Simplify Media Relations Planning with This Free Tool

By Michael Smart

Her earnestness—close to desperation–is what took me aback.

“But where do we start?,” the veteran PR director asked me.

She knew her stuff, and we’d already discussed recommendations to adapt to the dramatic changes in the media environment.

So I paused.

She accurately read my furrowed brow and elaborated before I could respond.

“Your advice is great. But we’re already swamped. I know tomorrow I’ll just open my email and go back to same old routine–posting releases to the wire, pressing ‘send’ on mass pitchesWhat’s the best path forward to actually implement this stuff?”

It wasn’t an uncommon question, but I didn’t have a quick answer.

That’s why I built the Media Relations Road Map. It’s a one-page document that lays out clearly lays out next steps for any size media outreach plan.

Space doesn’t permit a detailed explanation of each of the five categories, so I’ll just tackle the one that’s the most fun: Determining What to Pitch.

Create Newsworthy Angles When You Don’t Seem to Have Any News

Meet weekly with your team and brainstorm creative ways to pitch your upcoming stories.

The Road Map has nine tips under determining what to pitch—one is to look at the calendar and consider the upcoming media agenda.

Not just holidays and anniversaries, but movie openings, big awards shows, and TV season premieres and finales.

Have some science geeks doing boring stuff with carbon nanotubes in February?

Work with them make the world’s smallest cupid and release it just before Valentines Day.

Simplify Media Relations Planning with This Free Tool

Can’t figure out how to explain new HR best practices?

Compare them to working with Dwight Schrute and watch the story climb to the second-most-read on

Simplify Media Relations Planning with This Free Tool

And sometimes, no matter how boring our material is, we just need to suck it up and make something happen.

When I was asked to promote the success of a college math team, I almost gave up.

But have you ever realized that Pi Day (March 14) falls right in the middle of March Madness (the college basketball tournament)?

Marry those two, and their firstborn child is a rap video about mathletes.

It earned coverage in the Washington Post, Huffington Post,, and was reviewed as, “Straight up legitimate fire. Hot beat, sick flow,” by the eminent

Find Out What Media Relations Planning is Happening Internally (Before it’s Too Late)

“The media will love this,” non-PR people have said to me about 1,000 times.

“No they won’t,” I’ve replied, silently inside my head, about 995 times.

Doesn’t it seem like the people (outside of PR) who bring us stuff they want us to pitch tend to be the least likely to actually have good news judgment?

The ones who really have a good handle on what’s happening are often too busy making things happen to reach out to us.

Identify three to five knowledgeable people inside your organization (or at your client’s) and schedule reminders on your calendar to touch base with them monthly.

Just ask them, “What are you working on? What are other people working on?”

When they mention something that’s not ready for prime time, ask when they’ll know more, and set a reminder to follow-up then.

This takes a few months to get rolling, but after that, the story opportunities almost generate themselves.

Remember that, because this is the one element of the three that complacent teams are most likely to let slide.

Uncover What Journalists and Bloggers Will be Interested in

Building media lists isn’t enough.

When you actually follow and consume content from your target influencers, you immediately recognize what will be of interest to whom as soon as it crosses your desk.

Instead of merely newsjacking stuff after it happens, you actually have time to initiate actions and create content that’s ready when relevant news breaks.

Set aside at least 12 minutes a day to follow your target influencers. That’s only an hour per week.

Think how many hourlong meetings you readily agree to!

Set this one meeting a week to establish and deepen the most valuable relationships in our business.

To Your Success

What I want most for you, Spin Sucks community, is to replace the anxiety and fear of rejection (it’s natural) commonly associated with media relations with the exhilaration that comes from consistently winning positive placements.

See you in the comments!

Michael Smart

Michael Smart trains PR teams on how to be more effective. His recent clients include General Motors, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, and Georgia Tech. He is regularly rated among the top speakers at the industry's largest conferences.

View all posts by Michael Smart