My relationship with the media has been complicated. As a former editor for newspapers and magazines I understand the importance of having great sources and also getting slammed with spammy PR pitches. However, in the past I have fallen into the same trap that I despised as an editor myself. Sending out crappy PR pitches in hopes of getting my brands some media coverage. I am not a natural pitch artist.
When you are in marketing and passionate about your product you want to get as much press as possible for your brand. In full disclosure I believe that traditional PR is broken. Just like anything traditional, press release metrics on major distribution sites are overinflated and flawed.
Here are common mistakes that I have noticed and even tried myself in the past. When the pressures of getting press exposure for your brand hit, it is hard not to revert back to these things, even when you know how bad they are. Resist all urges friends.
Contrary to common believe, writers and editors don’t always want complete articles written for them. My thought here was always, I know how busy these amazing writers and editors are so what if I help them with some heavy lifting. However, I now think that this has the reverse effect. The editor may think it is a canned article that you have pitched out to many places or that you are looking to be paid for being published. Also, it takes and extremely long amount of time to write great articles from scratch so it can end up being a waste of your time.
Cold pitches have never worked well for me. You need an in somehow. You need context and to start building relationships before you ask for something. It can’t be a fake in either, like “hey I like your article that you wrote, why don’t you write one about us”. Most of the times when I have tried a cold pitch I can see via email tracking that the email never even gets opened.
Blanket pitches are always a bad idea. Reporters and editors can smell a form pitch. You have to showcase knowledge of the type of content and articles that they specialize in. Don't waste a reporters time by trying to jam a story about your company down their throat.
I know quite a few editors who only respond to you after you have followed up several times. It shows them quickly that you are really interested and not just spamming them out. I need to make stronger efforts at doing this. Sometimes it involves creating a Google spreadsheet and making sure you aren’t bothering someone too much, while being present in their inbox without being labeled as spam. It is indeed a tightrope walk.
I am not just looking for a one time press hit and never want to talk to you again. I am truly interested in providing value to reporters and editors even if it doesn't equal a return for me or my brand. These great people in journalism are overworked and under appreciated. Just writing this article has inspired me to try some new honest and sincere ways of creating relationships with the media, which pull back from seeking self promotion for the brands I work with and are more focused on providing some value.
If you are a writer or editor, please leave a comment on what efforts have caught your attention in the past, and why you respect those efforts.
James is the Marketing Director at StratIS. He was named Top Voice on LinkedIn in 2015, and the number two voice in healthcare from more than 2 million bloggers on the platform. He was the creator of the Seinfeld Birthday Project, which went internationally viral, received more than 1 million YouTube views, and was featured in hundreds of newspapers, blogs, TV shows and radio programs. He also co-founded TAP Social Media, a boutique-marketing agency located in Philadelphia, PA. James holds a B.A. in Mass Communication from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania.