I always tell interns and junior staff that their first media hit is a gateway. We all remember that first time a journalist responded to our pitch. That first time a camera showed up at our event. That first time a story ran, and our expert was quoted. The high that follows is exceptional, and for those of us who enjoy media relations, it’s addictive.
The first media impression I earned was with The Philadelphia Tribune. I called the reporter and asked her to come to my organization’s event. When she showed up and later published a story, I was hooked.
I thought I’d share a few thoughts with those who can relate to what it’s like to be a media relations specialist:
1. One hit is a relief, but it’s never enough—When I’m pitching a difficult story, I usually let out a sigh of relief after receiving a response from a journalist saying, “I’ll run a short blurb” or “Yes, let’s set up a time to talk.” But then, I start thinking, “Well if this reporter is interested, I bet there are others who will be too.” Then I fall down a rabbit hole until I realize it’s 3 a.m. and no one is going to respond to my emails.
2. Stronger hits to maintain the media buzz—Once I started getting comfortable with pitching early in my career, I developed new and loftier goals. While local outlets are always vital, I wanted to see if I could get the attention of reporters with big dailies…national newspapers…radio!…television!! Alas, some media outlets will always remain a pipe dream, but I will never stop trying.
3. Lay awake at night thinking about the pitch—At bedtime, I’m often still thinking about how I could have written a pitch differently. Or, maybe I’ll read an article as I’m dozing off and think, “I need to contact this guy tomorrow.”
4. Avoid withdrawal by pitching every day—Working at an agency typically affords me a lot of meaty material from numerous clients. If a day passes, and I don’t send out a pitch, I start to sweat. On my desk, I actually have a hard-copy list of pitch topics that my team members and I are currently working. I keep the list at my fingertips so that I’m actively thinking about pitching every day.
5. Admit you’re a first-timer—This is more a piece of advice for newbies. Don’t be afraid to admit to a journalist that you’re new here. It can be a critical tool in winning over the heart (and patience) of that reporter. You’re trying your best to get them what they want, and they may appreciate your earnestness and take pity on your inexperience. And most important, ask a more experienced colleague to walk you through the process step-by-step. There are nuances you don’t know that you don’t know.
Do any other communications professionals out there have a similar addiction to media relations?