December 16, 2011

What journalists dread: “Dear blank, please blank”

Personalize your pitches, and give journalists what they need.

At the 2011 PRSSA National Conference in October, 1,200 students came together in Orlando, Florida, for a weekend full of learning about public relations, professionalism, social media, creative design and much more. In the midst of all of our sessions and events, one topic stood out above the rest — and no, it wasn’t about how to tweet or develop a Facebook strategy. It was about good ol’ fashioned media relations.

That’s right — journalists still exist (and matter) in our digital, social media–obsessed world. And public relations professionals still need to create strong, lasting relationships with them. Facebook may not be around forever (cue that fuzzy MySpace memory), but journalists and the media likely will be, so it’s time to polish up those media relations skills.

Above all, avoid that dreaded “Dear editor, please consider covering this unique story.” You may as well be typing “Dear blank, please blank,” because that’s all the journalist is really going to see — a generic, bland, I’m-going-to-hit-delete-right-away pitch. Personalize those pitches! Address your story to a specific person who covers the topic, individual or product you’re pitching.

After you send out a perfectly crafted, personalized pitch, make it easy for the recipient to follow through with your story. Are you giving your reporter every single piece of information he or she could possibly need? Send them links, bios, possible speaking points, photo opportunities, related videos, etc. Be available at all times to answer questions. (You know your iPhone’s your lifeline anyway, so halt your game of Angry Birds and answer your reporter’s questions instead.)

Finally, know that you’re not the only one who needs technology and digital media to do your job — journalists have replaced their spiral reporter’s notebooks with new technologies as well. If you’re having any type of press conference or speech, have a mult box ready. If you’re sending a reporter a photo, be sure it’s a high-resolution image in a format they can actually use. If a reporter finds your organization via Twitter and sends you a tweet or DM, answer his or her inquiry promptly.

So, take a few minutes to review Media Relations 101. Personalize your pitches, give journalists what they need and be familiar with the technologies they use. Because after all, you don’t want to log onto only to read, “Dear Persistent PR Pro, Please stop sending your pitches to me. I’m a sports reporter, and you keep asking me to profile your ‘one-of-a-kind’ hair product. I cover the NFL lockout, not products that create ‘luscious locks.’ Sincerely, Annoyed Sports Reporter.”