This guide walks you through the media relations process, the difference between an exclusive, a pre-brief and an embargo as well as the best time to pitch a reporter so they will respond to you. It also teaches you how to pitch via email, Twitter, LinkedIn, Phone and Facebook.
Getting press isn’t as simple as writing a press release and putting it over a newswire. Thousands of press releases get uploaded to newswires every day and distributed to media outlets. But, that doesn’t mean that reporters read them and that you will get a story out of it. In fact, unless they are huge household names, a lot of reporters don’t read them – it’s a quick skim.
This is why media relations is so important.
WHAT IS MEDIA RELATIONS?
Media relations is the act of pitching reporters on your news, catering it specifically to them. It’s also known as “media outreach”.
To be successful you need your pitch and media list, but also an understanding of timing, strategy, and channels.
How far in advance do you pitch your story? Reporters often have to write 7-8 stories a week, so the more time you give them the better. To determine that, let’s understand the reporting process.
- THE REPORTING PROCESS. After you pitch a reporter, here is everything they have to do between talking to you, and publishing a story.
○ Talk to their editor
○ Interview you
○ Interview your customers/investors
○ Check sources
○ Conduct competitive analysis
○ Write piece
This takes time. Here is some recommended timing:
- Start the process at least 2 weeks in advance. If you have a hard launch date for your product or the information you are announcing has material impact, we suggest starting media outreach about 2 weeks in advance.
- Build in time for follow ups. You won’t always hear back right away, so it’s important to allow time for follow up.
However, you backward engineer it, once the reporter bites on your story and let’s you know they are interested, make sure you give them time to get their affairs in order.
TYPES OF MEDIA RELATIONS
An exclusive is when you give your story to one media publication only, in advance of your announcement. There are pros and cons to this, since you ARE putting all of your eggs in one basket.
Pros: getting an exclusive is very enticing for a news outlet. It makes them feel more invested in the story and they will be able to cover news that their competitors won’t. In turn, they will likely push their editor harder to get the story to run, which increases your chances of coverage.
Cons: It’s always risky to put your eggs in one basket. If they decide NOT to run with it,you are now out of options, since you denied everyone else. So it’s important to make sure that your story is news-worthy and worth being a standalone feature.
If you’re not sure if your story is exclusive-worthy, another option is to hold pre-briefings.
A pre-briefing is a PR process that involves speaking to the media about your news BEFORE you officially announce it.
This gives multiple reporters a lead on the news and enough time to complete the reporting process, so ideally, you have multiple stories hit the day of your launch. This is important because reporters usually don’t like to write about news after the announcement has hit.
When you show a reporter a press release in advance, it is known as giving it to them “under embargo” – it’s an understanding that they will not write about your story until the press release goes live on the wire.
Make sure you note at the top of your release “NOT FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
UNDER EMBARGO UNTIL [INSERT DATE AND TIME]
Now that you have your timing and your strategy, what channels should you use to pitch?
Most people would say email – and we feel that this is the best channel as well. Get their contact information off your media list, paste in your pitch and send away!
However, reporters also get upwards of 1000 emails per day, so sometimes your note may get lost. Read on for additional methods.
We like to pitch on Twitter. Most reporters are on Twitter, since it’s how they monitor real-time news and stay in the know. Here are some examples of how you can pitch a reporter on Twitter:
For this example on the left, I messaged Christian to see if he would be interested in attending a media event to demo a new electric skateboard. He immediately replied, I direct messaged him asking for his email, and then sent him the details directly.
For the example on the left, a reporter was talking about how she was organizing her feature on the top 30 under 30 in tech. We were working with a client who was 22, so was a perfect fit and decided to chime in. As you can see from her reply, she was interested and provided her email to us.
Next, the phone. We put this last since it is not as common as it used to be.
Nowadays, a lot of reporters work remotely and don’t like to give out their cell phone numbers.
However, if you can get ahold of a reporter’s phone number and it was provided on a public forum like a website or database, it is free game. Keep it very short. One of my favorite lines to open with is “We know we are calling unannounced but we commit to being brief!” – If they agree to listen to you, go into the who, what and why- and be respectful of their time.
Other options are LinkedIn and Facebook. We put these last because people tend to use them as personal networks, so contacting them here has potential to be a little more intrusive. However, if done artfully and respectfully, they can be effective.
Let’s tackle LinkedIn first.
Often I will research reporters on LinkedIn to learn about what their backgrounds are, and if they are relevant for me to reach out to. If appropriate for my client and we cannot find an email or phone number for them anywhere, we will message them on the platform.
For example, I reached out to a reporter with the following message.
“Hi [reporter], We worked together a few months back, but we wanted to reach out, as a lot of our clients might be relevant to you! Maybe at BKC , interested in meeting to get to know each other? We would like to hear what you’re working on/see if we can (hopefully) work together at some point. LMK – can totally keep it short.”
He responded with dates that worked for him and we met up while we were there. The reason this worked is because we were very specific on my ask: We knew the dates, the location and explained my intentions. We also told him we would be respectful of his time by keeping it short.
Sometimes they respond, sometimes we never hear back. But, it’s worth a shot if the reporter actively uses the platform.
For Facebook, the best method here is to check to see if the reporter has a public Facebook page. We would not recommend messaging somebody on their private page, unless you have several mutual friends. But even then, it does blur the lines of personal and professional. Look for the public page – that is fair game. Once you find it, feel free to send a message but, preface it with finding out WHERE they would like to receive more information.
For example, we reached out to a reporter with the following message.
“Hi [reporter], would like to pitch you on a story for a fun video segment next week, would be great for the AM show. Prefer via email, Twitter, or here? (I’m sure you get hundreds of emails daily). Thanks! Anita”
For example, the reason THIS message worked, was because we gave the reporter a quick brief on what we wanted to talk about, then gave them an opportunity to tell us where he wanted more details. He gave us his email address.