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At our high tech PR firm, we’re constantly discussing and evaluating best practices for reaching out to members of the media. And because we’re so connected here, we’re able to help stage popular Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC) events such as “Meet the Press.” After all, why contemplate how to effectively pitch reporters when you can get direct feedback from influential journalists themselves? Even if I’m listening to a journalist with whom I think I’m pretty familiar, I always come away with valuable information from these events. Who could pass up an opportunity like that?
The NVTC panel included an All-Star lineup of local tech/business media names: Jill Aitoro with Washington Business Journal; Tania Anderson of Bisnow Media; Dan Beyers at Capital Business; Jason Miller with Federal News Radio; and Nick Wakeman of Washington Technology. Here are some of the highlights. I’m reassured to know that our firm already heeds many of these suggestions in our day-to-day exchanges with reporters:
Building a good rep. Beyers says he remembers who sends him good pitches – and who sends him junk. So try to think like the reporters think, he recommends. Get familiar with their publication, then scout out the content they need to fill and assist them in doing just that.
Help is on the way. If you pitch a reporter and they respond with a request for more information, timeliness is everything, Wakeman says. Which means you shouldn’t take two days to reply to a request response that he sends to you immediately after you’ve pitched him. By then, a journalist may have moved on to other potential sources to quote – including your client’s competitors.
Living social. Did you know that Miller breaks his stories via a Twitter tease once they’re 80 to 90 percent complete? Social media is a big tool for reporters to disseminate their stories, build relationships and conduct research. Anderson says she gets on the DC Tech Facebook page once every day to look for stories. I certainly don’t recommend abandoning email in favor of outreach to reporters solely via social media. But knowing how important these outlets have become, retweeting journalists’ stories on Twitter and liking/commenting on their Facebook or LinkedIn posts will help build relationships.
Keep it simple. Journalists are too overwhelmed with daily demands to deal with lots of “bells and whistles” in pitches and/or “mystery messages.” Keep it simple and get to the point, they say. The subject header and pitch must get to the point quickly and clearly. Aitoro says this is critical for companies which she is not familiar with that are trying to get in front of her. And she wants to hear from smaller companies – she feels many have very compelling stories to tell. But since she gets inundated with emails, it’s important to send a note that will stand out.
Media professionals are always on deadline, trying to accomplish tasks as quickly as possible. The clear message here is to make it easier, not harder, to help them do their jobs. So what other tips do you have for making that kind of connection?
Molly Doyle is an account executive at W2 Communications.