When I first started out in PR, I spent countless hours combing through Bacon’s books (yes, actual books with real paper) researching media contacts for clients. Once I had my lengthy Excel document created with hundreds of email addresses, I BCC’d them all and sent them my very newsworthy press release out into cyberspace.
I wish that first PR job experience had taught me a little more about how to actually do smart media relations (as opposed to how to operated the BCC function of Outlook,) but c’est la vie.
Fast-forward to present day and PR pros (even those just starting out) can find several media-friendly tools and channels to share their newsworthy story ideas with media. Here are a few of my favorites (and no, they do not involve the BCC button…EVER!):
Get on it. Follow the media outlets you like and those you want your clients featured in. Find out which writers cover the beat you’re pitching and engage them through Twitter. Retweet their information and ask them questions. Remember, it’s not always about ‘you, you, you’, so keep the pitching to a minimum unless you’re certain it will be a good fit or of interest. And keep the conversation going. Don’t be a ‘fair weather’ Twitter friend.
Once you’ve made the connections or worked with someone, make sure to connect with them on LinkedIn, so that you can monitor where they’re going, what they cover and whom else they’re connected with. Also, it’s always nice to send a congratulatory note when you see they’ve been promoted or assigned a big project. LinkedIn is a good opportunity for you to showcase your own clients and work. Make sure your information is current and that you’re online making connections.
3. Lunch / Drinks
Never underestimate the power of breaking bread or happy hour. It helps break down barriers and allows you to spend quality time together in a casual setting. Don’t feel pressured to talk only about work or to make it the focus. This is your chance to get to know one another better. Some of my best friends started out as media members I met through work. There are so many commonalities between media members and PR professionals that you’ll be sure to find plenty to discuss and laugh about. Later down the road, when you have a story idea to pitch, you’ll be able to feel out the media member’s interest much better and get their candid take because of the face time spent together.
4. Social Events
Yes, it’s 5 p.m. and your email just blew up on you. Should you really scoot out early to that social event or grand opening at the new restaurant in town? Absolutely! It gives you a great opportunity to speak with local media about what they’re working on and to tell them what’s new with you in a fun setting. Plus, you never know what new media members you might bump into.
Keep those emails short and smart. Make sure to identify who you are, why it is you’re emailing them and what it is that you’re asking them to do. Cater your pitch to their beat and areas that interest them. Bullets are your best friends, tons of copy are not. Try to limit or eliminate the use of attachments. And try not to follow up more than once or twice (depending on the level of your relationship with that media member.) More than that and you’ll risk being blackballed. And please, please, please, read their work before you hit send.
Thoughts? Feel free to share below!