Media relations—certainly that’s what public relations is all about…isn’t it? Well, of course that’s a loaded question.
Most public relations professionals came out of college thinking that so very much of their day-to-day right off the bat would involve mainly interactions with the media. The truth is a career in PR involves so much more. For most of us, we spent much of the beginning of our careers compiling clippings, building media lists and drafting pitches.
Despite the numerous hours we put into researching, building strategies and writing, we all know that a stellar hit is what will get us that golden star from our client. And, how do we get that? Pitching.
I believe that pitching is as much strategic as it is artful. Though it’s a big part of the job, both new and old PR specialists may have some anxiety from time to time surrounding it.
As a new professional, you may feel torn between the pressure to attain coverage and fear of annoying the journalist without resolve. Let’s be honest: it’s hard to put yourself 100% in a journalist’s shoes as a publicist. Not sure what to do? Think of pitching like online dating.
Selecting an Appropriate Match
I was going to skip over this step and focus on the follow up, but it is indeed the most important step of all in both online dating and media relations, and it surely deserves some attention! It’s not just new professionals who are guilty of skimping on this research. I know that there are professionals out there who receive a media list from an intern, assume the research is done and reach out to the media. This is a major fail. Would you log onto a dating site, set your age and location range, and just start reaching out to every single man/woman who the site says meets that criteria? No way.
Then, why would you do this to the media? Would I believe someone is the perfect guy for me just because my mom says he is nice and cute? No way. Then you shouldn’t just run with a media list. If you’re pitching, you need to know all there is to know to ensure this contact is a match for your client.
The Message & Follow Up
Congratulations! You’ve sent a stellar message to a stellar match. And then…. nothing! So, now what? Certainly, you had something of interest to share with the journalist. Should you follow up? When? What should you say?
It may be hard to really put yourself in a journalist’s shoes, even though you think you can. Now’s when I think pitching best relates to online dating.
- Mr./Mrs. Absolutely Not Right: These are the ones that you know right off the bat are not for you. They will relentlessly send you messages in a matter of hours or days and are annoyed you don’t respond. They will check in to make sure you didn’t miss their message and often reappear months later. It’s pretty obvious you never want to get this kind of reputation as a public relations professional in the eyes of a journalist. (See above on selecting an appropriate match.)
- The Repeat Offender: This is the person who copies and pastes the same message, word-for-word, to every match on a dating website. They never actually read the person’s profile and will easily forget if they’ve contacted that person before with the same message. As a PR pro, you may think “maybe they just didn’t see my message,” but it’s important to be strategic about your follow up. Surely, there are exceptions to every rule and sometimes they didn’t see your message, but you don’t want to be the repeat offender.
- The One I Forgot About: Let’s assume I note I like bacon in my profile and receive two messages from two different suitors, but the timing just wasn’t right. I actually was busy and dropped off a bit. The repeat offender of course sends the same message twice and I’m over it. But the one I forgot about could follow up with, “Hey, I know you like bacon and I thought you would be interested to know there’s a bacon festival occurring by you next week.”Okay, so for some reason, I’m still really not that interested in the entire package. But, I do love bacon and would actually be interested to know this. Sometimes you just won’t have the perfect story for your contact at the moment. However, if you’re going to follow up, consider it a major plus to have some new information that greatly enhances your original story.
- The One I Think is Perfect: I sent you a message and you didn’t respond. Ugh, you’re the only one I actually want to talk to/I had you in mind when I wrote this pitch and I just know this story is right up your alley. I know this can be discouraging, especially when you first are getting started. I’m sorry, but, if you’ve already sent an artful follow up message, you just have to let it go. Being relentless will not get you anywhere—likely, it will hurt you in the long run.
My advice for those who have just started online dating or their career as a public relations professional? So often, we focus all our attention on the pitch. How can I make my profile better? How can I tweak my subject line so it works?
Certainly, take these things into consideration but sometimes, it’s not always you, it’s them. Do your research and vet your matches. Know what there is to know. There are so many things that could be going on with your contact outside of you. If you’re sure they’re the right fit, maybe now is just not the time. Know both require patience. Trust me, when it’s meant to be, it will be.