Wainger SMPS June 2017 cropped

Earlier this week, I had the great pleasure of speaking to the Society of Marketing Professionals DC Chapter about how to pitch the media.  Most of the people in the room were primarily focused on marketing and business development.  Media relations is a specialized area of public relations; however marketing skills can be transferable.  Marketers understand that to engage with an audience requires knowing who they are and what they want.  Clashes happen when marketing people try to “sell” reporters on their pitches rather than delivering timely and relevant information and compelling stories.  They speak through a Prism of Me–this is what I think you need to know vs. the Prism of Value, here is what information and resources I have that can advance relevant stories for your readers/viewers.

Stop Annoying the Media Now

Those unfamiliar with the way reporters and newsrooms operate, often commit the seven deadly sins of media relations.  Avoid these and you will be well on your way to strong relationships reporters that can lead to good coverage of your issues and products

  • Burying the lead. The lead is the sentence that sets up what the story is all about and why it is important.  Too often people either don’t know or miscalculate what their story is and go on and on about details that aren’t of interest or are irrelevant. Reporters face impossible deadlines so you have to get right to the heart of the matter quickly.  Grab their attention first with why they (and their readers/viewers/followers) should care.
  • Not knowing the answer to “why now?” Reporters have to have a reason to write about you now.  What is the urgency?  How does what you are doing related to what else is going on in the world.
  • Using lots of jargon that only your industry understands. Are you really a mission critical, full service technology vertical or a tech company that helps protect people from hacking and other cyber threats?
  • Asking a reporter to see the story before it runs/airs and for the opportunity to make changes if you don’t like it. That’s amateur hour.   You can ask to see your quotes but don’t ask to see the copy in advance.
  • Spokesperson is not available. You pitch a story, the reporter wants to do it and then your lead spokesperson is not available.  Make sure you leadership is available and comfortable with doing an interview.  Otherwise, the reporter might do the story if it is a good idea and then call your competition for a quote.
  • Sending an email and then 5 seconds later calling to ask if the reporter got it. Unless you have breaking news, wait a little bit and then follow up by email; otherwise you will be branded a nuisance. If you know the reporter, you might give them a call.  Increasingly, however, reporters prefer email pitches.  Some say they don’t answer their phones at all.
  • Failure to anticipate the questions you do not want to answer. Reporters will ask about company revenue or for information you may not wish to share publicly.  Be prepared for that and have a response at the ready.  It may be simply that you aren’t able to disclose that information