Posted by: beckbamberger | October 15, 2008

11 tips for pitching the media

Here are some boiled down tips from journalists at the Media Relations Summit conference in San Francisco:

* Reporters STILL hate PR spam and irrelevant pitches. Such tactics are unlikely to generate coverage, it turns out. Shocking, I know.

* The press release is still important. With all the talk about new media, I was surprised to hear virtually every reporter sing the praises of the good old fashioned press release, which they use to ensure accuracy and to organize information.

* Print journalists are no longer breaking news. This is a major change that has happened over the last several years. Now, more than ever, journalists are looking for stories that analyze recent news trends. Online media, on the other hand, can be fiercely competitive for breaking stories.

* Embargoes are a source of frustration for journalists. Some media won’t even honor them, which makes me wonder why they are still in common use. In today’s media landscape, I think the embargo needs to go the way of the dodo, for the most part.

* Pitches with visuals go to the front of the line. But then, hi-res images often get caught in firewalls, which is probably why they don’t see them as often as they like.

* You are not my friend, you are my resource. This is old news but it bears repeating. The best PR professionals are not the ones who make friends with the reporter, but those who act as a resource. Your Rolodex is meaningless. Your ability to provide compelling, accurate information is your calling card.

* Multitasking reporters. Print reporters are increasingly arming themselves with video cameras, and training to take good video footage. So make sure your spokespeople comb their hair for an interview.

* Keep it simple. Reporters appreciate succinct information. They hate hyperbole. More than ever, I can understand this complaint. One of the reasons people are turning to new media is a perceived authenticity, and yet pitches seem to get louder and louder as the years go on. If a sentence requires an exclamation point, get rid of it.

* Keep in mind that layoffs are changing the face of newspapers. Calling for a reporter who was recently dismissed is a perfect way to make a reporter you actually reach, hate you. Of course, it’s also almost entirely unavoidable.

* Pitching more than one reporter at a publication is okay, so long as you cc all reporters you are including. However, the consensus seems to be that this practice deprives you of your right to follow up with a phone call, since your e-mail phishing is doing the work for you. I prefer to just target one reporter. If my pitch makes sense, they’ll gladly refer me to the right person, and then I have a reference.

* A few reporters address the 800 lb. gorilla in the room. Simply put, they are inundated with so much useless crap from PR professionals that they often miss the good, relevant pitches. PR shops respond to this in one of two ways: They shorten their lists and make a genuine effort to target the RIGHT reporters, or they simply send more crap in an effort to take more shots on goal, probably with more exclamation points.

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