PR Pros’ 11 Commandments for Working With Reporters

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10 Commandments of Media Relations

As a PR pro, are you doing everything you can to make your dealings with reporters positive and get them to trust and, yes, need you?

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There’s been a lot of discussion around our offices and in our online channels about how best to pitch a story to a reporter.

We’ve had reporter friends, other PR pros, and editors weigh in. What’s the common consensus?

Ken Grant, Epic Marketing media specialist says, “Regarding sending the pitch to multiple recipients at the same outlet – I have heard different opinions from reporters and editors who say they would rather have the same release sent to ten people in their organization than risk missing it because the one person it was sent to was out that day. Most importantly, I think the key is to develop a relationship with the media and give them what they want when they want it, like we try to do for all customers and clients.”

The keyword, though, would be authentic relationships. We’ve seen too many times when a media relations person believes that sending their “mark” some cheap swag and a white paper is a way to build a relationship. That’s not an authentic relationship.

Ken continues, “the individuals who pointed out things like misspelling their names or saying things like, “glad we talked yesterday” when they didn’t – those actions pretty much destroy any chance at an authentic relationship. I also recommend actually becoming a fan of the work the reporters, editors, and organizations do. When you’re talking with a reporter and can say, “by the way, that story you did last week was really insightful, that must have taken some time,” you demonstrate that you actually respect the work they are doing instead of seeing them as a means to an end.”

Matt Sullivan, former editor at Spark, made a great point. “On the subject of multiple emails – you certainly want to avoid having multiple people working on the same story in a news organization, so the larger the place, the more you want to be conscientious about targeting. But if you’re seeing multiple email addresses on a story pitch, that’s because the PR person didn’t BCC. As an editor, that always struck me as not only bad form, but not very smart.”

At Epic, we have firm guidelines for how, when, and to whom we pitch a story. Our top tips for getting your lead picked up by a reporter:

1. Don’t bury the lead. That frustrates the reader and wastes time.

2. Be aware of what is going on in real time and don’t pitch during a crisis or news event unless the story you are pitching is relevant.

3. Have someone such as the CEO or media liaison ready to talk on the record. If the story gets picked up, the reporter will have follow up questions. There are always follow up questions. It’s bad form to not have anticipated that and have someone ready to be interviewed.

4. Spelling counts – especially of the reporter’s name.

5. Don’t be deceptive. Not being genuine and honest will get you blackballed very quickly.

 

What tips do you have for reaching reporters and getting your pitch picked up?

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