The media industry is constantly changing. From 1990 to 2015, the United States’ total newsroom workforce shrank from more than 55,000 to just over 30,000. These smaller newsrooms are churning out more digital and social content while also grappling with the increased demand to get people their news now. The landscape today is hardly recognizable from what it looked like just a decade ago.
On top of a 24-hour news cycle and journalists who are stretched much too thin, recent data shows that PR pros outnumber journalists 5.7-to-1. A spray-and-pray press release simply won’t cut it in an industry that becomes noisier by the second. A public relations professional must be efficient and intentional in their approach to get a journalist’s attention.
I recently experienced a great example of how to gain an edge in this crowded space. While working with my team to pitch a client story, we spent months trying to get a response or just some feedback. We followed up via email, left a voicemail and, get this, called back again until the producer answered his phone.
When we did finally connect, we had all the details of our idea ready, and in less than a minute, we painted a visual and engaging picture for the producer. It worked, and it resulted in a week-long series on the top-rated local morning show.
The crowded media landscape of today has forced us all to be more creative in our approach. In an industry that is still cluttered with 1,500-word press releases chock full of flowery copy, sometimes being direct is your best angle.
To be successful in media relations, it’s not enough to have a good story. That story has to be properly packaged and served up nearly complete to your media contact. This is a key differentiator from what they’re used to receiving in their inbox.
Going the extra mile is no longer a bonus. It’s expected if you want to be successful and garner significant media coverage for your clients. Here’s how you do it:
Be prepared. Know your story inside and out, and be ready to pitch it in less than a minute.
- Practice, practice, practice. Speak clearly and concisely and be prepared for follow-up questions.
- Know your target media and their target audience. Watch, listen and read these media outlets. Understand where your story fits in.
- Offer above and beyond. Source images and b-roll, prepare spokespeople and reconfirm details as the interview or segment near to ensure details and timelines have not changed.
- Follow up. If you received great feedback from a segment or interview, share those nuggets with your media contacts. It’s equally satisfying for them to hear how viewers, listeners or readers responded to a story as it is for your client.
- Don’t always follow the rules. If you know you have a good story, pick up the phone and simply ask the journalist if they have a minute for you to run a story by them. Nine times out of 10, they say yes.
When you’ve done all these things to prepare yourself for pitching and delivering on your story, go into your pitch with confidence that you’re not wasting anyone’s time. Public relations professionals need journalists as much as journalists need PR pros, and when we do our jobs well, we’re helping journalists do theirs well, too. In today’s 24/7 media landscape, being a reliable resource for a journalist means you’ll cut through the clutter.