Congratulations, you’ve written a press release. You’ve triple-checked all your grammar and cross-checked with AP style. You’ve effectively used an active writing voice, your quote is flawless, and your boilerplate is informative to a T. You’ve even perfectly centered your three pound signs at the bottom of the page. You’re ready to go! Now, what was George Stephanopoulos’ phone number again?
See, getting your news out to media isn’t just as simple as a quick email or phone call. There’s a strategy to it all – it’s a fine art, or more accurately, a balancing act. If you’re not careful, not only will your story not be covered, but you risk ruining a delicate relationship with an important media contact, or even the whole outlet. So, where do you start?
Step 1: Identify Your Market
Depending on the story, the event, or the client, you will need to determine which nearby media outlets would be appropriate, and how wide of a radius your outreach needs to cover. New Jersey, being sandwiched between both the New York and Philadelphia markets is often in a unique position, where media from three different states and two major markets is up for grabs. But, your client’s geographical location often dictates whether you’re going to tap into the Philly or New York market.
So, for a Newark, NJ based client or event, for example, reaching out to NJTV, News 12 New Jersey, The Star-Ledger, as well as Fox 5 News and CBS 2 New York is a good idea, where trying to get The Asbury Park Press and PHL 17 is probably not.
Step 2: Find the Right People
I promise you that Jake Silverstein, Editor-In-Chief of The New York Times does not care about the opening of a new, local restaurant. But, Florence Fabricant, Food & Wine Columnist for the Diner’s Journal section of The New York Times just might.
If you’re interested in reaching a certain outlet, it’s important to do your research and make sure that you’re connecting with the right person. Do that, and you can form professional relationships with journalists to help to ensure that your stories and clients are almost always covered.
Step 3: Don’t Just Send – Pitch!
If you just copy your release into the body of an email and use the headline as the subject, you’re almost guaranteeing you won’t get coverage.
Instead, work on an engaging and compelling pitch. It doesn’t need to be more than a short paragraph or two. Tease the content of the release to engage them. Be sure to envision yourself in their shoes. Why would they be interested in your event? Why should they cover it? How do they contact you with any further questions?
And be sure to trust your instincts. If you read your pitch aloud and it sounds too stiff and uninteresting, it probably is. And if you take a chance on a joke, pun, or clever alliteration to grab their attention, you had better be sure it lands.
Step 4: Follow-Up
If after a day or two, you haven’t heard back, send a follow-up email. Ask if they saw your previous email and encourage them to get back to you. If you have the phone number for the journalist or the newsroom, call them up. Pitch your story to them over the phone. But, do not pester them.
The unfortunate reality is that not everybody is going to respond to a pitch, even if they’re interested and eventually cover the story. Hounding them endlessly with follow-up emails and phone calls won’t encourage them to respond, but it may ensure that any future emails go right into their Spam folder.
Now, if you get a response, be sure to follow-up and keep them in the loop. Be sure that they have the proper addresses, contact information, quotes or anything else they might need to effectively cover your story or event. Act as a liaison between the media and your client and let your client know of any coverage that you’ve secured.
Step 5: Report
Be sure to keep a detailed record of any and all coverage you receive and share it with your client. Always be on the lookout, both online and in paper, for coverage with media outlets that you’ve pitched.
At R&J, our dedicated media relations experts have long-standing professional relationships with journalists, bloggers and reporters to perfectly execute this delicate media outreach balance.
If you have any questions about our process at R&J, or how we can help you better connect with media, feel free to shoot me an email at [email protected].