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From the Horse's Mouth: 11 Tips for Pitching Reporters

Posted by Media Relations on Thursday, April 10th, 2008 - 12 Comments »

Afternoon Sessions 002

One of the most valuable resources at an event like the recent Media Relations Summit conference in San Francisco is the opportunity to listen to what journalists themselves have to say about how they interact with PR people. I attended several panels with reporters from publications ranging from the New York Times to CNET. The reporters were fairly candid about works and what does not. Here are some key tips I gleaned from the summit reporter sessions.

  • Reporters STILL hate PR spam and irrelevant pitches. Such tactics are unlikely to generate coverage, it turns out. Shocking, I know.
  • The press release is still important. With all the talk about new media, I was surprised to hear virtually every reporter sing the praises of the good old fashioned press release, which they use to ensure accuracy and to organize information.
  • Print journalists are no longer breaking news. This is a major change that has happened over the last several years. Now, more than ever, journalists are looking for stories that analyze recent news trends. Online media, on the other hand, can be fiercely competitive for breaking stories.
  • Embargoes are a source of frustration for journalists. Some media won’t even honor them, which makes me wonder why they are still in common use. In today’s media landscape, I think the embargo needs to go the way of the dodo, for the most part.
  • Pitches with visuals go to the front of the line. But then, hi-res images often get caught in firewalls, which is probably why they don’t see them as often as they like.
  • You are not my friend, you are my resource. This is old news but it bears repeating. The best PR professionals are not the ones who make friends with the reporter, but those who act as a resource. Your Rolodex is meaningless. Your ability to provide compelling, accurate information is your calling card.
  • Multitasking reporters. Print reporters are increasingly arming themselves with video cameras, and training to take good video footage. So make sure your spokespeople comb their hair for an interview.
  • Keep it simple. Reporters appreciate succinct information. They hate hyperbole. More than ever, I can understand this complaint. One of the reasons people are turning to new media is a perceived authenticity, and yet pitches seem to get louder and louder as the years go on. If a sentence requires an exclamation point, get rid of it.
  • Keep in mind that layoffs are changing the face of newspapers. Calling for a reporter who was recently dismissed is a perfect way to make a reporter you actually reach, hate you. Of course, it’s also almost entirely unavoidable.
  • Pitching more than one reporter at a publication is okay, so long as you cc all reporters you are including. However, the consensus seems to be that this practice deprives you of your right to follow up with a phone call, since your e-mail phishing is doing the work for you. I prefer to just target one reporter. If my pitch makes sense, they’ll gladly refer me to the right person, and then I have a reference.
  • A few reporters address the 800 lb. gorilla in the room. Simply put, they are inundated with so much useless crap from PR professionals that they often miss the good, relevant pitches. PR shops respond to this in one of two ways: They shorten their lists and make a genuine effort to target the RIGHT reporters, or they simply send more crap in an effort to take more shots on goal, probably with more exclamation points.

12 Responses to “From the Horse's Mouth: 11 Tips for Pitching Reporters”

  1. Media Relations Summit Wrap Up | Online Marketing Blog Says:

    […] From the Horse’s Mouth: 11 Tips for Pitching Reporters – Kevin […]

  2. Mariana Sarceda Says:

    Although nothing new is added in the post to what I knew about managing and establishing a relationship with the press, I think is a nice contribution for many PR workers who are just starting relating to journalists.

  3. La Tonja Says:

    “Calling for a reporter who was recently dismissed is a perfect way to make a reporter you actually reach, hate you.”

    That’s an insulting generalization of all reporters and we demand you retract it immediately. Lord only knows what stereotypes you harbor of African-Americans and womyn. Disgusting.

  4. David Beasley Says:

    I was interested to read these pitching tips for print journalists and thought I would add that they are generally the same when dealing with radio reporters. We recently had an article published in PR Tactics on this topic: (http://tuninginradio.blogspot.com/2008/04/traditional-media-relations-finesse.html)Thanks for the post.

  5. Lisa Says:

    Thanks for these tips! What do you think about media directories? I am using one I found at http://www.mynewspaperdirectory.com to send press releases to newspapers.

  6. The Write Blog » Successful PR Tactics Says:

    […] more best-practice media relations tips, check out the Media Relations blog with suggestions straight from the horse’s mouth: journalists themselves. Social Bookmark […]

  7. calisxofan Says:

    What are other reasons why press releases are still relevant?

  8. THINKing » 100 Reporters Were Sitting At A Bar… Says:

    […] asking? Reporters – like everyone else – hate spam and they consider this a form of it. As the Media Relations Blog points out in 11 Tips For Pitching Reporters, Reporters STILL hate PR spam and irrelevant pitches. […]

  9. Casey Boggs Says:

    For as much as PR professionals speak to the media and attempt to pitch them stories, they should spend time in an editorial meeting. This valuable (and essential) step will forever allow PR professionals to know EXACTLY what kind of stories stick–and allows PR professionals to appreciate the guidelines and pressures writers are under.

    At LT Public Relations, spending time in an editorial newsroom is mandatory–even some reporters would appreciate the request to spend time with them to understand the nuances of their job.

    Until this happens, PR professionals are clueless of how to sell in a story to those who make the stories. It’s simple, but an overlooked step.

  10. Jocelyne Martineau Says:

    […]”At LT Public Relations, spending time in an editorial newsroom is mandatory–even some reporters would appreciate the request to spend time with them to understand the nuances of their job.” […]

    This is a great suggestion! Are the media generally open to the idea of having PR professionals sit in on their editorial meetings? If so, how would you suggest going about scheduling this?

  11. Rob Artisan Says:

    Lee,

    It is common sense and good manners, but the same PR crimes get repeated

    Visuals – If you are pitching in a story to a national do not use a visual at first, anything clogging up inboxes can be deleted.

    For releases for regionals fine. anyway that is how it is in the UK

    Rob

  12. 11 tips for pitching the media « Beck Bamberger’s take on CEO interviews, PR, and more Says:

    […] tips for pitching the media Here are some boiled down tips from journalists at the Media Relations Summit conference in San […]

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