26
86
Gini Dietrich

Media Relations in the Digital Age

By: Gini Dietrich | September 30, 2013 | 
79

Media Relations in the Digital Age

By Gini Dietrich

I still look in the mirror and see my 27-year-old self. It certainly doesn’t feel like I’ve been practicing communications for more than 15 years. But when I think back to how things were done at the beginning of my career versus today, it’s easy to see how that many years have flown by.

We used to write news releases, advertorials, feature stories, and more, print them out, overnight them to the client, and wait for their feedback. A few days later, the feedback would come back, via an overnight package, and we’d make the changes, mark it final, and send for their signature.

Today that seems like an incredible waste of time (and trees). I can still picture the outbox where the envelopes were collected to be sent at the end of each day.

As well, media relations used to be about getting invited to editorial board meetings, hosting journalists at week-long events so they could learn more about your organization, and finding a reason to have lunch, coffee, or dinner with journalists to build your relationship with them.

Long after that became a no-no, there were still some journalists who would see you on the sly … and you knew who they were and how to approach them. In fact, there was one Chicago Sun-Times reporter who practiced that until he retired two years ago.

The Great Recession

While these things were beginning to change for ethics reasons, when the economy crashed in 2008, things really began to change.

Suddenly the journalists with whom you’d built relationships with during your career were taking mandatory furloughs or, worse, being laid off. Those who were left were suddenly covering three or four topics, when only one was their expertise.

The need for a PR professional became even more needed, but because journalists were so busy, they resented those who called or emailed simply for the sake of keeping the relationship alive.

Then, of course, social media entered the fray and journalists began to use that and their own content to find sources. The good old days of picking up the phone and chatting about the stories that were forthcoming to see if your organization was a fit are very slim and the web has changed the way we communicate.

It’s pretty easy to understand networking and building relationships with human beings. We all do and have our entire lives.

What’s more difficult to understand is how to do that using technology and without ever actually speaking to someone who can help you tell your story.

Manage Media Relations in the Digital Age

Following are some tips for you to consider using when you embark on a media relations program.

  1. Use the social networks. If you have targeted publications or journalists for your industry, find them on the social networks. More than likely, they are on Twitter and you can follow them there. Add them to a Twitter list so you see everything they tweet. Find a reason to connect with them there, even if it’s just to introduce yourself, and keep the conversation going on Twitter every day. Soon enough you’ll find something they are working on that is a fit for you.
  2. Read their articles. Unless they’re in TV, most journalists have something you can read and comment on. Many will read the comments on their articles to source new people to call. If you offer a differing opinion or provide more information on the topic, it’s highly likely they will contact you for future stories. For a step-by-step process on how to do this, check out Six Tips to Pitch Journalists On Your Own.
  3. Send a personalized email. The other day I received an email from a peer that said she loved reading Spin Sucks. She said she just wanted to introduce herself. She wrote a couple of sentences about how she thought the two of us could work in the future and she ended it there. I fully expect to receive a pitch from her soon, but she started out by engaging with me instead of asking something of me.
  4. Send something in the mail. When Marketing in the Round came out last year, I bought several copies to send to journalists when it was appropriate. But if you don’t have a book, a handwritten note works extremely well in today’s fast-paced, digital world.
  5. Personalize your pitches. It’s pretty easy to write a news release about your latest news, copy it into an email, add a bunch of email addresses, and hit send. But that never, ever works. You’ve spent all this time getting to know your industry journalists. Don’t insult them by sending something you sent to everyone on your list.
  6. Be available to talk about industry trends. There will be times you don’t have any news to share or the news you do have doesn’t fit anything your targeted journalists are writing. But they may ask you to comment on industry trends or industry news. While it may be just a quote in a bigger story, the strategy here is to be helpful as often as possible. That will lead to a bigger story centered around you.

If you do just one of these six things, and you are consistent and smart about it, you soon will have some media relations success.

A version of this first appeared in my weekly AllBusiness Experts column.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is available now.

73 comments
peachergraf
peachergraf

Isn’t it funny how an occasional “snail mail” can grab attention since it has become such a rare form of communication today?Thanks for the tips and trip down “media relations memory lane."

rwohlner
rwohlner

Boy number 5 really hits home.  I blog about what my tagline says:  "Unbiased information about financial planning, investments, and retirement plans."  I don't blog about debt reduction, saving money shopping or any of the other totally unrelated topics about which I continually received emails from PR "professionals" pitching stories to mention on my blog.  I'm not knocking these topics but its clearly not what I write about.  Clearly these folks are in the camp of throwing enough crap out there and something will stick mode.  End of rant.

By the way love the new FB profile pic, I can really see the family resemblance.

Cision NA
Cision NA

Dead-on, Gini. I especially love #4. I'm a sucker for mail and have seen our SVP open packages from companies I'm certain she wouldn't open emails from.

Great examples!
Lisa

TaraGeissinger
TaraGeissinger

Love this because I totally remember doing PR like that. For local clients we used a courier service. I'd put the envelope at the front desk and wait for the client's call. Good times!

NicoleCollida
NicoleCollida

I completely agree with #6 - absolutely critical.  It establishes you as an expert outside of your current company/pitch/client.  It works extremely well in my world - market research - and has helped me develop stronger and more senior relationships with my clients.  Great point!

alliteespring
alliteespring

Hey! This sounds like awfully like what I think of as the "extended version" of your response to my question about pitching!  What a strange sentence that one was to type....

Anyhow, thanks for sharing!  4 and 6 never crossed my mind.  We like to send "swag" out to customers who have done awesome things for us (introduced us to someone who created significant revenue, finished a length survey for us, participated in a  contest, etc.)  Interesting to think that that move could be refined and recycled in regards to media relations.  

Biggest takeaway? Offer yourself as a resource (or even just a sincere fan!) before you make an ask.  Good point, GIni.

John_Trader1
John_Trader1

As with any profession, a little elbow grease (e.g. personalizing email pitches and introductory messages) goes a long way. I can't tell you how much international journalists appreciate a personalized note or message letting them know you are there and available as a resource to help them whittle down a global industry vendor list. I encourage everyone to be persistent, but not annoying when reaching out. A message and follow up is ok, but leave it there - don't barrage journalists with messages until they respond.  

bradmarley
bradmarley

Word up, @ginidietrich . I think we all need to be reminded of this. Recession or not, these are important tips.

When I began my current work three years ago, I sent a personalized introductory note to some of the key media in the space, letting them know what I would be doing, as well as how I could help them. I also said I would be targeting them, which sort of gave them the chance to tell me if they would rather not receive my pitches.

The emailing took me all of four hours.

It didn't lead to immediate coverage, but it helped position me as a resource for future inquiries, and I have worked together with them on a few stories.

(And sometimes they take pity on me and take an interview, even if they have no intention of writing. I'm okay with that.)

ClayMorgan
ClayMorgan

Amen!

 We are on the verge of October, which means we're in the midst of being overwhelmed by press releases and pitches related  to Breast Cancer Awareness month. Most are important and they are very valid, but they will come from across the nation and won't be focused on my market.

A few years ago, I had such a pitch from a guy at a PR agency. I explained to him that while he represents one of the foremost cancer centers in the state, and the information he provided is very important, they were a five hour drive away and our paper was heavily focused on local news. I told him if you want in my paper, tell me something local.

About two weeks later, I got an email from him. "I have stats that show your city is number one in the state in preventable cancer deaths. Wanna chat?"

Heck yea I wanted to chat! And we did the story and his client was very prominently featured as an expert resource.

THAT'S how it is done.

Latest blog post: Livefyre Conversation

aimeelwest
aimeelwest

#5 Personalize your pitch. In this day and age where you can just add people to an email and then send out one instead of 20 or 50 I think that we tend to forget there is a person on the other side of that email. I know I love it when I get someone that personalizes it to what I might need. 


JoeCardillo
JoeCardillo

@alliteespring Agree. Be there in the ecosystem that matters to the person you want to connect to. If you do it right by then you're not even pitching them, you're having a conversation with someone intrigued by the same things as you. 

JoeCardillo
JoeCardillo

@bradmarley Hey while everyone else is chasing mass coverage on the cheap, you are creating relationships that matter.  Good for you. Journalists rarely say "this post is nearer to my heart than others" or "I wrote this article because I had to" but it shows in the writing and, these days, their sharing of it across social networks. 

TaraGeissinger
TaraGeissinger

@ClayMorgan Awesome story! This pin-points exactly what so many are missing. He got it -- and as a consequence got the story.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@ClayMorgan THAT is how it's done! I love that he listened to you, took it to heart, and found something valuable for you.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@aimeelwest It's amazing how well it works. It's harder work, but it's much more effective.

Word Ninja
Word Ninja

@aimeelwest I just sent a letter of intro to a business owner last week offering my services for a much-needed web content facelift. We'll see what happens. :)

JoeCardillo
JoeCardillo

@ginidietrich @peachergraf Sometimes I think it's just one big signal & noise cycle, and the best place to be is in the medium tail (to borrow a phrase from SEO).

aimeelwest
aimeelwest

  Hard Work!? What? But I thought this was going out to fancy eateries and drinking... I mean I did see Absolutly Fabulous when I was a kid ;)

aimeelwest
aimeelwest

@Word Ninja Good luck! I'd love to know if they say anything about the personal letter. 

belllindsay
belllindsay

@TaraGeissinger @Word Ninja @aimeelwest @ginidietrich I get so many pitch emails that are so obviously the generic, fill in "your company name", "blog name" etc., emails - and let me tell you I almost NEVER respond to any of them. The people who have done a little research, and caught my attention with a personal line or two - those people get my time - and often a chance to guest blog with us. :) 

Trackbacks

  1. […] one major role in PR is being a liaison between your company and the media, media relations may be a completely separate gig. It is your job to craft informative and compelling news releases […]

  2. […] Twitter is the ultimate introduction platform. You can tweet to a complete stranger and it is perfectly normal. So why not break the ice with that journalist on Twitter? Reply, retweet, or favorite a few of their tweets to start the connection. […]

  3. […] integrate ourselves into the organization in a way that allows us to combine our communications and media relations skills with a seamless knowledge of the organization and landscape. In many ways that’s one of […]

  4. […] I’m going to be blunt in my discussion of media relations. […]