There’s more to effective media relations than writing a strong pitch. Understanding how to work with reporters, and observing proper etiquette, is just as important. Here are a few quick tips – based on my experience as a business reporter and a PR pro – for building and maintaining good working relationships with journalists.
Understand who you’re pitching. Reporters don’t like receiving wildly off-topic pitches that clog their inboxes and waste their time. Before you pitch, research which reporters may be interested in your pitch and why, then tailor your communication appropriately.
Get to the point – FAST. The reporter should be able to determine what you're asking them to do (talk to your CEO? cover an overlooked story?) within the first two or three sentences of your message. If you bury the task under a mountain of “context” or background, the reporter may never read that far.
Keep it short. When communicating with journalists, always try to convey your message with as few words as possible. It shows you respect their time.
Be responsive. Most journalists work on strict and short deadlines. When a reporter reaches out to you, or responds to a pitch, acknowledge the message as soon as you can. Then work to fulfill the request and/or provide a response.
Be transparent. If you think you may not be able to fulfill a request, be honest and let the reporter know as soon as possible. Setting an expectation and failing to deliver at the last minute can permanently harm your relationship with the reporter.
Mass email – unless it’s truly appropriate and the recipient list is targeted. Never include a reporter with whom you have a strong working relationship on a mass email. It’s worth the extra minute to write a personal note.
Make unnecessary phone calls. Ninety-nine percent of the time, a phone call is an unwelcome interruption. Unless you need to reach the reporter for something absolutely urgent, send an email and/or a follow-up email.
Call to follow up on a press release. See above.
Try to go “off the record” retroactively. Reporters have no obligation to honor an off-the-record request, particularly if you ask for it after you have shared interesting or valuable information. In general, it’s good practice not to say anything to a reporter that you wouldn’t want to see in the news.
Ask to review a story before it publishes. After you’ve shared information with the reporter, whether via email or an interview, it’s out of your hands. Reporters have no obligation to share the contents of their story before it publishes, and asking to see it in advance can be seen as a lack of trust in the reporter’s ethics or lack of confidence in his or her abilities.
These are just a few highlights of good media relations etiquette. To learn more about working with the media and how an effective media relations strategy can help your business, give us a call at 615-297-7766 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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