No one wants to admit it, but there is a bit of a love-hate relationship between public relations professionals and the media. It shouldn’t be that way and it certainly doesn’t have to be.
I read far too often online or on social media about journalists who are annoyed and frustrated by someone in public relations working for coverage of their organization. Here is what it comes down to — both sides have a job to do and the ones that do it best make these opportunities mutually beneficial.
Journalists and PR professionals need each other. Journalists are consistently looking for news and stories, while organizations are looking to tell their story. Where the disconnect comes in is the approach. The following are a few things to keep in mind when trying to pitch a story:
If you targeted a specific journalist and believe they are perfect for your story, but their preference is to be contacted by email and not called, email them. Even if you think that your story will change their life, unless you have a personal connection with them, email them and respect their requests. If speaking on the phone is important to you, make the initial contact by email and ask if you might follow up with a phone call.
Do your Homework
Let’s be honest… a placing on a large television show or in a popular magazine is a home run for your organization. But, when pitching an outlet, make sure it’s an actual fit. If you shoot for the stars, but they don’t ever cover a topic like you are pitching, they will be frustrated and annoyed that you have wasted their time.
Ensuring that your story or spokesperson is a great fit for the media outlet takes time. But you will quickly gain respect and solid relationships with those journalists. They know that when you come to them, it will be with something of value.
If you know that a journalist has tight deadlines, or there is a story breaking that has forced them to be all hands on deck, be understanding and work to put yourself in their shoes. Maybe you have a heartwarming and impactful story that will be perfect for them, but they are clearly too busy. Offer them the opportunity but do not push if you don’t hear back. They will be more likely to listen when things calm down and you have another great story.
You have just pitched a story and they are interested. But now the work begins. They are asking for another voice, or they need some additional statistics and these things are taking a lot of time. Rest assured, however, that your hard work is not in vein. Whatever you can do to make their lives easier, the better chance you have of working with them again.
Deadlines are tight and editors can make changes or ask for more content at the last second. If you are not readily available at all times, the story could be at stake. And, while the editor holds the writer accountable, the writer will hold you accountable. Be a person that everyone knows they can count on in a pinch.