Here’s a fun fact. In the United States, PR professionals outnumber journalists by 5 to 1. Ok. That fact isn’t fun at all. It’s actually quite sobering if you are in the business of trying to catch the attention of reporters. Imagine if there were four times as many car dealerships as there are people who might buy cars. You’d be so sick of someone trying to sell you a car that you’d probably tune them all out. That’s exactly what happens when reporters get your cookie-cutter press releases and irrelevant story pitches.
There are many services that will sell you a list of media contacts. But blindly blasting press releases and pitches to journalists with whom you have no previous relationship, and who don’t have a particular interest in your story, is extremely unlikely to yield any results. In fact, it may get you a reputation as a media spammer and make it even more difficult to develop positive relationships with the right contacts. There’s little to gain and potentially a lot to lose.
Sean Wood, a reporter who spent 12 years in TV and radio news put it this way, “Quick Quiz: How much do you enjoy telemarketers? What about junk mail? SPAM, anyone? Yeah, I didn't think so. That said, what makes you think a reporter enjoys getting some BCC email from you?”
When it comes to your contact list, quality is way more important that quantity. The best results come from reaching out to journalists and influencers who are already writing about issues connected to your brand, industry, customers, and competitors. Careful media monitoring will reveal your best targets and point you toward the publications and writers that you should watch.
Leverage TrendKite SEO Impact to understand which publications you want to have your story by learning which ones get quality traffic and engagement. Imagine how much more focused your outreach will be when you are only targeting high impact publications; publications that can produce real results, that can give your story the attention and drive the traffic you need.
Also, research keywords and topics that relate to your news then reach out to journalists whose audiences engage with stories like yours. Now you have a real reason to reach out...
“Hey Awesome Journo! Using TrendKite, I see your latest story on XYZ was a huge hit with your audience! (Maybe even entice them with some data around social shares!) Wanted to reach out and let you know I’ve got some exciting news about something similar; thought your audience might enjoy learning about…”
Now, THAT is quality outreach!
The 2015 Business Wire Media Survey, which included about 400 members of the media, revealed that 57.2% of respondents said additional research by PR professionals into a particular publication or beat would help journalists do their job better.
In fact, the problem of untargeted emails is so bad that being thoughtful about which journalists and publications you pitch is enough to make you stand out by itself. One anonymous reporter who responded to a survey on what reporters want from PR pros said, “I rarely get tailored approaches from PRs that have thought about my publication and what I write about. I know that is a time issue, but it feels like there is a lot more 'desperate' flinging of press releases at anyone and everyone.”
Prime the Pump
When you focus your efforts on a few important journalists rather than trying to boil the ocean, you can use a more high-touch engagement strategy. It is a good idea to connect with them on social media and share and engage their content. People notice when others are paying attention to what they produce online. Reach out to introduce yourself at a time when you aren’t pitching a story to increase the odds that the contact will respond when you do.
Work Hard to Stand Out
The next time you write a subject line for a media pitch, imagine that it will be one of four that arrive in the contact’s inbox at the same time. (I realize that the 4:1 ratio doesn’t mean it always works like that, but it is a useful mental exercise.) What will make the journalist click on yours? In the same way that your best marketing messages are about your customer, not about you. Your best press pitches will include something of value for the writer.
Make the Journalist’s Job Easier
Including images and video in your press releases is a good way to increase interest and improve the chances that they will be shared. Likewise, including visuals and relevant quotes with story pitches makes the reporter’s job easier.
According to Sterling Communications, “When every reporter is looking for something different to help craft their story, it’s our job in PR to make the reporting as pain-free as possible. This is often something as simple as providing an executive’s schedule for interviews, but can also include coordinating third-party statistics or quotes from an industry analyst, mocking up screenshots of a product, or scrambling for a last-minute executive headshot.”
I was chatting with a friend who runs PR for a mid-sized retail brand. He made every mistake I’ve just mentioned. He sent a generic press release to a huge dump of media contacts that he didn’t know. I guess he’s the exception that proves the rule because someone responded. Did he get the mention? No. He didn’t notice the message in the sea of all the automatic replies generated by his email blast. By the time he responded, the deadline had passed. Responsiveness is crucial to helping journalists meet their strict deadlines and earning their respect. This is another advantage of focus. It makes it easier for you to stay on top of things and react quickly.
One journalist quoted in The Standard had this to say about deadlines, “We are under pressure to meet deadlines, file stories, verify data and check sources. Did I just say deadlines? Many of us don’t answer phone calls because there’s simply no time. If you miss, the 3pm cut-off, then tough!”
The truth is that although we annoy each other greatly from time to time, journalists and PR professionals need each other. By ending the practice of sending generic mass emails to unknown media contacts and instead thoughtfully approaching the ones who are most likely to find your brand’s story of interest, you are doing both yourself and your contacts a big favor.