Avoid stories about the opening of an envelope

I suffer from cobbler’s children syndrome – I always put aside things I need to do for my business as I’m too busy doing PR for my clients! So, I’ve only just found the time to review Muck Rack’s annual State of PR 2023 report. It says that the top concern for PR pros is getting journalists to respond. More than half of the respondents (53%) reported it as their main concern. This translated as 46% from the in-house brand teams, compared to 59% in PR agencies.

Media relations was cited as taking up at least a quarter of PR pro’s work time (85%). So, it seems that PR pros are mainly running around trying to keep journalists happy and pretty much constantly worrying about it!

I’ve worked in PR for 28 years now and I must say that nothing much has changed as far as the PR-journalist relationship stands. If we want to worry less about getting responses from journalists, we just to pay a little more time and attention to our pitch.

Remember, the objective is not to pitch to a journalist, the objective is to gain some media coverage. Who will care if you’ve emailed 30 people, if those emails have failed to pique anyone’s interest in what you have to say?

The main way to gain a journalist’s trust is to try and understand their world and the demands put upon them. What is it they need from PRs to make their life easier? In a nutshell, I think it’s well written content that is relevant to that journalist. No blanket approaches – and make sure you write news releases and articles as a journalist would.

Absolutely no heavy sales content – it’s not a paid-for advertorial. Keep issues-based and relevant. Don’t send them press releases about the opening of an envelope. Your client might be overexcited about it, but the media won’t be! You’ll get better results if you only send out a few news releases a year, which are about relevant content, rather than a scattergun approach of hoping enough s**t will stick – sending out news releases that are only of internal interest to your client.

I also see many social discussions with both journalists and PR pros saying that email is the best approach. Gone are the days when editorial teams were massive, lunches were long, and junior PRs had to pound the telephones – trying to persuade journalists that their news story really was the most exciting thing since sliced bread. I think that died with putting press releases in the post and receiving fax requests from editors!

But of course, you have to tailor your pitch to the publication and the writer’s interest – just as you would have done in the old days when calling them. You need to grasp their attention from amongst all the other gazillions of emails they receive each day. You can apply the ‘five W’s’ rule to press release writing here – who, what, where, when, why. Trash the waffle and make your approach succinct and obvious.

I could go on forever on this topic, but you’ll be pleased to know that I won’t! Let’s just say, putting some thought and planning into journalist pitching might take some of the dread out of it.

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