Gini Dietrich

Seven Step Process for Media Relations

By: Gini Dietrich | July 24, 2014 | 

Media RelationsBy Gini Dietrich

I miss the old days of Twitter.

We used to have really interesting conversations, debates, and even arguments. Sarah Robinson created a Twitter party where people would send links to songs and we would all work while listening to what was recommended by our friends.

Of course, back then we all had a little extra time because the economy forced it. But it’s rare to get in-depth about our passions on the social network today.

That’s why, when Carrie Morgan got me all wrapped up in talking about PR professionals and what we hate about the work some of them do, I may or may not have spent too much time in the conversation.

I said:

I am a PR pro so I feel like I can talk about this. It’s like I can call my brother ugly, but you cannot.

(My brother, by-the-way, is not ugly.)

Are PR Pros Ugly?

I’m certainly not calling PR pros ugly. There are, however, certain things about the way some conduct media relations that makes the entire industry look bad.

Being a blogger and a PR pro gives me a different perspective. It’s interesting to be pitched by people who seemingly know what they’re doing (with titles of managing something or vice president), but to watch them do it so wrong.

It’s hard work. You’re building relationships with human beings. You’re doing it so they do something in return for you. Sending a news release via email and crossing your fingers and toes, hoping someone will run it, is not strategic or effective.

In some cases, I know I’m preaching to the choir because the Spin Sucks readers totally get this. It’s also something I blog about often enough that the message should reach those who are not Spin Sucks readers.

If you already effectively manage your media relations program as outlined below, please send this to a colleague or peer who does not.

One blog post at at time, we will change the way PR practitioners do media relations.

Seven Step Process for Media Relations

For those of you who are still using the spray and pray method to media relations, this is for you.

  1. The online media directories, such as Cision and Vocus, are a starting point. They help you create lists easily and target effectively, but the services do not do the research for you.
  2. Do your  research. I get an email at least five times every day that has nothing to do with anything we cover here. There is no way I’m going to cover a franchise opening or your CEO talking about the latest widget. One of my favorites of the year? Someone wrote an article on Super Bowl advertising, sent it to hundreds of people in the “to” line (didn’t even BCC everyone) and invited all of us to run it as is. I guess that PR pro has never heard of Google Panda or duplicate content.
  3. Go online. It used to be we would get out the big, green Bacons books, copy a list of people, and then either subscribe to the magazines and newspapers or go to the library and check them out to do research. I remember how exciting it was when everything went online. No more hours of research. But no one uses the Internet. Every, single blog has an “about” page, which typically includes what they write about and how to pitch them. READ THAT.
  4. Stop the spam. It is against the law to send unsolicited email. While you can send an email to a media list without having the recipients opt-in, your email should be sent from a server that allows people to unsubscribe with the click of a button. It helps you if they unsubscribe. Now you know your news isn’t relevant to them.
  5. Stop emailing multiple times. Because most bloggers have day jobs and most journalists are covering several beats, the delete button is their friend. If you don’t get a response the first time, it’s perfectly acceptable to send one more email. But an email every day or the “just emailing you again to get to the top of your inbox”? You’re going to get the wrath of someone who is having a bad day.
  6. If I tell you no, don’t contact someone else. Our favorite thing in the whole entire world is when Lindsay Bell or Jess Ostroff tell someone no and they come to me. Not only is that throwing them under the bus, it provides me an opportunity to add you to our black list for going above the people who make the decisions. No means no for the entire publication or blog.
  7. For the love of all things great, don’t call someone out on Twitter for not responding to your email. That’s the fastest way to get on someone’s big poop list.
As Mitch Joel says, “If the pitch is relevant to me, it works 100 percent of the time.”

Wouldn’t you rather follow the steps above, create a really relevant pitch, send it to only 20 people and have all of them run something instead of sending the same, exact pitch to 2,000 people and have no one run it?

After our Twitter chat, I wrote a version of this for Carrie’s blog, Rock the Status Quo. I’ve updated it for you. 

Photo credit: That’s the typewriter that sits on my desk!

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • Great post but I think “big poop list” is the phrase that will remain stuck in my head all day! Agree it’s not a desirable place to be — and pretty easy to avoid given these steps.

  • Ha! Will be stuck in my head too all day I’m sure.
    Gini, I miss the old days of twitter too. Sigh.

  • TaraFriedlundGeissinger

    The big green Bacons book!! Oh man, I haven’t thought of that in a loooong time. My how the internet has made things so much easier — almost too easy sometimes. When I read posts like this I just shake my head in disbelief.

  • Really love this clear, directly stated info. We struggle with coming up with the time to do the real relationship development work that’s needed, when the “send” button and the internet distribution methods are do darn easy.

  • I want to suggest we just reply to bad pitches with a link to this blog post, but do we think those folks will actually READ what you send them? The ones too lazy to read the “about” page? …

  • This is such valuable info…it should be emailed to EVERY company/organization!
    Just wondering though, if @laurapetrolino says no is ok to ask you then? 😉

  • I’m not getting back on my horse about this this morning because that would require effort. You are 100% correct on all points. Trust me…

  • I love that you do all your writing on that typewriter then fax it to Eleanor Pierce to be typed into your blog. 8)

    I think that modern tools has made a lot of people lazy. I also think many PR/Media Relations/Publicists forget the value of a placement (again why do they not require Finance classes for Public Relations?). If getting coverage has value figure it out. If getting placed in a NY Times article is worth say $5000 to your client do you really think a blind pitch with no relationship or research entitles you to that? If you are the publication my guess is you know your value and will be offended someone will expect that. In fact if I was the publication I might want lunch or cupcakes or a freaking phone call. I might even discuss advertising (I know we hate pay to play but reality is you will cover your customers faster than non-customers).

    Don’t be a noob and don’t annoy.

  • Betsy Brand I am curious how many PR Pros find success doing the mass send. If it doesn’t work why keep doing it?

  • EmilyNKantner

    My favorite was when people would call and tell me they already made arrangements with my male boss–who had a unisex name–but they were supposed to follow up with me: “I’m a friend of her’s, and she said it’s ok.” I don’t know who she is, but I know you’re full of it!

  • stevesonn

    Great steps indeed. It can be tempting sometimes to try and cut corners when it comes to media relations and pitching, but doing so only limits the potential for success. For as much as things have changed, good media relations remains the same. If possible, it also helps to try and form at least on online relationship with the writer. It doesn’t guarantee coverage, but it does increase the likelihood you will be recognized and your idea considered.

  • stevesonn It’s all about relationships. If the person recognizes you, you have a higher likelihood of getting anything through.

  • EmilyNKantner WOW! Wow. Just wow. Wow.

  • Howie Goldfarb Eleanor Pierce We all know people can guest write for Spin Sucks if they send us cupcakes.

  • ClayMorgan You’re not in for a little effort this morning?

  • lizreusswig Oh sure. Ask Laura and then come to me. Squirrel lady.

  • Eleanor Pierce You know, I’ve considered that.

  • Betsy Brand It’s kind of like the guest post that ran here yesterday about complaining on the social networks. It’s so easy to hit the tweet button and not go through the trouble of having a conversation first.

  • Howie Goldfarb Betsy Brand Part of it is because they’re under immense pressure to just get it out. And part of it is because junior professionals are pitching and don’t know any better. Their bosses are tell them to do it this way.

  • TaraFriedlundGeissinger I loved those things! I worked with them for a very long time.

  • LSSocialEngage biggreenpen LOL! I don’t allow swearing here so that’s what you get!

  • JohnMTrader

    I think one phrase that can easily sum up this entire post is: “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Holy cow does this ring true with journalists.

    One thing I do want to add is, if you screw up and accidentally (I use this term loosely here) send a pitch that wasn’t meant for someone, take the time to apologize, and save a little face. Journalists LOVE honesty and it’s a good way to show them you are sincere in your mistake and they may be more open to reading a future pitch that is applicable to them.

  • Funny that you wrote about this today – because this morning, I got a FANTASTIC pitch. Human, funny, explained clearly who the person was and why they wanted to write for us (In fact even said “I am NOT looking to link bait here, I want to help bring a few eyeballs to our blog, which we’ve worked so hard at and I’m so proud of!” (paraphrased, but you get the gist). I responded positively (of course, we will need his story ideas, etc., to make a final decision), but he earned that chance to get to the second level. And, I told him exactly that, and gave him props! People should hear from you when they send a great pitch. So many times in this life the only feedback we get is when something goes wrong. Positive energy goes a long way. Made my morning.

  • EmilyNKantner BAHAHAHAHA! I love that!!!!!

  • ginidietrich lizreusswig Laura has no sway over the content department. 😉

  • Oh, sure, Gini, blame it all on me! ROFL  Love, love, love your article! 

    Can you email me a great (or terrible) pitch you or your team has received? I need fodder for my Rock The Pitch column on Fridays.

  • EmilyNKantner Unbelievable!!

  • ginidietrich Eleanor Pierce LOL – do it!! #littletroublemaker

  • JohnMTrader

    ginidietrich EmilyNKantner So, wow?

  • ginidietrich ClayMorgan Not when the people who do it wrong aren’t going to listen anyway.


  • JohnMTrader So well said…and I’m writing that phrase on a sticky note now.

  • ClayMorgan ginidietrich Too many dumb emails this week Clay? heh = )

  • lizreusswig Agree, this is advice that everyone needs to know before sending emails, not just PR people.

  • JoeCardillo ClayMorgan ginidietrich 🙂

  • CarrieMorgan ginidietrich Eleanor Pierce You should totally do that. In fact, just make up an email template with some sort of hilarious image + link to the post. I’ve never done it but I bet you could use IFTTT or something in Gmail to auto-respond to certain trigger phrases.

  • Well said – no reason for me to rehash any of it. But as an add, excellent corollary advice + examples of guest post pitching here:

  • JoeCardillo CarrieMorgan ginidietrich Eleanor Pierce I can see it now! It just begs for a snarky meme! Argh, but conscience intrudes, dang it. 

    BE KIND. We must remember to be kind!!

  • CarrieMorgan JoeCardillo ginidietrich Eleanor Pierce I know…it’s not my style either. Even if I think someone did something dumb, or irresponsible, I still want them to be better…and being snarky rarely helps with that.

  • ginidietrich Howie Goldfarb Eleanor Pierce It takes lot of postage to get cupcakes to Toronto, Maine, Oregon, Illinois and Tennessee, but that’s what’s called an “investment.”

  • These are all great and easy to implement tips, but the sad part is, most of these aren’t just media relationships tips, most are basic: “This is how you communicate with other people tips.” It’s not like you missed this day in school or just don’t know “media relations.” 

    Start with a level of respect for who you are, who you represent, and other people. Go from there.

  • jccarcamo

    My two cents may be specific to only a handful of industries, but when you work in a highly regulated industry it’s better to build relationships and “educate” some media contacts than to treat them like idiots or bad children. I used to work with someone like that. I still cringe when I think of how proud this person always was for putting reporters in their places.

  • The spam issue is especially significant, because many people still distribute press releases by using the BCC field in Outlook. This doesn’t give journalists an opt-out.  

    My solution? No more mass blasts. Send each journalist the press release individually, prefaced by a short tailored pitch offering a unique angle to your news that fits their needs and interests. 

    It resolves the spam issue while instilling some best practices behavior and drastically improving your placement rate. If you are sending a custom pitch, hopefully, you’ll look at that reporter first to make sure they are a relevant fit to your news, and craft a pitch that fits their needs. Not yours. 

    It also makes sure you don’t have a huge list of journalists not relevant to your story. Who wants to pitch hundreds of reporters? You’ll slim down your list to the ones that really matter. Another best practice. =)

  • I admire your stand on the attempt by the railroaders to bypass the professionals responsible for decision making. It is one of my biggest pet peeves in corporations. It is a true sign of leadership and faith in the professional staff when the CEO stands by their people. How can I trust a CEO who doesn’t trust the staff he/she has hired? When an outsider attempts to throw someone under the bus it is poor etiquette and rude but if the leader reinforces that poor behavior, it is shameful and for me damages the organizations reputation. It also reflects on quality retention of professionals. Respect is a circle, not a one way street…I respect that you are wearing the designation ‘dead end street’ in this regard.

  • annelizhannan Dead end street is putting it mildly. Maybe, “There is a giant cliff here. Stop and turn around!”

  • CarrieMorgan Or worse, an email sent to everyone in the TO field. This just happened to me and people were replying all. I wanted to kill someone.

  • jccarcamo I think that’s relevant to every industry. What if you’re working with a colleague and not a journalist and behave that way? Bad form.

  • LauraPetrolino I wonder if the common sense rule is missing because so many of us learn media relations this way when we graduate from college? I know some of the things I did early in my career would make me cringe now.

  • CarrieMorgan Hey belllindsay, can you send Carrie the pitch you just got that you loved?

  • JoeCardillo The interesting thing about this is I’ll bet Alex isn’t a communicator by trade. He just knows how to get something done with human beings.

  • belllindsay Well, now you have to share!

  • JohnMTrader THAT is a great point!

  • ginidietrich JoeCardillo Right? Proves the point that excellent reading, writing, and listening skills are the foundation for any sort of community building / communications task.

  • ginidietrich CarrieMorgan belllindsay Thanks, ladies!! It will run this Friday, barring any more disasters this week.

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