At the recent New York Times
Travel Show, one professional development focus area encompassed travel industry media, blogging, and social media.
In the course of the day there were multiple negative statements made about PR by journalists and bloggers, such as, “Emailed press releases often arrive addressed to someone else, so clearly they’re distributed to many journalists, … Why would I be interested in information that was sent to every media outlet?” and, “I get press releases about topics that are completely irrelevant to my coverage area, so clearly the PR person hasn’t looked at my work.”
I thought these days were behind us. When I began my career in PR, mass, mail-merged pitching and “PR by the pound” were all the craze. Obtaining PR “hits” for the sake of increased column inches was considered success. PR did not have a seat at business strategy meetings and wasn’t thought to have an impact on business growth at all.
That’s no longer the case. PR works hand in hand with other marketing practices, collectively enhancing brand image and customer experience. Many PR pros clearly recall that achieving equal standing was a hard-fought endeavor. Though we might be respected by our marketing counterparts, it’s clear from journalists’ comments at the Travel Show that the same cannot be said for the PR/media relationship.
Effective PR pros know that it’s crucial to research media targets and to tailor pitches based on each reporter’s interests. So why were so many journalists at the NYT
trade show claiming they still receive pitches like those made last century?
Perhaps it’s a good time to pause, regroup, and re-evaluate. Until we each effectively represent our industry, there’s no hope for a true rebranding that will induce outsiders to appreciate our role.
Here are ways to ensure your PR resonates positively with journalists and therefore will have greater impact on the business or brand you’re promoting.
To blast or not to blast?
Don’t distribute mass emails to journalists you don’t know. They will see right through the material and ignore it. Once you’ve formed relationships with journalists, it’s OK to keep them in the loop by blasting press releases that you realize they probably won’t cover but that keep them abreast of your company’s activities. If you want a reporter to write a story, you must send a pitch tailored specifically to his beat and interests.
What’s in a name?
In pulling together your media list, do not
simply run a database search for all journalists who cover a certain beat and then dump the information into a spreadsheet. Certainly these subscription systems are full of valuable information, but it’s best to use them as a starting point. Once you’ve targeted potential outlets and reporters, take your research to the next level by reviewing coverage by the specific journalists to clarify accuracy.
Making follow-up calls
Willingness to receive follow-up calls varies from journalist to journalist, but one thing is always true: You must give it time. It’s shocking to hear that some PR pros will ring up a reporter within minutes of sending that person an email. Think about your own interaction with email. You probably check it regularly, but you don’t sit there reading and immediately responding to every note that comes through, especially given the sheer volume of email we all receive. Clearly this holds true for journalists, so unless your pitch contains breaking news, take a day or two before following up. If it is
breaking news, just pick up the phone from the start.
[RELATED: Find out how to craft the perfect pitch at our April PR & Media Relations event in NYC.]
PR people also often receive accolades from journalists for providing vital access and information to support their story development. There are many terrific PR pros, but let’s not lose sight of these important pitching practices.
Lynn Schwartz is president of full-service communications firm Newsmaker Group. As a true public relations generalist, she offers clients more than 25 years of experience in a wide variety of disciplines and industry sectors. A version of this story originally appeared on the company's blog.