Developing strong and mutually beneficial relationships with reporters and editors is crucial to being successful in digital public relations, and it can make the job much more seamless and efficient. While it takes time to develop relationships with reporters and editors, the payoff from these relationships will be more than worth the investment. Here are five ways to ensure that your PR strategy is performing at an optimal level by pitching smarter, not harder.
Do your research and personalize accordingly
To make a good impression, it’s essential to research and understand a reporter’s beat before sending them a pitch. A beat refers to the topic that a reporter covers. For example, a reporter could cover something broad like crime, sports, or nursing, or it could be even more specific like the city hall or a local sports team. By taking an in-depth look at the stories they’ve covered and the articles they’ve written recently, you’ll be able to get a thorough understanding of the stories they’re most interested in and will therefore have a much better chance of pitching them something they’ll be receptive to. Also, sending them a pitch that does not coincide with their beat can be an obvious giveaway that you haven’t done your research and are instead just sending generic emails to multiple reporters, which could hurt your chances of working with them in the future.
Including a relevant news peg or recent research at the beginning of your pitch is essential to capturing a reporter’s attention and can entice them to continue reading. Sending information that is even slightly inaccurate will instantly send signals that you’re an unreliable source.
Follow up, but bide your time
Follow-ups are a crucial part of the pitching process; journalists are extremely busy people and it can be easy to for them to miss an email or simply forget to reply. It is important to wait long enough to give them time to respond but not so long that the story is no longer relevant. Waiting one week is a good rule of thumb, unless it’s a very time-sensitive subject, in which case it’s OK to follow up a couple of days sooner.
Follow-ups should only be a few sentences long and contain keywords from your original pitch, such as a news peg, statistic, or source, that will help to jog a reporter’s memory of your angle. You should also include the original pitch at the bottom of the email in case they want to refer to the more detailed version. A follow up email should always have a slightly different subject line while also incorporating the original one. For example, using “‘just following up” or “last try” tends to increase the open and response rates to your pitch.
Finally, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone when it makes sense, but always be mindful of a reporter’s time zone. You don’t want to call them early in the morning or late at night. Showing that you have an understanding of their schedule and are respectful of their time will go a long way in building a long lasting relationship.
Track pitches and wins
Keeping a list of media contacts that you have developed a professional rapport with can be a great way to maintain relationships and land easy PR wins in the future. It’s important to send these contacts personalized pitches and reference any previous work that you’ve done with them. This will help to show your appreciation for the media placements they have helped to facilitate and ensure that they remember who you are. You should be pitching these contacts often enough that you remain relevant in their mind but not so often that you are flooding their inbox, which tracking your pitches and contacts will help to manage.
When working with the media, speed of response is critical to success. You cannot sit on a journalist’s response for a couple of days, or even a few of hours in some cases, without potentially losing the opportunity completely. Even if you don’t have a concrete answer for them right away, it’s important to at least let them know that you’re working on it so that they don’t seek out someone else instead. Not responding quickly is a sure fire way to damage a relationship with reporters and editors. You will only have one opportunity to get it right, so clear communication with everyone involved is vital.
Reporters may come to you just before they are about to wrap up an article requesting items like bio information and/or a headshot for a source you’ve helped to connect them with. Having these types of resources on hand at all times will ensure that you don’t delay the reporter or their article. As you build relationships, try to remember how specific journalists work and whenever possible, stay one step ahead of them by anticipating their needs or requests before they even ask. If you are able to do this, you are sure to be a contact the reporter will want to work with again.
George has recently joined the Circa team in California following the completion of his master’s in marketing management and strategy degree, 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.