Tag Archive | Media Relations

17 Links to Bookmark So You Can Pitch Like a Pro

Pitching is integral to any young PR professional’s career. Despite it’s importance, many of my peers (myself included) find this to be the most challenging aspect of our profession. The only way to truly get better is to have experience, and many companies have policies that don’t allow interns to pitch.

So how do we learn about pitching without practicing? Doing a lot of research and reading numerous case studies helped me grow more comfortable when I first started doing media and blogger outreach.

Over the months, I’ve collected quite a few posts that have helped me enhance my pitching skills. They are all bookmarked and I refer to them often, especially when I’m stumped or uncertain about how to approach a new contact.

Below are some of my favorites that you might find useful, too:

Blogger Relations (and Social Media Release) Case Study by Todd Defren

How You Might View Bloggers by Chris Brogan

A Day in the Life of My Inbox – and When E-mail Marketing is Spam by Josh Bernoff

Open Letter to Fitness and Health Brands Pitching to Bloggers by Stephanie Quilao

Anatomy of a Bad Pitch by Dave Fleet

Great PR Manners Go a Long Way by Chris Brogan

Putting PR People on Notice by CityMama

e-Book: The Art and Science of Blogger Relations by Brian Solis

PR-Squared’s Blogger Relations Bookmark by Todd Defren

How Do I Get Placement on Blogs by Jason Falls

5 Wrong Ways to Pitch RWW and 1 Great Way by Marshall Kirkpatrick

How to Pitch Bloggers: 21 Tips by Darren Rowse

The PR Professional’s Credo: 7 Promises by Todd Defren

The Bad Pitch Blog’s Compiled List of Resources

How to Talk to the Press by Guy Kawasaki

Say What? A .pdf of What Not to Say to the Media compiled by the Bad Pitch Blog

5 Tips for Media Relations Success by David Mullen


Building Relationships: The Foundation for Good PR

For the past few weeks, the blogosphere has been home to a dynamic conversation about the necessity of public relations. I know this happens every now and then: someone says that hiring a PR shop is useless, and we in the profession come together to defend our honor. While I don’t appreciate the bashing, it does allow me to step back and evaluate my role as a public relations practitioner.

I can tell you one thing: I didn’t decide to pursue a career in public relations so that I could send out spam-like e-mails to bloggers and spend hours hounding reporters about my clients. Media relations is not what drew me into PR, and even though it’s valuable, it is not why I will stay in this field, either.

I chose PR for a number of reasons. I loved the idea that I could facilitate relationships between an organization and its consumers. Me? I like people. I like helping people. I like talking and engaging in informative conversations. I love writing and thinking strategically. All of these interests translated well into a career in PR, where these interests could become a valuable skill set.

Last night put a lot of things into perspective for me. I had a great time hanging out with Paull Young, Converseon employee and fellow PR blogger. Paull introduced me to some incredibly smart, hilarious people who all happen to have blogs. As we sat there talking and eating fried pickles (yeah, I know… but they’re actually good!), I realized why I love what I do.

The most rewarding part of my job is not landing a placement in the Wall Street Journal or on a top-tier blog. For me, the gold medal comes from meeting someone and trying to figure out how I can build a mutually beneficial relationship between that person and myself, and maybe down the road, between that person and my client.

And you know what? That’s what the people we’re trying to reach want, too. You know – the important people, the consumers. They want to interact with companies and organizations that seem personal, that at least try to understand the people using their products or services. The same goes with the media: if they know and trust you, they are going to be more inclined to work with you. This is simple Communications 101, yet it seems to get lost as we struggle to get large impressions numbers and prove our contributions to the bottom line.

When you really listen to others, you start to gauge their interests and passions – with this, you can gain their trust. Trust is the building block to relationships, and relationships should be the foundation of good PR.

If you are the CEO of a major company or the president of a new start-up, you might not have the time or resources to find the right people to build quality relationships with. That’s where we PR folk should come in handy – it’s what we do, or at least what we should do. As communicators, we have an onslaught of tools and tactics that can help create worthwhile relationships, whether it’s with consumers, journalists, bloggers, analysts, employees.

Even though measurement and proving our contributions is fundamental to the success of our profession, it will be easier to do so if we start acting a little more human and a little less like impressions fiends. Don’t get me wrong – I know the value of measurement! I’m simply agreeing with others in the field who are saying that the key to these numbers depends on strong relationships and excellent communications skills. It takes time, but so does the creation of any good foundation.

A Young Pro’s Take: Media Relations and the New PR Blacklists

As a new—brand new!—PR professional, this tug-of-war between public relations practitioners and the media is exhausting. For those of you who don’t know about this already, another public outing of PR agencies that apparently spam bloggers and journalists has been created. Coming only a couple of months after Chris Anderson’s infamous blacklist, this shows that PR pros haven’t learned their lesson yet. But what exactly is the lesson that needs to be learned when it comes to media relations?

After reading the slew of posts covering this topic that popped up on the blogosphere yesterday, I think I’ve narrowed it down to a couple of core issues:

  • That’s not how I want to be contacted. These PR pros pitched the blogger at her personal e-mail address, when she clearly said this is not how she wanted to be contacted. This should be the first step in media relations—if you are trying to build a relationship with someone, you should respect their requests. All relationships are built on trust and respect, right?

**UPDATE: In this particular instance, Cision listed the blogger’s personal e-mail address as her main form of contact. Clearly a mistake on this company’s part, which might account for the heavy influx of pitches sent to this address. I’m interested to see how Cision handles this specific case. I am not making excuses as I still think it’s important for PR pros to monitor their media lists, making sure that they are up-to-date and correct.

  • 587 new e-mails…Bah humbug. Bulk pitching is, apparently, the devil. Bulk pitching equals laziness. It shows that the PR professional didn’t take the time to read the journalist’s past work, comment or engage in the material, and decided to send out mass pitch e-mails instead. Brian Solis’ post broke down e-mail pitches into three categories: spam, bacn, and tofu. The varying levels of processed (eh, or fake) meat depend on the level of connection the pitcher made with the journalist. I won’t go into too much detail because I really want you to click on the link and read the post for yourself—the post and the comments make for an interesting read. The point is that you have to know who you are pitching. Todd Defren at Shift Communications posted a terrific guideline to blogger relations and how to build these relationships before you pitch. He makes his employees laminate it and stick it on their desks—I’ll be doing it, too.
  • But I write about technology, not pet care. Another problem is that the journalist never writes about what we are pitching. This is the issue I have the most difficulty understanding, because it seems like common sense that you would only pitch those writers who have an interest in your client or product. I find it hard to believe that every agency listed on that wiki pitched an unrelated topic, which makes me wonder how broad is too broad? If you cover technology, and my client is releasing a new product related to Web development, shouldn’t I pitch you? Maybe I’m over thinking the whole process, but this is where my knowledge of media relations grows thin. How can I ensure that my message is wanted without being a mind reader?
  • What do you expect? I don’t know what I’m doing! Jeremy Pepper thinks the main issue is that PR pros aren’t being properly trained when it comes to media relations. While I can’t speak from the professional side, I can agree with him from the academic side. As a recent grad, I can tell you that I have had minimal exposure to pitching the media. This is, obviously, very difficult to do in the classroom setting, and most of my internships would let me pitch only when everyone else was swamped with bigger clients. For many of my peers, pitching is the thing we know the least about after graduation, which means it’s the area we need the most training in when we enter the workforce. What do we need to know? How do bloggers and journalists want to be pitched? Better yet, professionals, what are your media relations training programs like in this PR 2.0 world?

Back when I was a baby blogger, I wrote about this topic. I asked how to be better, and I got very few responses. So here I am, a PR professional, asking (again) what I can do to help make the relationship between PR and the media more beneficial for both sides. What’s the lesson that needs to be learned?

Because, personally, I want to stop this tug-o-war. My hands are getting blisters.

I’ll Have 101 Media Placements, Please—Hold the Strategic Planning and Relationship Building

Can you imagine lawyers who only required payment if they won your case? Or doctors who made you pay only if they cured you? What about PR agencies that charged you solely based on media placements? These instances seem outlandish, but the latter practice is growing in popularity among small business owners.

I recently joined YoungPRPros, a list serv for those in the first 10 years of their careers, and I’ve been following the hot topic of pay-per-placement PR for a couple of days now as young professionals debate the issue.

The buzz started with the Wall Street Journal article “Pay for PR—But Only When It Works”, which discusses the pros and cons of hiring a PR firm and paying it based on the number of media placements it acquires. While this may benefit small businesses without the resources to pay expensive retainer fees, it also demeans the PR industry.

Even as a student, I realize that PR goes beyond landing stories in the media. PR practitioners provide counsel, they develop relationships on behalf of the client, and they launch campaigns that aren’t entirely media-focused. If a client is paying per placement, PR professionals will cut out these other services to focus on placing stories so they get paid well. This eliminates functions that differentiate public relations from publicists or press agents.

I understand that small businesses sometimes struggle to afford PR services, but if they were ever featured in a top-tier publication, they would be footing the bill of a hefty placement fee. A better investment would be a full-service PR firm responsible for media placements, relationship building, branding, AND strategic planning.

I don’t think there is enough support for pay-per-placement PR to make it a mainstay in the industry, but it is interesting to look at the different billing options available for both clients and practitioners.

To maintain the integrity of PR as a strategic business function, I don’t think I’m going to be championing for placement-billing PR anytime soon.

Are you?

And You Wonder Why I’m Scared to Pitch?

I like challenges, and I like having to overcome obstacles to achieve goals. Pitching is certainly a challenge, but I’m not so sure it’s one I like, especially with all the negative attention PR professionals have been getting because of it lately.

I remember the first time I had to pitch a story to a local newspaper when I was a lowly first-year intern. As I dialed the number, I rehearsed a script in my head, trying to ignore the beads of sweat gathering on my palms. I felt nervous pangs building up in my stomach, and waves of dread engulfed me when I heard a voice answer the line. Heart pounding, I forced a confident introduction and asked to speak to the journalist I was pitching, only to discover she would be out of town for the rest of the week.

Pitching is an important part of public relations, and I hoped my fears would subside with practice. I was feeling more confident talking to the media at my latest internships, but that was before I entered the blogosphere.

I’ve stumbled across several blogs that make me terrified to contact the media. PR people are addressed as flacks. We’re black listed. We’re being called names. I feel like the awkward girl in middle school who everyone makes fun for every miniscule thing she does. Okay—so that’s pretty melodramatic, but let’s get serious. Isn’t this battle between journalists and PR practitioners getting a little ridiculous?

Because I used to be a journalism major who worked at a paper, I know the importance of press releases in the news room. They helped me come up with story ideas when I was suffering from writer’s block several times. Some of the editors complained about the PR firms that sent out mass releases, but for the most part, the paper appreciated the efforts of PR professionals. The reason this relationship worked? Because it was just that—a relationship.

The deterioration of the journalist/PR relationship is the root of this battle of the professions. There are some blogs attacking PR that make valid claims. Chris Anderson was fed up with the spam-like nature of press releases he received. Nicholas Carlson received a release complete with drafting and editing marks. Maybe some PR people are getting lazy, and that’s reflecting poorly on the industry as a whole, but what about the rest of us?

Throughout my PR education I’ve learned that pitching to the media should be based on a mutually beneficial relationship. This seems like common sense to me, but how can we form relationships when we’re being silenced before we even get the chance to introduce ourselves?

Gene Weingarten’s recent Washington Post article, “Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You… Names” is what worries me the most. Here, a PR firm contacts Weingarten to get his opinion on the best ways to contact him. It seems like good-natured communication, but Weingarten rips the firm to shreds with sarcastic answers and a slew of insults. This is exactly why my blood pressure skyrockets every time I have to contact a journalist.

Pitching is about building relationships, but where do we PR professionals (especially students) begin making these connections? I would love to go out and grab coffee with as many journalists as possible– and I have in the past– but am I supposed to do this with every journalist I could potentially pitch?

I know there’s no magic formula that will make me competent at pitching, but because it’s such a valued skill in this industry, I’d like all the advice I can get. Students, professors, professionals, and journalists—I’ll appreciate all the insight you can give me so that one of mistakes isn’t floating around the blogosphere for everyone to mock.