Never Just Check the Box: A Media Relations RuleBy Christopher Whitcomb

Here are five words that can absolutely help you be more successful in your media relations efforts: Never just check the box.

It’s so easy in life to get bogged down in to-do lists, deadlines, and long days that we just start checking boxes.

  • Have to put together a presentation, check.
  • Have to cook dinner with the family, check.
  • Have to get my 45 minutes of exercise in, check.

However, when all we do is check boxes in our lives, we become mildly robotic. We lose our authenticity, our spark, our ability to be memorable.

If we want to stand out and really make a difference for our significant others, friends, and colleagues, we need to start stepping into moments with a focus on not checking the box, but doing something original.

The Standard Stuff Won’t Work

This absolutely comes into play with media relations.

If we’re looking to stand out to journalists amidst the thousands of pitches they receive each week, our standard, run-of-the-mill news releases won’t cut it.

If all we do is go through the motions and check the boxes, we won’t get the most from our efforts.

A better approach is thinking about how we can be memorable and relevant to each one of our media contacts. We need to find ways to connect with them on a human level, not just be words on in an email.

Here are two recent examples I can point to from my experiences.

Don’t Talk About Yourself…for a While.

Next week I have a phone conversation set up with a key writer for a national business publication. It’s a person I have wanted to find a way to connect with for years. I’d send some initial outreach via a general email I found and even a tweet.

No response. 

Two months ago, a new story from the writer came across my desk and it renewed my interest in connecting. I’d learned the hard way that a standard pitch would not work. I couldn’t just do the same thing if I wanted a different result.

Instead, I researched the writer’s background and learned that she loved to travel to Europe and even had favorite countries and cities to visit.

Thankfully, my wife and I had been to a couple of the same places on our honeymoon.

This time, I sent a note all about travel ideas and tips in Europe and tried to connect with the writer’s passion.

Luckily, I received a very thoughtful response later that night and then spent the next month talking travel and wine with her. It was a good 30 days before I even mentioned our company and efforts and how they were aligned…and now, we’re having a business-related conversation next week.

Pitch Stories About Other Companies/People

I once read something from Adam Schefter, who covers the NFL, in which he talked about the key to his success is that he is a giver.

He did not just call NFL executives and contacts looking for information, he called when he had some other tidbit he’d heard from the league office that was relevant to them.

He was a resource to them just as much as he was a member of the media looking for new information.

I have seen success in my PR efforts with this approach.

During the past year, I’ve built some key relationships with media by pitching stories or ideas that aren’t about my company at all.

Now, that doesn’t mean I’m pitching direct competitors of our firm, but writers have very different interests.

I talk to a lot of reporters who cover architecture, but still may write about business, education, art, or a variety of other topics. When I see news that may interest them, I’ll often forward it and sometimes they run with the topic.

This doesn’t benefit my organization, but it helps me become a trusted resource. It helps me gain their trust. It helps me ensure they open my emails. It lets them know I’m not just seeking media coverage…I’m seeking a media relationship that’s beneficial for both of us.

A Media Relations Rule

Neither of these strategies are innovative breakthroughs, but they’ve made a difference for me.

The next time you’re planning to send your fifth run-of-the-mill email to a media contact who has yet to answer you, step back and think for a second: What can I do to stand out?

What can I do to not just check the box?

image credit: Pixabay

Christopher Whitcomb

Christopher Whitcomb is a Marketing Communications Manager for CannonDesign, an integrated design firm focused on helping health, education and corporate clients solve their greatest challenges. He lives in Buffalo, NY, graduated from St. Bonaventure University and is currently pursuing his MBA at University of Buffalo.

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