In recent years, the way PR and communications pros communicate with the media has undergone rapid evolution. That change has been sped up even more by the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving a landscape that may look unfamiliar to many longtime industry veterans.
In some cases, principles that were always true have simply taken on even greater importance. For instance, before reaching out with a story idea, PR professionals should understand the preferred platform and target audience of the journalist or influencer they are pitching, to enhance the chances of a placement or mention. This was always important but it has become even more crucial in an era of fractured, niche media. Pitching relevant topics also helps build rapport with media members as they understand that you are doing research in an effort not to waste their time.
Building relationships is the same…it’s the media itself that’s different
Several of the core values of how to build good relationships with journalists haven’t changed through the years. For instance, it’s always been important to set a good first impression. Before sending a story pitch, introduce yourself and your organization or client to provide some context. This allows your pitch to stand out from the mass blasts that reporters receive all the time. In fact, numerous studies have found that lack of personalization is the number one reason why pitches are ignored or rejected.
The issue today is that the “media” itself is much larger and more fractured than it was in the past. The rise of bloggers, citizen journalists and influencers has opened up a new world to PR pros but has also made it difficult to keep track of the landscape. As a result, it’s important to be tracking online news, print, social media and broadcast sources constantly to see which journalists and influencers are most trusted and widely-read in a given subject area.
Social Media is an invaluable Resource for Pitching
Social media is now an invaluable resource for PR and communications pros looking to make targeted pitches for their organization or client. Social media monitoring is a great way to track hashtags and topics relevant to any story a PR pro might be thinking of pitching as it can help identify the most trusted, widely trusted journalists and influencers on a given topic. It can also provide PR and communications pros with insight into the tone and tenor of the public conversation around a specific story, which they can then use to shape their pitch.
Trending Topics Can Work Both Ways
The way technology like online news tracking or Google Trends works, PR and communications pros have trending topics at their fingertips at all times. In some cases, pitching a story that capitalizes on those trends is the smart move.
But the COVID-19 pandemic has also highlighted that there are times when pitching against the grain makes sense. As a recent PRWeek column noted, during the pandemic, “national news desks are desperate for bright, humorous and positive stories to help cut through all the doom and gloom. Editors want relevant, resonant content that will lift the spirits of readers.” Coronavirus certainly made it clear that sometimes it’s best to pitch outside the box, but this will continue to be true even when the pandemic fades. The mere fact that it’s easier than ever to piggyback on trends means it’s incumbent on PR and communications pros to occasionally shift their thinking on pitching to stand out from the crowd.
Eric Lebowitz joined Critical Mention in 2018 as its Director of Marketing. A native New Yorker, he originally began his career in journalism and later moved to marketing, discovering a passion for branding and analytics. Eric brought a background in content marketing, marketing measurement and marketing automation, having previously co-founded and managed his own agency. In his spare time, Eric loves to play as much golf as possible at courses across the country.