Arment Dietrich

Seven Steps to Better Media Relations

By: Arment Dietrich | February 8, 2012 | 
59

Today’s guest post is written by Lisa Gerber.

It’s been awhile, but recently, I’ve been reacquainted with a long lost love.

Yes, media relations.

That long lost love? Media relations.

As the chief content officer for Spin Sucks and Spin Sucks Pro, I have been mostly on the receiving end of pitches, not on the pitching side.

It’s been very entertaining to say the least.

This isn’t another post about bad pitches.

Trust me, I’m shocked at the number of atrocious pitches I get.

My name is not Spin Sucks, it’s not Spin, and pitching me on the broad topics of social media and marketing doesn’t fly. That just doesn’t tell me a thing.

Because the mission of Spin Sucks is to change the perception of PR, there is a huge opportunity for growth by addressing better practices in media relations.

Eliminate Media Relations Douchebaggery In Seven Easy Steps

  1. Manage client expectations. We blame PR agencies for bad pitching and rightly so. But often, it’s because they lack the spine to educate the client. The client expectation is the media list will be huge and the agency will blast out a news release which will get picked up by every gracious journalist in the country. They will get their me-too start-up mentioned in the Chicago Tribune and every daily paper in every major metropolitan city because they believe their news is groundbreaking. The reality is, media relations is a one-on-one practice that involves a lot of time, painstaking research, and one-on-one communication.
  2. Pass the message through the “Who Cares?” filter. No one is going to take pity on you and cover your story because you’re nice or just because you have a relationship. If there isn’t an interesting angle to the story, you’ll end up a victim of the delete button. And please, if you are going to attempt to tie into a news or trend piece, do it in a way that makes sense. I recently saw a pitch about SOPA and how social media makes it easier to monitor the weather. Huh? Which leads me to…know who you are pitching. These people aren’t idiots. Stop acting like one yourself.
  3. Build an Excel spreadsheet and keep notes on your research. Using a media database is helpful, but it’s merely a start. This is not a task for the intern. It takes a lot of hours and research, using tools such as Technorati, Google blogs, and simple Google searches. Vet each person on the list for relevancy to your message and know their writing.
  4. Find a way to introduce yourself. It’s time to go to the cocktail party. Find a common connection, a thoughtful comment on one of their recent articles, or something in their bio. Make a human connection.
  5. Follow them on Twitter. Create a list for this particular client or product and add them. Keep an eye on it every day throughout the day and find a reason to retweet them, answer a question, or help them with an article. Stop short of being a stalker.
  6. Subscribe to their RSS feed. Create a file in your Reader and follow their writing projects. Comment on their articles and share them, within reason.
  7. Send a note, not a pitch. Pitches are like snowflakes. No two should be the same. Each recipient deserves their own note, addressed to them personally, not “Dear Blogger.” Include that introduction and customized paragraph and find out if they are interested in hearing more about your client.

It’s media relations. Enjoy it. First of all, you get to meet new people and get to know them. Then, there is that little rush when you make a connection between a blogger/writer/journalist and a story idea, solving two different problems – one for your client and one for your writer.

Thank you to Stupid Expressions for the bad pitch image. 

Spin Sucks in Your Inbox

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59 Comments on "Seven Steps to Better Media Relations"

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KenMueller
4 years 7 months ago
Well, you had a picture of my beloved Phillies, so I had to comment. Great list. Basically coming down to managing expectations and doing your research. Both so important. Clients have expectations, and they hire you to fulfill them, but because their expectations are often a bit lofty, you have to bring them down, hence @ginidietrich ‘s post on viral content yesterday. I, too, have had clients who say, “Let’s create a viral video” and have had to say, “No! Let’s create a good video and see what we can do with it”. That’s what they hire us for, and… Read more »
Lisa Gerber
4 years 7 months ago

@KenMueller@ginidietrich It’s funny, there’s a fine line between client service and good counsel. We want to give our clients what they want, but we also have to know when to manage them. And of course, I had to scroll back up when you mentioned the Phillies. I thought, “I did?” sigh.

KenMueller
4 years 7 months ago

@Lisa Gerber @ginidietrich yeah, that’s Jimmy Rollins. Baseball season is almost here….and you’ll hate me more than you already do!

terence.stephens
terence.stephens
4 years 7 months ago

“Trust me, I’m shocked at the number of atrocious pitches I get.”

Spin Sucks should do a list of the Top-10 Worst Pitches Received. It would be entertaining for us all.

Lisa Gerber
4 years 7 months ago

@terence.stephens This is a good idea. I’ll have to contemplate this one. 🙂

adamsherk
4 years 7 months ago

Excellent use of “douchebaggery” Lisa. Oh, and great tips too! 🙂

Lisa Gerber
4 years 7 months ago

@adamsherk It’s always a good day when you can use douchebaggery in context!

TheRedDogInn
TheRedDogInn
4 years 7 months ago

@ginidietrich @lisagerber With a tease that includes the word “douchebaggery” how can one resist checking it out!?

lisagerber
lisagerber
4 years 7 months ago

@thereddoginn Excellent! then my work is done here. 🙂 @ginidietrich

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 7 months ago

@TheRedDogInn OK. This made me LOL http://t.co/DcWeFmTU

TheRedDogInn
TheRedDogInn
4 years 7 months ago

@ginidietrich Thanks, Gini!! It’s a rescue dear to me. I got my Baby Sofie from Daphneyland then took over Social Media to learn more.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 7 months ago

@TheRedDogInn Love it! Jack Bauer is a rescue, too. And a complete momma’s boy

Shelley Pringle
4 years 7 months ago

Hi Lisa, thanks for sharing such a great post. I now know what ‘douchebag’ means (I’ve been too embarrassed to ask these last couple of months). The one point I’d add about client expectations is their belief that PR pros have all these contacts who will magically cover our client’s stories just because we ask. My response is always: “Yes, we have good contacts. But that isn’t enough to get you media coverage. We also know how to develop a story idea that will engage media.”

Lisa Gerber
4 years 7 months ago

@Shelley Pringle Really? douchebag is one of our favorite words!! Never feel embarrassed to ask questions here, Shelley. LOL. We’re happy to share expertise, and explain what a douchebag is too. 🙂

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[…] Dietrich] Spin Sucks When I first heard that Bill Dorman was on Gini Dietrich’s must meet list, I gotta admit, I […]

nikki_little
nikki_little
4 years 7 months ago

@lisagerber Thank you for using the word “douchebaggery” in a blog post headline. 🙂

lisagerber
lisagerber
4 years 7 months ago

@nikki_little I always like to work that word in! So glad it is appreciated!

belllindsay
belllindsay
4 years 7 months ago

@lisagerber @ginidietrich Have it saved to read later!! Currently in #taxshock recovery. 😉

lisagerber
lisagerber
4 years 7 months ago

@belllindsay Oh no. That doesn’t sound good.

belllindsay
belllindsay
4 years 7 months ago

@lisagerber You have *no* idea. 🙁

Zella17
Zella17
4 years 7 months ago

@CisionNavigator @SpinSucks love the tip on the “who cares” filter. Can’t tell you how crucial that one is!

SpinSucks
SpinSucks
4 years 7 months ago

@zella17 @CisionNavigator Thanks you guys.

TheJackB
4 years 7 months ago
Yesterday I received a pitch to write about a study that supposedly my readers would be interested in. They didn’t spend much time at all trying to demonstrate why my readers or I would care. It felt like I was just part of the batch. I probably would have shrugged my shoulders and moved on except I saw that their client was sponsoring giveaways that dealt specifically with this study. Said giveaways were conducted on three blogs by “competitors” in my space. It doesn’t help them build a rapport with me. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t do this for… Read more »
Lisa Gerber
4 years 7 months ago

@TheJackB That’s the thing – they don’t take the time to vet the list. They just blanket pitch everyone. It’s awful. It doesnt’ yield results. ever. and you know what happens? The agency gets blamed for not delivering results. And then people think PR doesn’t work.

TheJackB
4 years 7 months ago

@Lisa Gerber I see this as a training issue. Someone at the agency should be teaching the junior staff the importance of vetting the list and making sure that they aren’t making fools of themselves.

SpinSucks
SpinSucks
4 years 7 months ago

@katskrieger I did laugh when I found the picture. 🙂

SpinSucks
SpinSucks
4 years 7 months ago

@fultonad You are so welcome, and thanks for sharing it.

DannyBrown
4 years 7 months ago

And this is exactly why clients hire you. 🙂

Lisa Gerber
4 years 7 months ago

@DannyBrown We were JUST talking about that today, weren’t we?

DannyBrown
4 years 7 months ago

@Lisa Gerber Yes indeedy, miss!

EricaAllison
4 years 7 months ago
Yes! Yes! Yes! #1 is a killer – as you know. I’ve been working for 3 months now with a make-up client who has this inane ability to forget that I told her it takes TIME to build relationships and that we have to deliver a pitch that is timely (on the journalists or editorial calendar timeline- which means months in advance, not the week of Valentine’s Day) and relevant to their beat or what the journalist covers. I thought I had her on my page until I got the most memorable email just this week: “Hey, can you get… Read more »
jennwhinnem
jennwhinnem
4 years 7 months ago

@EricaAllison Yeah. That’s all I have to say. I am nodding. It seems like no matter what, they are like “please get me in the Wall St Journal.” Erica maybe we write a joint blog post about the craziest requests we’ve gotten from our clients.

lauraclick
4 years 7 months ago

@jennwhinnem @EricaAllison Oh, you must! Please, oh pretty please! I would read that. 🙂

Lisa Gerber
4 years 7 months ago

@lauraclick @jennwhinnem@EricaAllison HAHAHAH! Actually, who has done something similar…. oh! marijean ! She wrote a post about the craziest things we’ve done for our clients. But the craziest requests would be a really good one too. We could crowdsource it.

lauraclick
4 years 7 months ago

@Lisa Gerber @jennwhinnem @EricaAllison marijean Oh man, do I have a good one for the crazy client project request post from when I was an AAE right out of college. Gotta love the things you get to do when you’re the low man on the totem pole!

Lisa Gerber
4 years 7 months ago

@lauraclick @jennwhinnem @EricaAllison marijean What did you have to do? tell!!!

jennwhinnem
jennwhinnem
4 years 7 months ago

@Lisa Gerber @lauraclick @EricaAllison marijean I went to a Communications Network conference and someone there had to get a very particular type of Iced Tea for Drew Barrymore or else she wouldn’t read a book to a group of kids with cancer.

Lisa Gerber
4 years 7 months ago

@jennwhinnem @lauraclick @EricaAllisonmarijean What?!?!?!? That is over the top. I just decided I dislike her.

jennwhinnem
jennwhinnem
4 years 7 months ago

@Lisa Gerber @lauraclick @EricaAllison marijean I just tried to find the video about it but I don’t think it’s online. At any rate – YES! Let’s crowdsource it! How do we get this started??

Lisa Gerber
4 years 7 months ago

@jennwhinnem @lauraclick @EricaAllisonmarijean Do you guys want to do it on Spin Sucks? We could use our Facebook page to get it going! I’d even use G+.

lauraclick
4 years 7 months ago

@Lisa Gerber @jennwhinnem @EricaAllisonmarijean One of our contacts for our largest client was obsessed with the lead character on JAG, the TV show. So, I had to Photoshop pictures of the client on top of the female character’s body to create a “memory book” of sorts that pretended the client was hanging out with the lead male character. The challenging part was, to put it delicately, the woman was not the same size as the lead actress.

I think someone at the client company requested we do this for her as gift. Not my favorite project by far!

jennwhinnem
jennwhinnem
4 years 7 months ago

@Lisa Gerber @lauraclick @EricaAllison marijean G+ or Facebook, I am so there.

Shonali
4 years 7 months ago

Yes to all the above. I’d add to (or elaborate on) #3 – I’ve found that after building the initial spreadsheet, exporting it to Google Docs and then keeping that spreadsheet updated is a huge help and time-saver. You can share it with other team members so that everyone can plug their updates in without having to email the file back and forth (or even update a file and re-upload it to a server). And it’s a great way to keep clients informed of the progress as well. Gotta love Google Docs.

Lisa Gerber
4 years 7 months ago

@Shonali Google Docs is a good idea! we use Dropbox, which isn’t quite the same – as you mention, it’s just stored on a server. 🙂

jennwhinnem
jennwhinnem
4 years 7 months ago

Lisa, is #1 so hard (admit it, it is very hard) because there are PR firms out there who are dishonest and set client expectations so high? As in “Oh sure I can get you in the NYT! Any agency that can’t is not worth their salt!” ??

Lisa Gerber
4 years 7 months ago

@jennwhinnem #1 is very hard. But as @DannyBrown mentioned below, it’s why they hire us. So we need to stand our ground, or at least deliver realistic expectations. If we don’t think the story is worthy of New York Times, we need to say so.

And the big problem is, some agencies WILL be dishonest about it and win the business. Then the client will become disillusioned. About PR and PR firms in general. douchebags!!

ShannonKSteffen
ShannonKSteffen
4 years 7 months ago

A brilliant good day to you! > @shonali @raffel @nancyquinn @sppresents @kimgarst @bryanwempen @mvpsusi @brettrelander @dave_carpenter

MVPSusi
MVPSusi
4 years 7 months ago

@ShannonKSteffen Right back at you! Hope it’s a blast!

lauraclick
4 years 7 months ago
Love, love, love this, Lisa! When I was at a PR firm years ago, I always hated when I was forced to pitch something that wasn’t a story. It’s really hard to gain credibility when you’re sending reporters junk. That’s why setting expectations is so very important. And the “who cares?” filter is a must. The other thing, like most PR and marketing efforts, is that this takes time. It’s very rare that you’re going to get a big hit over night. If they want someone to just blast out a press release, fine. I’m sure there are firms that… Read more »
Lisa Gerber
4 years 7 months ago

@lauraclick I sort of glossed over the “gracious reporter” comment in my post to keep it quick, but that’s exactly what I was getting at. We don’t have a database of people waiting, and watching their inboxes for the corporate press release so they can jump on it and start covering the breaking news. 🙂

lauraclick
4 years 7 months ago

@Lisa Gerber You don’t?!? Just kidding. 😉 It’s so funny how clients assume reporters are breathlessly waiting to receive that press release.

lisagerber
lisagerber
4 years 7 months ago

@narciso17 @johnjustic Hi! and thanks you two.

Marijean
Marijean
4 years 7 months ago

@lisagerber Hey Lisa Gerber. You’re awesome.

lisagerber
lisagerber
4 years 7 months ago

@martinwaxman Hi Martin. 🙂 Thanks.

ElissaFreeman
ElissaFreeman
4 years 7 months ago

As a client, and I like to think a ‘good’ client, I look for my agencies to ‘push back’ or give me an alternate way to do business. Even for those of us who’ve been in the business a long time, sometimes we can’t see the forest from the trees.

Lisa Gerber
4 years 7 months ago

@ElissaFreeman I think that’s great feedback, Elissa. A lot of agencies don’t want to risk the relationship or appear to be uncooperative. I know I’ve been guilty of that. There’s a fine line between good strategic counsel and bad client service.

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[…] The movie showed how the different groups stayed on message, while each telling their own version of the story via a little savvy media relations. […]

belllindsay
belllindsay
4 years 7 months ago

Sorry I’m late to the party – great piece @lisagerber – can’t believe what some people are asked to do by clients. Trust me, being a TV producer is no walk in the park either – host wants Oprah on the show, you better get Oprah on the show! Um, what..!? Let me waste *more* time out of my day chasing that one for you. LOL!! And kudos for the douchebag reference. 🙂

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[…] At its core though, media relations is simple. […]

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