Do you ever feel like your pitches are ignored? You’re not alone. Many PR professionals feel that their pitches are not well received by the media. Truth be told, journalists and top bloggers are quickly developing a reputation for having an aversion to public relations pitches. Considering the high volume of emails they receive on a daily basis, it’s quite understandable. Any email with “awesome PR pitch!” in the subject line is bound for a slam-dunk into the recycling bin. Swoosh!
While news coverage in top outlets is still a very powerful way to reach key audiences, the methods to reach out to these influential opinion leaders are continuously evolving in today’s digitally focused, and time constrained world.
Several CB&A team members recently attended a PRSA Pitching Bootcamp event in Chicago led by Michael Smart, principal of MichaelSMARTPR. Michael has been landing top-tier coverage for over 13 years, and has placed stories in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Time magazine, and NBC’s Today show. His work is impressive, and the 8-hour pitching workshop was very informative and worthwhile.
Today, I would like to share a few of Michael’s techniques. This post will cover social media etiquette, the top complaints of journalists about PR professionals, and the key to developing successful relationships with opinion leaders in the digital age of blogs and social media.
Top Complaint about PR People: “They don’t even know what I write about!”
Did you pitch several new sporting accessories to a fashion blogger? Newsflash: a fashionista likely prefers updates on the latest Christian Louboutin heels, not soccer cleats. Prior to blasting out a pitch to every reporter in your contact list, it’s critical to step back and do your homework.
Before selecting key reporters to pitch to, spend some time researching key media outlets and the type of content that they publish. Once you determine their beat, it is important to research the “big players” of your market. Blast emails are overused and ineffective. Targeted, personalized pitches with relevance to the publishing sweet spot have a far greater success rate.
Social Media Etiquette:
Social media is like a big dinner party. To be “followed” you need to be charismatic and interesting to listen to. To engage with top reporters and bloggers, etiquette matters. You don’t want to be the awkward Uncle at the party who doesn’t know when to stop talking. Remember that the primary function of the Twitter account isn’t to push out promotional messages, but to tweet when you have something of value to tweet about. While a small amount of company and brand promotional content is anticipated by followers, marketing tweets are more easily tolerated when they appear infrequently. Focus on keeping your Twitter account content relevant, helpful, informative, timely, and engaging.
The next step is to listen. Take time to observe what reporters are tweeting about. What are they blogging about? After you understand what is being discussed, you can contribute insightful comments and opinions using the reply feature on Twitter and by leaving comments on the blog. Don’t dive into the conversation without carefully monitoring the interactions. You wouldn’t do that in person, and you shouldn’t do that online either.
Once you start engaging in social media conversations, it’s important to “show the love.” It’s key to retweet articles, and create a dialogue with reporters. Be sure to leave comments on the blogs you are following, and interact with opinion leaders in a respectful and engaging way. This interaction is not for promotional purposes, it is to create real relationships. After you create an online connection it will be easier to pitch story ideas.
Why Does Social Media Matter?:
It’s no secret that social media is transforming the way people communicate with one another. A social media survey conducted by TEKGROUP International reported that 90% of journalists are on Twitter, and at the PR News Digital Summit in October 2011, it was reported that 46% of journalists are using Twitter to locate sources. Clearly it’s important to utilize Twitter for its networking potential and reach out to these influential opinion leaders; it’s critical for public relations professionals to be actively using social media to develop relationships with reporters.
In today’s digital age, a successful pitching cycle begins with a credible relationship developed through the proper use of social media. Do you have any pitching successes to share? We’d love to read your comments.