Media Relations 101: Part 1

Gus Nodal BWBy Gus Nodal, Senior Account Executive
Back in my early PR years, I would call every reporter on my media list. I would occasionally find a few reporters willing to listen to my nervous pitch and if I was lucky, someone would bite and actually write a story. When I look back now, I realize I was most likely interrupting busy journalists with pitches that probably had nothing to do with the stories they were interested in. I knew this was a bad idea back then, but it took me several years to find my voice and discover what actually works.
Today, I worry about the young professionals who are still calling down a media list trying to get any reporter to write about the story they’re pitching. It’s wrong, and it gives PR professionals a bad name. We’ve all made mistakes, but it is important to learn from those mistakes and in the process evolve into a more polished and successful PR professional. Communicating with media can be challenging, but it’s a crucial skill for everyone in our industry. With that in mind, here are a few tips to improve your media skills:
The beginning of a relationship is fundamental, and to do that you must be considerate and reliable. Media relations are all about relationships. So why do so many PR professionals still think a random email pitch, or worse a group email pitch, is enough? Think about how many emails we get in a day. Times that by twenty, or even forty, and you are probably close to the total number of emails a busy reporter receives in a typical day.
The first step to get a reporter’s attention could be as easy as a small introduction. I like to send reporters (who I KNOW should be interested in my client) an introductory email. I start by referencing one of their articles; not only does this show the reporter I understand their beat, but expresses that I’m a “fan” of their work (every writer likes positive feedback). Of course, I let them know a little about my client (a small glimpse is fine – you don’t want to oversell it). It’s important to let the reporter assume you exist for the sole purpose of making their job easier, not the other way around.
Next, make sure you know your media. It may seem obvious but it needs saying: know who you are pitching to. Understand what kind of topics they cover and which journalist within the publication covers each beat. It is also important to be responsive when a reporter is interested, and make moves to get him/her in touch with your client as soon as possible. If you snooze, you lose, and worse, the reporter would never want to work with you ever again.
The next tip is simple: never promise what you can’t deliver. If there is even a small doubt in your mind that you will be able to deliver within the reporter’s deadline, take it back, apologize and tell them you will try your best to make it happen next time. Nothing frustrates and angers a reporter more than being left empty handed with a deadline looming, or, just as bad, being told that the exclusive you promised is being sent out to everyone in media land.
Finally, let the reporter know that you saw the story and you appreciate the coverage. If you decide to post the article on social media, let the reporter know the story will get a lot of views and generate traffic to their site. The reporter will love the fact you’re appreciative and accessible, and most importantly can be counted on as a reliable source for future stories.
Please stay tuned for “Media Relations 101: Part 2”, the next in my series of blogs.
What is your #1 tip for working with the media? Leave a comment below or email Gus at [email protected].

8 thoughts on “Media Relations 101: Part 1

  1. Thanks for the insightful blog Gus. This would be a great blog to share with anyone new to PR – looking forward to the next in your series!

  2. Gus, what a terrific blog! You are clearly a media relations pro. One more tip I always give young PR professionals is to treat all reporters with the same level of respect and professional conduct. You never know when a “small” freelancer will end up writing for a major publication – and with a solid relationship already in place, you will end up with a personal contact at an important outlet.

  3. Gus – fantastic tips! Thanks for sharing. I agree about sending an intro email to reporters. Being able to follow through with your promises is another big one in creating a great and mutually beneficial PR-reporter relationship. Happy pitching!

  4. Gus, thanks for a great primer on Media Relations 101. It is critical – especially in today’s technologically-advanced world where information is readily available – to do one’s homework and find the appropriate reporter who covers something pertinent to our clients. Great tips. Cheers, David

  5. Gus,
    Thank you for the blog post. You are spot on with knowing a reporters beat and sending them a story that they will enjoy covering!

  6. Hi Gus,
    Thanks so much for this informative insight into your pitching prowess (alliteration intended). So much of the media relations effort is taken on by PR professionals who aren’t as buttoned up as they could be, so this kind of info is really helpful. Now I’m eagerly awaiting part 2! -David

  7. Nice post, Gus! I talk to students (interning) and recent grads frequently. The sad thing is that at many large agencies, they are still being told do those “call-downs” of a media list. I wish there was a way to make them stop but the intern, account coordinator or AAE has to do what they are told. :-\

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