How to contact the media

PR is a Numbers game (sort of)

Getting PR is a numbers game, but it’s not the numbers game you probably think it is. Contacting countless journalists and firing off as many pitches as possible won’t make you famous. But consistently sending good, targeted pitches to the right media contacts probably will. Most journalists aren’t interested in your story, so don’t waste your time trying to contact everyone.  Put a little thought into what kinds of reporters or media outlets are most likely to pick up your story.

Build a good, short list

You can pay for expensive media databases, but start small. Do a Google search for articles that are relevant to your business.  Sometimes it’s helpful to search through Google News or the Google Blog search tool. You probably already know a few outlets that are in your industry. Those are often the best places to start.

Just get on base

This may come to a shock, but you may not be ready for the big leagues yet. The chances of getting picked up in the New York Times on your first pitch, is pretty low. Try to hit a few singles before you swing for the fences. There are a lot of blogs, industry publications local outlets that actually care about you right now. The chances of getting press in those places are much better. After you get a few mentions, you can work your way up to bigger exposure.

Bark up the right trees

When you find good articles that are related to your business, make sure that the writer actually quotes people, features companies or does interviews. Rookies sometimes make the mistake of pitching bloggers who just write their own opinions, but don’t actually feature companies or quote experts.

Prove you’re not a robot

Good reporters get inundated with pitches every day. Most of those pitches are from lazy PR people who download a huge list and send the same pitch to everyone on this list. You need to prove that you aren’t one of them. Using the reporters name is one obvious way, but take the time to read and refer to some of their work. Go a step further and offer a thoughtful opinion on their work. Many people trying to get press don’t actually read the articles of the people they are pitching. They just copy and paste the headline and say I liked your piece on “Why dog owners are better lovers”. Don’t be one of those people. Take the time to read the article and give an opinion.

Understand what kind of work they do

Sometimes an article might be relevant to your business, but the article is tangential to their normal beat or topic. For example, does an article like “Why dog owners are better lovers”, mean that the author usually writes about dogs or relationships? If you are a veterinarian, you’ll look pretty silly pitching a relationship expert.

Just the facts

Using numbers, reports or other data is more convincing than your opinion. Don’t forget that reporters need to report the facts, so the more facts you provide the more helpful you are. “We’re awesome” isn’t a fact. “Our revenue tripled last year” is a fact.

Corporate doublespeak

Skip the corporate jibber jabber. Reporters have to endure this torturous abuse of the English language every day. If you don’t actually have something useful to say, using big buzz words isn’t going to change that. It’s a journalist’s job to cut through the crap. If you are a crap dispenser, they’ll smell it a mile away.  Speak simply and directly.

Be awesome

This isn’t really a quick tip, but it is a prerequisite to getting attention in the press. What have you done that other people haven’t? If you can’t think of anything, it’s time to start doing interesting stuff. This will make your PR efforts (and growing your business) a lot easier.

Don’t be annoying

Journalists are doing you a favor. Act like it. Don’t be pushy, condescending, intrusive, lazy or rude. Get into the mindset of helping. Offer to be an information source in the future, even being in the story. Connect reporters to influencers in the industry. Share an industry report or survey with them that they may not be able to access otherwise.

Don’t get attached to your attachements

If your email has 9 PDFs, links to 4 videos and 3 different press releases it isn’t easy to digest. Skip all of that and just do your best to put all the information in as few places as possible. Put the most useful stuff in the body of the email and if there is more information, create a single page on your website with only relevant information on it.

Format for skimming

Understand that there’s a pretty good chance that journalists are going to skim your email. Use short paragraphs and create bulleted or numbered lists whenever possible. Pulling out good information from a super long paragraph is a pain.

Be concise

Do we have to say more?

Demonstrate credibility

The journalist is risking their reputation on your credibility, so it’s important to show them that you are credible. One of the best ways to do this is to provide links to other press you’ve gotten. Of course, you probably wouldn’t be reading this if your press page is super long.  Being a speaker, winning an award, earning credentials or having a popular blog are a few ways to demonstrate credibility. Credibility is best demonstrated by other people who have recognized you.

Have a really good reason

It’s much easier to get press if you have a really good reason to pitch them. One of the best ways to get picked up is to respond to a request by the reporter. There are numerous services that send emails alerts from reporters who are looking for help or need a quote.  You’ll have to filter through a lot of irrelevant opportunities, but there are some good ones in there if you scan them consistently.

Editorial Calendars

A lot of publications list editorial calendars where they talk about what kinds of things they will be featuring in the future. They might be reviewing tools or focusing on a certain type of business. Telling a writer why you fit into their editorial calendar makes you much more relevant.

Follow up with purpose

Don’t follow up for the sake of following up. “Did you get my email?” is an annoying question. The answer is either 1. Yes, they got it and deleted it or 2. No, and logic dictates that they probably won’t get this one either. Follow up with the idea of building a relationship or being useful. Offer a study in support of your pitch or try to position your original pitch to piggy back breaking news.

Take the long view

Every business owner wants press and understands the importance of it. But most people give up on their PR efforts after a few pitches. It can take time to get press and most people just don’t have the dedication to hang in there for the long haul. The good news is that this eliminates most of the competition for media attention. Hang in there because doing PR well over a long period of time almost guarantees success.