1. Photos
  2. Social Media Posts
  3. Videos including YouTube
  4. Infographics
  5. User Generated Content – Videos Photos
  6. Web Polls
  7. Live Stream / Blogging Embeds
  8. Data Interactives
  9. Animated .gifs

Photos, social media posts and videos come as no surprise as the most integrated multimedia elements in stories, but this presents a major opportunity for infographics. Infographics are useful to not only support a pitch with facts that are presented in a captivating way, but they can be used as a lead for a story as well. But what if certain reporters don’t accept infographics? It never hurts to ask what form of multimedia they prefer to receive and make note of that so you don’t keep pitching them with content they’ll never use. Respecting and valuing their preferences will pay off because knowing what they commonly utilize for their stories will make them a great resource for future opportunities.

Provide valuable and differentiated resources

Journalists are constantly being pitched with press releases and new story ideas, and while survey results show that this is their most valued resource, it’s essential that PR professionals find a way to break through the noise and stand out with their pitching ideas. One way to do this is to tie the lead to something trending in the news or to an upcoming event, which we refer to as news and time pegs. This not only shows that you did your research, but that you are stepping in as a valuable resource by providing a fresh perspective to a bigger story. Expert interviews and story sources were ranked as the second most valuable resource to journalists, so make sure to constantly check resources like HARO for these specialized opportunities. Finally, always be sure that you are presenting ready-to-publish content that helps establish yourself as a credible source. This means going through your pitch and checking for accuracy, grammar and AP style, and being sure that each hyperlink works.

 

Ariana HeadshotAriana is a soon-to-be graduate of San Diego State University and current member of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). As a journalism major with an emphasis in public relations, she brings both traditional training and fresh ideas to Circa as their digital public relations and content marketing intern. Her creativity and passion for storytelling contribute to Circa’s digital public relations presence.

 

The Anatomy of a PR Pitch – How to Structure & Standardize Pitching Across Your Team

As any PR or communications professional knows, pitching is the single most important skill to possess. While there are various approaches and styles to this, it’s important to find a structure and style for pitching that has had proven success within your industry and then standardize that formula across your team. So how can you streamline the process of pitching to make team members as successful and efficient as possible? First, it’s important to identify the key components that make up every well-rounded PR pitch. While each pitch can, and often will, look a little different, we have found that there are four primary components that should be included in every pitch. Here are the four core components and their definitions:

Lead

The lead is the angle into your story. Keep this as short and concise as possible. A lead should be comprised of one of the following:

    • A news peg is a trending story or topic in the news that relates to what you’re pitching. For example, leveraging the presidential debate or a new medical study that was just released. This allows you to hook the reader with a relevant and widespread story.
    • A time peg represents an upcoming date or event. For example, anniversaries of days like 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina, days or weeks dedicated to specific causes like “Health IT Week” or “Mental Health Awareness Day,” or even months like “Breast Cancer Awareness Month.” These types of dates and events can be easily leveraged for PR purposes as media outlets will often shape content around significant or relevant time pegs. In order to keep track and take advantage of these dates, it’s helpful to create and consistently update an internal editorial calendar with your team.
Call to action (CTA)

This is the action that you want your audience to take. For instance, in our case this would often include speaking with a professor or publishing an infographic or blog on behalf of our clients.

Value proposition

This is where you allow yourself to stand out and differentiate yourself from the competition. Demonstrate the significance of what you’re pitching and why it’s important. What value would it provide to their publication and readership? How does it relate to the larger story? These are some of the questions you should address.

Conclusion

Quickly thank them for their time and reiterate what your goal or call to action (CTA) is. Keep this brief and to the point.

There are questions that you should always be asking yourself when writing a pitch. Here are a few of the important ones to keep in mind:

  • Who is your audience?
  • What is the larger story?
  • Why should they care about what you’re pitching?
  • What value does this provide them?
  • What story are you creating in your pitch?

To see how this formula looks in practice, I’ve included a pitch below which is color coded based on the four components I described above.

screen-shot-2016-09-29-at-10-53-38-am

 

Caroline-Black-and-White-tan-3-4Caroline brings a wealth of knowledge in communications, marketing, and account management to the Circa Interactive team, and she has worked with partners such as HP, Cisco, and Adobe. Graduating with honors in Business Administration and Marketing from the University of Oregon in 2011, Caroline now plays a key role in Circa Interactive’s digital PR strategy by building long term relationships with internationally recognized media outlets on behalf of our clients.

5 Digital Public Relations Challenges and How to Overcome Them

Digital public relations is a relatively new strategy used in digital marketing to increase organic rankings. It’s a practice where higher education marketers utilize public relations techniques to leverage the expertise and research of faculty members in order to acquire program links on high quality domains and publications. It’s a very important and exciting component of our larger SEO strategy, but it does not come without its own specific set of challenges. Below I will discuss some of the obstacles that are commonly faced when implementing PR for higher ed clients and how to best overcome them to ensure success.  

1) The academic and media worlds move at vastly different speeds

Challenge: 

Professors are accustomed to more lengthy turnaround times as the academic world can be a slow moving one, but unfortunately the media industry works at a different pace. While a story can be plastered all over the Internet in one day, a few days later it can just as easily seem irrelevant and overdone. This can become problematic when professors aren’t familiar with the short length of news cycles and, therefore, don’t have the same sense of urgency. More importantly, professors are incredibly busy people, which can make delivering timely articles or setting up interviews while the topic is still relevant much more challenging.

Solution:


Our first priority is to always respect the professor’s time and obligations, which is why we will resort to alternative solutions to accommodate worthwhile opportunities when there is a conflict of time. One way we accomplish this is by offering to jump on a quick call with them to write down their response to a media inquiry (something like a HARO or ProfNet request). This can save a lot of time and hassle on their behalf. If the reporter or editor’s schedule does not align with the professor’s calendar, then we will seek alternative options, such as providing an emailed response instead of a phone interview. If neither of these options work, then we will leverage the expertise of another professor if it aligns with the reporter’s need. Reporters are often very open to this option, but when it comes to major publications like CNN or the New York Times, it’s essential to try and work around the reporter’s schedule, because being published in these type of high quality publications has an extremely low probability and will provide invaluable exposure. It’s very easy for one of these reporters to stop returning emails if scheduling is an issue. 

2) Professor inexperience with media interviews

Challenge:


Some professors are less experienced with the media than others and, therefore, are not familiar with the process or the best ways to interact with members of the media. This can lead to professors straying from the topic at hand in an interview or using jargon that is not relatable to the average reader. A lack of media experience can also cause professors to be uncomfortable or distrusting of the media, and as a result, prompt them to request things of reporters, such as a copy of the article or interview, that can create a roadblock in the process. In one case, we had a professor leave an interview feeling that the reporter did not properly grasp his research and because of this, he wanted to see a copy of the article beforehand. While such instances are uncommon, they are in many ways understandable. Professors often have important research and grants underway, as well as outside careers that they don’t want to tarnish or jeopardize in any way with a poorly worded quote or a misrepresentation of their work.

Solution:

We overcome such challenges by not only thoroughly prepping a professor for an interview (sometimes providing them with an outline of interview questions provided by the reporter) but also by reassuring them that our first priority is their reputation. One way we ensure that they are not put in an adverse situation is by being on their interview calls. Although it’s extremely rare that we need to jump in, we make a point of being present so that we are able to take action in the rare event that a reporter crosses the line or pushes them too hard. We are also not afraid to request that a story be pulled if we think it might put the professor in a bad light. Building trust and mutual respect with professors is crucial to being successful. Again, these are extremely rare occurrences, but we want to be prepared nonetheless. 

3) Professor inexperience with non-academic writing

Challenge:

A huge part of a professor’s workload and research consists of publishing their findings in lengthy academic essays. These types of articles have a vastly different style and tone than bylines, which are created for news sites and blogs. Helping professors to understand this distinct difference will not only improve the chances of their article being published, but will also ease the overall process by requiring less edits and feedback which could potentially offend them.  

Solution:

We try to be as clear as possible upfront about the stylistic differences between the type of writing they’re used to and the style of writing required for media outlets to avoid wasting any of their time. We also provide website guidelines and examples of other articles that they should stylistically model their own writing after. If we still still don’t feel that their article effectively embodies the style and tone of the site, then we will provide thorough edits, explaining our reasoning and reiterating that it is their article and ultimately their decision whether to accept our feedback or not. When we go through all of these steps, they usually have a greater understanding and trust in our expertise and are very receptive to our suggestions.

4) Strict university branding guidelines & parameters

Challenge:

Universities often have very specific branding guidelines that they don’t want tarnished or altered. This adds an additional layer of pressure and thoroughness to any marketing/PR efforts done on their behalf.

Solution:

To ensure that you stick within these guidelines, it’s important to always vet out publications who want to feature a professor or program. If you’re unsure whether a publication will be a positive reflection of the school, then it’s always better to air on the side of caution and pass on an opportunity rather than risk the program’s trust and reputation. Your first priority should always be to preserve and enhance the university’s image.

5) Understanding Complex Research and Making it Relatable

Challenge:

A major component of any successful digital PR strategy for higher ed involves being able to comprehend and leverage the research being conducted within the university program. This requires having a thorough understanding of the material, which can sometimes be complex, and knowing how to best position it to the media so that it gains traction and interest. It is also very important to the integrity of the professor’s work that you represent and pitch it accurately.

Solution:

In order to accomplish this, we conduct initial interviews with all of the professors we work with. This enables us to dig much deeper into their current research and areas of expertise than their basic online bio’s will allow. We continuously stay up-to-date on relevant industry news which shows us where their research and expertise fits into the larger media narratives and, therefore, sheds light onto how their research can be applied to real-world settings. For example, one of our professor’s specializes in medical coding, and a big industry narrative we leveraged for his expertise was the transition from ICD-9 to ICD-10. While to the everyday person this might be mundane or unfamiliar, it was huge industry news that impacted most healthcare professionals nationwide. By subscribing to and reading healthcare news sites, we were able to effectively pitch and land placements in many relevant verticals for this professor.

Caroline-Black-and-White-tan-3-4Caroline brings a wealth of knowledge in communications, marketing, and account management to the Circa Interactive team. Graduating with honors  from the University of Oregon in 2011, Caroline now plays a key role in Circa Interactive’s digital PR strategy by building long term relationships with internationally recognized media outlets on behalf of our clients.

How a Higher Ed Marketer Can Stay Ahead of the Curve in Digital PR

At Circa Interactive, we work with a wide variety of programs and professors who each have their own specialized areas of interest, and in order to create high quality opportunities in the media, there are a number of factors that we have to be aware of in order to accomplish our goals of improving rankings and increasing organic traffic to the program’s targeted pages. It is vitally important that we are constantly ahead of the curve and combine a professor’s expertise and current research interests with what is happening throughout the world each and every day. So here are four factors that are essential to consider as a higher education marketer to stay ahead of the curve within digital PR.

Knowing the Professors

Understanding the expertise of a professor is incredibly important within higher education marketing. Without this information, it is difficult to know where to start. At Circa Interactive we conduct interviews with each professor to ensure that we have a detailed understanding of their academic interests and current research. This also gives us the opportunity to start creating potential story ideas during the interview. Before and after every interview, we research the professor’s interests and read some of their previously published work. Professors are extremely busy people, and we want to use the time we have to speak to them as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Creating Relationships

Building relationships with professors and journalists ensures that we stay ahead of the curve. Creating a mutual understanding with each professor means that there is trust within the relationship. We create this trust by doing our homework on all aspects of an outreach, ensuring that we know the specifics of their expertise. As we create more media opportunities for the professors, the relationship and trust will grow and develop.

Creating these relationships also ensures that we have the freedom to send pitches to major publications on a professor’s behalf without having to waste either party’s time gaining permission to do so. Being able to send a professor a quick email or give them a phone call regarding an opportunity means that opportunities can quickly turn into conversations and articles.  Building relationships with media contacts can also be pivotal.  We have built a media contacts list at Circa Interactive where we store key reporters who have spoken with our professors in the past. These individuals are often willing to speak to professors again.

Reading the News

Having access to the latest news is imperative. There are various ways that I understand what is happening throughout the world, and I consider each method to be as important as the next. I always make sure I spend a part of my day taking a look through either The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal.  Glimpsing at the headlines and seeing something that is related to one of our professors always gives me a great place to start when planning a pitch. A story that makes it into one of these publications is also sure to be one people are talking about.

Unfortunately I cannot just open the newspaper every day to find a story relevant to my professors; therefore conducting a news search online is pivotal. Searching key words related to each professor’s expertise can help me find out what is being talked about within each industry and enables me to track whether a particular story is developing into something that would benefit from the input of a professor.

Every person within the office at Circa Interactive has a great understanding of the media opportunities that we are trying to create, and by using an app called ‘slack’, a messaging tool for teams, it allows us all to share the news that we see. I also utilize social media when looking for news stories. This is often the quickest way for news outlets to update their audience, and it can certainly ensure that we are ahead of the game when it comes to sending out pitches. 140 characters are sometimes all it takes to come up with a great new idea.

Creating Stories

We don’t always just want our professors to comment on a big news story. We want to create a new conversation around an existing story. Reporters and editors at major publications will get hundreds of emails a day, and I want my pitch to stand out from the rest. This means that when they read the subject line, they need to be intrigued. I have to try and create the initial idea of the story for them. This came to fruition when we saw the news that three NFL teams were set to be investigated by the NFL for illegal drone use. We knew that our professor of electrical engineering could not only comment on this issue but also add his expert opinion on the likelihood of drone regulations being relaxed and the potential future of UAV technologies. This creativity then led to two opportunities with high level publications.

Bringing it all together

We create our best opportunities when all of these elements are brought together. We make sure that we read our news, link that news to a professor’s interest, create a story and pitch idea to send to the relevant reporters. Once we land the opportunity, we reach out to the professor who we have already begun to create a relationship from the beginning.

Creating these opportunities and then seeing a professor’s quotes or article published within a publication makes it all worthwhile. We interact with some of the brightest minds and greatest reporters in the country, and while it can be a challenge and there are sometimes obstacles along the way, it is certainly rewarding when it all comes together.

GeorgeGeorge has recently joined the Circa Interactive team in California following the completion of his masters in Marketing Management and Strategy where he graduated with distinction from Plymouth University in England. George is a PR and digital marketing specialist who is passionate about creating high level opportunities for professors within national publications.