New Media Relations Lessons from New York

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  • April 29, 2016
  • Shelley Nall

In a constantly changing media landscape, best practices and media preferences are always evolving. It’s important to continually hone your skills in order to keep improving and see success, which is why I headed to New York for the Ragan PR Media Relations Summit earlier this month. Here are some of my key take-aways that helped reinforce and refresh my perspective on media relations:

Get to the Point

Gregory Galant of Muck Rack presented the results of his most recent Media Relations Survey and, I was pleased to see, a lot of INK’s go-to strategies are backed by science. For instance, use social to your advantage to build relationships with media, but stick to email for pitches. While 86% of media like when PR pros follow them on social, 93% still prefer to be pitched via email. I’ve always seen the distinction as: social media is social and should be used for genuine human interaction (media are humans too, we must remember). The stat that really jumped out to me though had to do with pitch length; 41% of media prefer no more than 2-3 sentences and an additional 53% won’t read past 2-3 paragraphs. Also worth noting that while 22% of media say they reject pitches for being too lengthy, 28% reject pitches for being too generic. These numbers back up the INK pitching mindset: a short and sweet email that speaks directly to the person we are pitching.

To take my own advice, let me get to the point: use social to get to know media, be genuinely interested in them and their goals, and send them short, relevant emails.

Don’t Just Pitch “A Story”

Meredith Artley, Editor in Chief at CNN Digital, might have been my favorite talk of the summit. Not only did she provide some interesting and specific context as to how CNN, and journalism in general, is changing, but she also made the biggest impact on my perspective of what media relations is and what it can be. This is not a direct quote, but Artley said something to the effect of:

Don’t just pitch “a story”. Get creative. How does your story play across channels? How will the audience best understand your story? Is it a social media campaign? Is it a data-based graph? Do you want to create a video that walks the audience through the experience? Tell us. Spell it out for us. It’s your story – what do you want it to be?

I suppose I’ve assumed that the journalist will know how best to use the information I’m providing them. However, my job is to get my client the best possible execution of their story and to make it as easy as possible for the journalist to execute that story. The more direction I can provide, the better for both. I am now trying to think of pitches in terms of stats, quotes, video, images, social posts, etc – there are a lot of ways to pitch a story beyond “I have a resource, they can talk about X, do you want a call?” As Artley said, they’ll never want a call unless you tell them why.

Fresh Eyes

The New York Summit was, for me, a chance to have good behavior reinforced, double check myself for any bad habits, hear from the other side, and talk to other PR pros on their best practices and our shared frustrations. Any task that is as ongoing and potentially repetitive as media relations can easily lose its luster, but the summit was a great reminder that media relations can be an opportunity to get creative, connect with someone, and share a really cool story.

Other good stuff in here