The order in which you perform your tasks can make the difference between a successful launch or a failure.
Most communicators have encountered this classic media relations quandry: Do you pitch a journalist first or share the news on your own and pitch the story later, in hopes of garnering media coverage?
While PR tactics are subjective, drawing from the research my team at Muck Rack has done, I believe there is a correct order if you want your story to have a lasting impact.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to effective media relations.
The case for pitching a journalist first
Here’s the truth that your client or CEO probably doesn’t want to hear: the moment you put an announcement anywhere on the web yourself, it’s instantly less appealing to journalists.
Your news has lost its luster.
Yes, this includes your website and company Twitter account—and it certainly includes third-party newswire services. When you share your announcement elsewhere, that piece of news is already public knowledge.
That makes it less interesting for journalists who like to be the first to tell a story or share a new angle. If your news is easily accessible online, it’s old news.
Unless you have major influence (e.g., you’re Apple launching a brand new iPhone), it pays to place a story with one journalist exclusively, or a handful of journalists with an embargo date. (Just make sure you get the journalists to agree to the embargo before sharing the news explicitly.)
What then is the key to media relations success?
Identifying your top media targets, crafting a short, compelling pitch and offering your story as an exclusive.
If one journalist declines, move on to the next journalist on your list.
How to craft your pitch
Savvy communications pros know that media relations is an art.
Send a good pitch, and your reward is coverage that makes a difference. Send a sloppy pitch, and face the wrath of being included in one of these bad pitch roundups.
The old way of sharing news via a news release—or even worse, via a newswire, a relic of how communicators used to talk to journalists—simply doesn’t make sense in today’s media landscape.
What does a compelling pitch look like these days?
- Make it short short . Start with an email, and keep it short and sweet. In fact, 53 percent of journalists prefer pitches two be to three paragraphs long. Forty-one percent say they’d prefer a pitch to be two to three sentences long. Only five percent of journalists said they want 500-word pitches, which is the standard length of a news release.
- Make it personal . According to our Annual Journalist Survey, 22 percent of journalists cited lack of personalization as the number one reason for ignoring otherwise relevant pitches.
- Don’t add an attachment . A pitch is meant to pique interest—you can send more information later if a journalist makes that request.
Pivoting to owned media channels
Communicators today have many more tools and resources at their disposal than ever before.
Can’t get the media to write about it or want to spread the word further after you’ve earned a media placement?
Pivot to your owned media channels.
1. Share the news on your blog . You have the power to write your own news article. Share your announcement in casual, blog-style writing with a strong hook. Make it exciting and fun to read for your audience. Speak directly to them, using their language.
2. Repurpose your blog post on LinkedIn or Medium . Want to expand the reach of your post? Share it on an external free site such as LinkedIn or Medium. Or, if you don’t have a blog, use these sites to spread the word. The design is simple and beautiful—plus, it’s free.
3. Amplify your message on social media . Of course, you’ll want to share the news on all of your social media channels. You’ll get the added SEO benefits of sending traffic back to your website, unlike if you were to share on a third-party site such as PR Newswire where Google disallows SEO from paid websites.
4. Empower your employees to be ambassadors . The people on your team are often your best brand ambassadors. Be sure to keep them in the loop, and ask them to help share. Create a free “click to tweet” link, prepare suggested language to use when sharing on other channels, and encourage team members to help spread the news, too.
5. Send it out via your newsletter . Send out your company news via a newsletter linking back to your blog post announcement. Often, the folks who opt into your list are engaged, and likely want to hear your news. You can also include a social sharing buttons here, encouraging your biggest fans to help share your news.
6. Invest in better multimedia assets . Often, a good piece of news isn’t enough to gain the attention of the media or capture thousands of views on a blog post. Investing in assets such as better photography, video or an interesting infographic can help add a new level of excitement to your announcement. With tools such as Canva, creating professional-looking multimedia is easier than ever.
When it comes time to share your next big piece of news, give these tricks a try. By tailoring your media pitches first, you’ll increase your odds of garnering earned media—and you’ll allow your story to have a much longer shelf life.
Gregory Galant is the co-founder and CEO of Muck Rack, a digital PR and journalism platform. You can follow him at @gregory. A version of this article originally appeared on Muck Rack, a service that enables you to find journalists to pitch, build media lists, get press alerts and create coverage reports with social media data.