Public Relations is a competitive field. Some would compare the race to get a journalist to open and read their press release to the sperm and egg scenario. OK, maybe that’s slightly extreme… but it goes without saying that it can be pretty tough.
If you put yourself in the shoes of a journalist, you have to imagine being inundated with press release after press release; 90% of which will probably be deleted as quickly as they arrive in their inbox. Journalists just don’t have the time to sift through everything that they receive, so you need to do what you were born to do as a PR and grab their attention with both hands.
Here are 9 sure-fire methods that will grab a journalist’s attention, for you to have a go at:
1. Tweet them
You’d be surprise what you can achieve with just 140 characters (280 if you’re one of the lucky ones who has the trial increase). It’s easier to miss/ignore an email than a tweet and it’s a more direct approach that won’t just feel like you’ve hit ‘send to all’ and spammed the living daylights out of them. Keep it short, sweet and to-the-point (and don’t repeatedly tweet them if you don’t get a reply – that’s just annoying).
2. Phone them
Relying on email is not productive when it comes to PR. Don’t get me wrong, it helps get the job done, but it’s not very reliable. Your email could be deleted in a mass inbox clearing, it could end up in the recipient’s junk folder, it may get left unopened or if might be read and then immediately forgotten about. Did I mention journalists are busy people? I’m a firm believer in the fact that if you have a strong story that you know is relevant for the journalist you’re targeting, they won’t mind hearing from you. So, don’t take this tip to mean “cold call every journalist on your database about a story you think they might be loosely interested in” but DO pick up the phone and have a conversation IRL. You’ll get feedback immediately and you won’t be left hitting the send/receive button to see if you’ve had a reply.
3. Shake up the age-old press release
Press releases work just fine a lot of the time, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a tad boring and samey when they get sent to journalists as a bog standard email. Break the mould and do something different. Get your press release iced onto a cake and hand delivered to the journalist’s office. Print it out, fold it into a paper aeroplane and send it in a box. Make a quick and easy video press release. You get the point. This doesn’t have to be done for every story you send out, obviously, but if you have an important one that you want to make stand out *cue annoying cliché phrase* then think outside the box (sorry).
4. Offer an exclusive
I can imagine how annoying it must be to be on the receiving end of a really good story (i.e. a journalist), to then do a quick search and see that the story is already out there. Everywhere. Unless it’s really big, it’d-be-hard-not-to-cover-it, news then this could well put a journalist off running your news. Offer something exclusively and make that clear to the journalist from the get-go and it may well pique their interest much more than if you didn’t.
5. Show you’ve done your research
If you can start a conversation with “I saw the recent story you did on XYZ, so thought you might be interested in this news of a similar ilk…” then you may well earn some brownie points early on, purely because you’re showing that you’ve actually looked into what they write about and why they might care about your story. This might seem an obvious one, but you’d be surprised how many PR people poorly target their stories.
6. Invite them for food/drinks/coffee
It’s true that a lot of journalists are more pushed for time than ever, but that doesn’t mean the trusty old media meet is out of the question. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know; so it doesn’t hurt to see if any of your media contacts would like to grab a quick drink or a bite and meet with you (maybe with your client in tow) to run through how you could work together in future.
7. Think about your subject line
There’s a lot to be said about a strong, provocative subject line. If you’re emailing out a story, I think a good subject line can make the difference between a press release or pitch being opened/read and being sent straight to the deleted folder. Try to make it really clear what your pitch is in the subject line and pick out the best hook possible.
8. Be helpful, not pushy
If you show willing to get anything a journalist might need to run your story, such as images, case studies, extra quotes or more information, that’s going to help your case. But be warned; there’s a thin line between being helpful and then pushy. If a journalist says they have everything they need, don’t keep on and on at them, because you risk irritating them to the point of no coverage!
Particularly where product PR is concerned, free samples and products can be make a bit of an impact; especially compared to just emailing over product images and price info. Allowing journalists to get hands on time with the items you’re trying to pitch for stories or features will make your approach a more memorable one. If there’s budget to spare some products for the media, it’s really important that you factor this into your campaign. Other freebies, like random flowers and chocolates are 1) a bit creepy and 2) bordering on bribery, so avoid at all costs (unless it’s a particularly good contact of yours and it’s their birthday/they got a promotion/there’s another special occasion that it’s not weird for you to be acknowledging).
Thanks for reading (and for staying awake until this part) folks!