PR professionals are great at connecting with people, but even established PR pros sometimes need a refresher – or some new ideas – on how best to interact with the media.
In this week’s #ConnectChat, rather than having one “featured guest,” we decided to open up the discussion to all our followers.
The chat was held Tuesday, Nov. 22, on Twitter, and covered topics such as what PR people should never do; hurdles in connecting with media; social media sites for PR pros; contacting reporters; and more.
Following is a recap of the chat:
ProfNet: Welcome and thank you for joining today’s #ConnectChat! This is Evelyn Tipacti, taking over @profnet for our chat. We're changing things around today to discuss how to connect with the media, and instead of having one guest, you are all today's experts. We are hoping to get your expert advice and ideas shared with everyone on the chat so we can learn from each other. So, let's get started and have some fun.
What is your one best tip for getting media attention?
@SusynEliseDuris Engage, and develop the relationship before the pitch. Novel concept, isn't it?
@LoudyOutLoud A great story always helps!
@SusynEliseDuris A great story and being able to tell it well. I think both go hand in hand. #connectchat
@jgombita Agreed, except I'd call it a consistent Organizational Narrative (plus actual news, not a product launch)!
@JulieDuBrow Never BS’ing the media. Being straight. Following through. Helping journalists solve their problems vs. making more work.
@SusynEliseDuris I just look at Steve Jobs, who was able to appeal to people's emotions when telling a story. Very much like Bill Clinton.
@ProfNet Great examples. I agree Jobs was able to reach people, and Clinton certainly has a style that seems to work.
@SusynEliseDuris But it wasn't flying from the seat of your pants. Very orchestrated. Being an actor and a marketer has helped.
@LoudyOutLoud A great story told well with supporting proof points works well. The media love it!
@jgombita I'm sticking with my continuous weaving (like a tapestry) of the Organizational Narrative.
@LoudyOutLoud "Continuous Weaving of the Organizational Narrative" -- love it! I would love to steal that line in my next meeting with marketing.
@jgombita Constructing the Organizational Narrative: PR definition in the making: t.co/OFwvPrKH
@BradDevero PR pitches are good if they have clear news value and are of interest to readers. Help with unearthing a great story/source is great.
@Alisonbck As a reporter, I learned to always keep the reader/listener/audience. What do they care about? What's in it for them?
@BradDevero It’s nice when the story is clear without having to cut down a lot of self-promotion.
Do you use press releases to get your message out?
@allbeautyntruth It depends on the stakeholders, audience, etc.
@lastwordy As a small organization currently doing our own PR, we use press releases for big events and new section launches.
@prforsmallbiz I've been using press releases more for SEO purposes lately.
What's the most important tip you'd offer to someone just starting out in PR and working with media?
@prforsmallbiz Don't take anything personally, and fine-tune your follow-up skills.
@JGinenthal Don't be afraid to pick up the phone.
@SusynEliseDuris Research, engage, learn -- in that order. Some of these "kids" are too eager to change things. Learning is key first.
@imbookin Personalize, connect, connect, connect. You want people to know you're real and not a robot, that you're willing to engage and answer questions. Be the authority.
@JenelleHamilton Don't be shy and be yourself. Make an effort to get to know the media and speak with them on a regular basis. Editors are human too!
@SDA_PR Don't get hung up on mistakes. It's all part of the learning process.
@lauramfin Always research a reporter thoroughly before pitching them.
@prforsmallbiz Don't EVER stalk the media, be pushy or nasty.
@STACISMAIL Make friends/don't stalk.
@BradDevero Don't just email a release. If it is truly newsworthy, follow-up calls are appreciated.
@jgombita Wow! It's the rare journalist who invites follow-up calls to email news releases, in my experience.
@imbookin Voice is very important. Make sure whatever you say sounds like something the publication would write, at least a little.
@lauramfin Read lots of their work before ever picking up the phone or emailing. Know what they cover and how they cover stories.
@HiCaliber1 I agree. Know their beat.
@jgombita Try to figure out who is in same department – and, for goodness’ sake, don't phone or email more than once.
@katwife View that journalist’s past stories and bio, get a feel for their writing. Stay on top of trends and make your story a news story for all to take notice.
What should PR people never do?
@imbookin Never lie. It sounds so obvious, but getting caught is worse than 'fessing up when there's a mistake and taking it from there.
@jgombita Don't keep bugging journalists about whether they are interested in your software, book or new widget (same with bloggers)!
@prforsmallbiz Don't send out pitches that say "Dear Editor" or "To Whom it May Concern." Do your research.
@lauramfin Always remember that journalists are people; don't treat them like a tool to get your message out -- that's a newswire.
@SusynEliseDuris What gets me is, seasoned pros are still mass mailing press releases. No. No. No.
What's the biggest hurdle you've overcome when it comes to connecting with the media? How did you do it?
@prforsmallbiz Most PR pros face not getting timely responses from the media. I try to overcome by providing extremely relevant pitches.
@Alisonbck Too often we PR folk start with our own angle, what we think of the news/study/product. Instead, write with your audience in mind.
@imbookin I think, coming from a journalism background, that some media are wary of the sincerity of our claims that it's newsworthy.
@lauramfin More likely, many do not know how or are afraid to tell their client/boss, "No, this is not news."
@Alisonbck I call it my "cold water talk." I often throw cold water on the idea -- sorry, if it's not news, I can't pitch it.
Which social media sites are you using in your capacity as a PR pro? Do you use social media to reach out to journalists?
@lccole00 We're using mainly Twitter/Facebook, but for some of our constituents we're getting into Pinterest.
@imbookin Not Google+ yet. I don't think most of our potential audience is on there. I have a Circle just for journalists on Google+.
@DragonSearch This is a great feature of G+ that mirrors FB.
@imbookin I also use Facebook, of course, but I feel like it can be a difficult platform if you're not an established well-known brand. Also, if you have the right content for it, Yahoo! Shine is a great platform to spread the word and get clicks.
@lauramfin Yes, need to interact with people where they are and become part of the larger conversations.
@jgombita I met the majority of journalists I have a relationship with on social media. Otherwise, it’s mainly email.
Question from @FatherGator: What is the etiquette about contacting multiple reporters at one newspaper with same story?
@jgombita DON'T DO IT. When in doubt, contact the business editor (or whomever) to ask -- or the switchboard, in a pinch.
@WendyMackall I've always tried to let business know I've also contacted news, for example. Reporters hate chasing a story only to find out someone else in the organization is, too.
@GnosisArts I wouldn't do it.
@FatherGator Three out of three suggest "no." I'm taking that as strong advice. Thanks to all.
@lauramfin Normally, I only do so after one passes; in any event, full disclosure is always required -- be honest. But it did once take me 22 no’s from journalists at the WSJ to get one yes -- and it was a great yes.
@SusynEliseDuris Determine the top three placements for the story. Lead with the strongest. Don't mass mail.
@imbookin If you must, then absolutely mention that you had already contacted another staff member. Or perhaps send to both saying, "Would either of you be interested?”
@BradDevero Just let us know who else received the message so we can communicate/coordinate.
Do you reach out to journalists via social media, or do you prefer to already have a relationship and then go to social media?
@jgombita A bit of both. Generally, I engage with them (tweet or DM) if they are tweeting about something of interest or if I can add to it.
@katwife It depends. Over the years, some are friends. If you write good stories, they will respond either way.
@WendyMackall It depends. I mostly follow as a way to keep up with what they're writing about/interested in.
@jgombita For a fabulous journalist on Twitter, check out @SusanDelacourt (senior reporter on federal politics and general raconteur).
What's the most underrated skill/tactic when reaching the media?
@jgombita Empathy -- appreciating the resource constraints of most journalists today. They have lots of pressure, not much money.
@WendyMackall Understanding the obstacles journalists face with being asked to do a lot.
@lauramfin A very thick skin. Media relations pros will have a lot of rejection in their lives, even with good stories to tell.
@HiCaliber1 Spell-check might rank up there as one of the most underrated tactics when reaching the media.
@jgombita Especially spell-checking the journalist's name(s). I get some doozy spellings (and pronunciations) on my surname!
@katwife Respect their time and work, and they will respect yours.
@ProfNet This ends today's #ConnectChat. Thanks again to all of you for participating, and have a very happy Thanksgiving!