Working with the Media: 8 Basics to Keep in Mind

Sometimes working with the media can seem daunting and intimidating, but it doesn’t need to be! With 20 years working as a member of the media and another 13 years of experience in public relations, I can tell you with confidence that anyone can go after media coverage; it just takes time and preparation. Not sure where to start? Here are 8 basics to keep in mind:

  1. Get everything ready. Journalists are extremely busy and usually on a deadline, so make sure you have everything set up before you start reaching out to the press. Is your website live and up to date? Anticipate items they might want – have 2-5 high-resolution images (at least 3×5 in size and 300dpi), including your logo and headshot, and samples ready in case they’re requested.
  2. Do your homework. With more and more people asking reporters for coverage, it’s important to take the time to do your homework and make sure you’re emailing or calling the right person. For example, if you have a beauty product, contacting the Food Editor won’t get you very far. Make sure the person you contact actually writes or talks about items similar to your product or service. It’s also a nice touch to reference a story they’ve done that you liked when you contact them.
  3. Carefully craft your pitch. A “pitch” is the industry term for a written introduction, usually an email as it’s what journalists tend to prefer (it is much less intrusive and they can get to it when they have a few moments). Fundamentally, a pitch is a request. You are asking for someone in the media to do a favor for you – tell their readers or viewers about your business. As I mentioned before, journalists are extremely busy and usually on a deadline, so keep your pitch to 2-3 paragraphs in length. Make sure your pitch tells the recipient why the story is relevant to their audience right up front, then provide a few important details about the story, and don’t forget to include your contact information (phone and email) in addition to a link to your website for them to find more information. Remember that a pitch is designed to whet the reporter’s appetite, not give them a complete dump of every little detail. If they want more info, they’ll definitely ask, so start with just the most relevant and important information.
  4. Say please and thank you. Being polite and keeping a friendly tone can go a long way. Even if the reporter is short and cryptic, maintain a helpful, professional tone when working with the media and remember to include a “please” and “thank you.”
  5. Follow up. If you don’t hear back, feel free to follow up a couple of times, but stay friendly and don’t do it too often – not more than once a week. You want to be pleasantly persistent – not an annoying stalker. At Three Girls, we include slightly different angles and story ideas in our follow up emails or calls to give them even more ideas about ways the press could share the information with their readers, listeners or viewers.
  6. Be pleasantly persistent. If a journalist requests samples or more information, feel free to check back in with them – but remember to stay polite! Follow up enough to remind them of the sample you sent, but not so much that you become a thorn in their side. I recommend following up no more than 2-3 times over a 6-8 week period. If you don’t get a response, don’t be discouraged. Wait a few months a try again with a slightly different angle.
  7. Be friendly, genuine and helpful. Make sure you’re responsive and helpful, and answer any questions they have quickly – within 24 hours or less if possible. You don’t want them to lose interest in the story idea and journalists are often on deadline and need info quickly.
  8. Say thank you again. If the reporter does write or talk about your business, thank them! In addition to sending a quick email or tweet thanking them, mail them a hand-written thank you card to let them know you really appreciated the coverage. At Three Girls, we include hand-written thank you cards with a fun chotchkie (like a branded pack of post-its) as part of our media relations services. In fact, we regularly receive thank you emails in response to our snail-mailed thank you notes because it’s just not common and helps us stand out.

Now you’re ready to get started! What other advice have you heard when it comes to working with the media?

Photo Credit: oceanaris

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