Anyone who practices public relations knows how competitive it has become to secure quality media coverage these days. This is the direct byproduct of a shrinking media landscape and the explosion of technology that is constantly inundating us with information from every direction.
But here’s another reason – more and more of the PR professionals vying for the same coverage are journalists themselves, some of them even Pulitzer Prize winners – among the most masterful communicators.
In his recent article, Washington Post Economic Policy Correspondent Jim Tankersley shared a startling statistic from the Bureau of Labor Statistics: aside from a few major U.S. markets, like Washington, D.C., New York City and Los Angeles, one out of every four reporting jobs vanished.
Meanwhile, total employment in PR has soared during the past decade. In 2004, the Labor Department reported that there were 166,210 public relations professionals in the U.S., whereas in 2014, that number grew to more than 208,000.
So how can today’s PR professionals make sure that their pitches resonate and break through, resulting in quality “ink” for the clients and companies they represent? Here are some best practices to keep in mind:
- Do your research: Even if you have a media contact database or research tool for finding journalists, use it only as a starting point when targeting your outreach. While it’s time-consuming, vetting your media contacts in advance is critical in order to avoid sending a misdirected or irrelevant pitch. Know who you’re pitching and what they cover beforehand.
- Get to the point: Less is definitely more. You have just a few seconds to grab a reporter’s interest. When writing your next pitch, a good place to start is to approach it as if you are writing a 140-character tweet or an actual headline for the story that you’re proposing. This will force you to stay on point and keep your pitch as concise as possible.
- Give the reporter time to respond: It is fine to follow-up after you’ve pitched a journalist, but give the idea time to resonate. As a general rule of thumb, it’s good to wait at least a couple of days before following up on your idea. And when you do follow up, have something new or interesting to say beyond – “I’m following up on a pitch I sent you about…”
- Honor and respect the journalist’s decision to say no: Media relations is fraught with rejection. If your pitch gets turned down, don’t dwell on it. It won’t necessarily eliminate your possibility of ever working with that journalist again. You can always approach him or her again down the line with a more appealing story idea that may get accepted.
- Focus on relationship building: When it comes to working with the media, relationship building is key. This is increasingly true as the journalism community keeps getting smaller. Get to know the reporters that you’re working with to find out what they need and how you can best help them. Remember, they have a job to do, just like you.