Media Relations in the Shrinking Newsroom Era
By Sherry Feldberg, Director, Schwartz Communications, MSLGROUP North America
The phenomenon of shrinking newsrooms means fewer reporters are covering more industries and beats than ever before in journalism. For PR professionals, this means competition for coverage has reached new heights. It also means the media is more stressed than ever which explains why it is rare for a day to pass without seeing a member of the media issue a tweet or blog post about an outrageous or foolish attempt by a PR practitioner to pitch a story.
The challenge to working successfully in this media environment is two-fold: determining the best ways to work with journalists so that they see you as a resource, not a nuisance; and making your client’s story stand out against all others.
Our established approach to media relations positions us well in this changing, and sometimes hostile, media landscape. For years, we have been teaching and learning from one another how to develop relationships with the media that lead to business-impacting coverage for our clients.
A few of the fundamental, non-negotiable ways we approach media relations include:
Do your homework: Our staff is trained to learn about the reporters they are targeting before ever hitting send on an email/Twitter pitch or picking up the phone. We read the stories reporters write and identify angles in those stories that are relevant to our clients.
This analytical exercise is most helpful when it comes to strategizing story ideas that will resonate with individual reporters. Another goal when researching reporters is to learn personal information about them that they’ve shared publicly. Often times reporters tweet or blog about their favorite sports teams, TV shows, movies, hobbies, etc. Finding a common, shared interest helps make a connection which is quite helpful given reporters are inundated with pitches every day.
Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone: While some media urge us to send pitches via email, there are many reporters who are open to taking a quick phone call when they are not on deadline. There are so many benefits to speaking to a reporter live on the phone vs. corresponding over email. For example, there have been numerous occasions when phone conversations lead to media opportunities unrelated to the original story being pitched. These opportunities would never have come to fruition if the pitching had been conducted over email. Whenever I chat with a reporter and am told they are not interested in the story I’m pitching, I ask what else they’re working on and if they need help finding a source. Next thing I know, I’m helping a colleague place a story for their client…one of the many benefits of working in an agency!
Keep it short and relevant: We understand the pressure on the media to turn out story after story in a timely fashion. They simply don’t have time to waste listening or receiving pitches that are long-winded or not in their wheelhouse. We strive to keep written pitches to a few paragraphs (and when we can, to a few sentences) and make “the ask” very clear: for example, a briefing with our client’s CEO, coverage of a news announcement or speaking with a customer.
Be a resource: PR professionals who contact reporters only when they want feedback on a story idea are not doing their jobs effectively. Establishing credibility that you are an educational resource on an industry fosters relationship-building with the media.
Examples include a quick one or two sentences about an interesting breaking news story in the industry, or a recent analyst report in a reporter’s industry; both are excellent reasons to get in touch. And keep in mind, being a resource on items of personal interest can be powerful as well. If you enjoy the same baseball team or TV show as a reporter, you can send a quick note sharing perspective about last night’s game or episode: comical posts on the Facebook fan page of a TV series is a great place to check out for ideas.
Building long-lasting relationships with the media does not happen overnight. It is a process that takes time, intelligence and persistence.
If you have questions or want to learn more, contact us at Schwartzmsl.com.
Sherry Feldberg is a director in Schwartz Communications’ healthcare practice. Follow her on Twitter: @sherryfeldberg
Originally posted on Schwartzmsl.com