For small businesses DIYing PR there are three things that they have to learn to do well so be successful:
1. Tell their story – in effect, writing a strong press release
2. Effectively pitching media
3. Following up with media with respect
4. Pay attention to current events that may impact your ability to get coverage
5. Be respectful of current media environments
The last of these seems to be the one that most DIYers miss.
It's easy to think about what media can do for you, but we often forget to consider them as our partners and colleagues that deserve respect and thoughtfulness. Respect and building valuable relationships with media is truly a two-way street.
A majority of people still believe that if they distribute their press release online and email an effective pitch to media that those two things will do the trick alone in garnering public relations. The truth is that it’s not, and for those who do actively follow up with media, most are simply SPAMMING media until eventually they are completely blocked all together. In my industry, we call it blacklisting and journalists DO it all the time.
The trick to good follow up and achieving PR in general is one thing: RESPECT.
Aretha Franklin sang the song, that quickly comes to mind, and people just like you seek it and demand it from others.
So why shouldn’t you give it in return?
In life, in general, having respect for yourself and others will take you far. Plus it always feel good. When you stop having that respect you can stop seeing results. Respect for journalists comes in many forms, all of which are key to your success in achieving PR for your business.
Here are five tips on how to respect journalists and generate media attention for your business:
Cut through the clutter: Make sure your story is different, timely and compelling. Journalists are always looking for something new and the latest trends, and you've got to stand out with a strong subject line.
Understand how the media you’re pitching works: Deadlines for TV and print are totally different. If newspaper deadlines are 3:00p don’t call after 2:00p. If the TV newsroom meeting is from 9:00-10:00a don’t call during. They won’t have an answer for you. Have respect for their time and deadlines and keep your pitches brief and to the point.
Know what the journalist or blogger you’re following up with writes on, what are they looking for or interested in. What is their beat? It can take time to read through their columns online, but it’s important to do so if you’re going to be successful in catering your story to their beat. Find a story on a relevant topic and mention it to a journalist. Flattery is the best compliment and the journalist will know that you're not just contacting them because you want something, but because you honestly value their journalism.
Don’t leave long follow up voice mails or send lengthy emails: They don’t have time to hear or read it. Since the pandemic a lot of media work remote, so it becomes more difficult to call them, but either way get to the point and tell them why your story is perfect for their beat.
If you pitch yourself available for an interview make yourself available for the interview!
Finally, do not send the same email over and over again to a journalist trying to get their attention. It’s SPAM and you will be blacklisted for it. Instead, check in once a week or once every two weeks with a new angle or fresh information. If they’re interested they will get in touch.
One of the most important tips I can give you is that if a journalist turns you down on your story don’t whine about it to them and keep them on the phone trying to change their mind or continuing to send more emails. It won’t work. Instead, keep them in mind and when you have something in the future that may be of interest to them, contact them again because now you know.
Respect is earned. Building relationships with media takes time and respect, but it can be lasting and beneficial for your business for years to come. Destroy that relationship and you will never get them to produce a story.
As my father always said, “Put yourself in someone else’s shoes and then approach the situation”. I think about this everyday and it has made me the professional I am today with lasting relationships with media.