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Arment Dietrich

Seven Steps to Better Media Relations

By: Arment Dietrich | February 8, 2012 | 
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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. 

56 comments
belllindsay
belllindsay

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. :)

ElissaFreeman
ElissaFreeman

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.

lauraclick
lauraclick

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 will do that. But, the ones that are worth their salt will take the time to do it right and pitch each reporter individually.

jennwhinnem
jennwhinnem

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!" ??

Shonali
Shonali

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.

EricaAllison
EricaAllison

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 me on The Doctors? I know it's a lot of hard work, but I'd love to try!"

Gotta love it.

TheJackB
TheJackB

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 the free crap that brands send out but I do wonder about what they were thinking on this one.

Latest blog post: Does Your Blog Need A Logo?

Shelley Pringle
Shelley Pringle

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."

adamsherk
adamsherk

Excellent use of "douchebaggery" Lisa. Oh, and great tips too! :)

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

@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.

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

@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. :)

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

@jennwhinnem #1 is very hard. But as @Danny Brown 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!!

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

@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

@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.

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

@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.

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

@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. :)

lauraclick
lauraclick

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

TheJackB
TheJackB

@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.

Latest blog post: Does Your Blog Need A Logo?

TheRedDogInn
TheRedDogInn

@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.

lauraclick
lauraclick

@Lisa Gerber@jennwhinnem@EricaAllison@marijean 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!

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