share the news: connecting with the media and generating big buzz
In this blog post, we’re going to take a little bit of turn further down into the PR world. In this post, we’re going to discuss all about connecting with journalists – how to spot them in the wild, get them within target range, and knock ‘em dead with your killer stories (too graphic?). We’ll outline what’s attractive to journalists and what makes for a good story – when it’s go-to-press ready and when you’re not being valuable (and actually being annoying) to a reporter. It’s good to know the difference.
So, you’re in need of some PR (not to be confused with R&R, which is quite the opposite thing entirely). That means you need journalists. Where do you go to find journalists? Well, where do you find anything? In this case (and pretty much only this case), not Amazon, but certainly online you can find the names, numbers, email addresses…of these people that you need to tell your story. The critical distinction between marketing and PR is that marketing is paid exposure while PR garners attention by earning it – putting in the time and effort to connect with the media, to package and pitch their story, and be vetted, buffeted, and polished by the experience. This is the beginning of that effort.
Twitter is a good place to find them. Google is a good place to find them. Identify your desired publications. They all have websites. They all have contacts listed. Start there. With each connection, begin to create your media list. This will be an invaluable tool as you grow and improve your publicity game` over time. You won’t regret a single Excel field populated. Track the status of each relationship, steps taken, and results over time. Any PR authority will tell you, a lot of your efforts to connect with journalists will not work. There will be a lot of failure to flavor your exposure story (saga). You've been warned. Expect it, don't take it personally, persevere. Which is a pretty good life philosophy, come to think of it.
Once you’ve found out who they are, it’s on you to read what they write. These are people who base a lot (all?) of their professional worth on their ability to communicate the most important ideas in such a way as to inform the public of The Most Relevant Information of the Time. They take pride in their craft and if you don’t know what their style is like or what they’re interested in talking about right now, it’s not going to go well when you solicit their help getting a story out there. Appreciate their Art and Work, share their stories on your social media, personally convey to them your appreciation of their Art and Work which brings us to our next point…
You actually need to reach out. Be ready to make the phone call, send the email…solicit the interaction. Remember, it’s a long game a lot of the time. It might not be the first email that you send that gets a response. However, keep in mind our next point when crafting your initial and subsequent attempts to get the conversation going. It’s important to bear in mind that you don’t want to cast so large a net that you deviate away from your core niche interest group. Don’t flood fringe reporters with stories they probably wouldn’t be interested in anyway. It’s just polite, and it saves you a good five minutes for every ineffectual email you don’t send.
Ideally, when you approach a journalist about running with your story, you’ll have something of interest in hand. Chances are, you do. That’s why you pursued this whole PR venture in the first place. So, the next thing to consider is how the story is packaged. You’ve got to have a distinct pitch for why your story is a story everybody (or pretty close) would be interested in. How does sharing your story provide value to the public, or at least a significant sector of them? Journalists especially like real stories – anecdotes that put faces with names, and names with principles. Think about including a personal, Real Life story alongside whatever you’re hyping.
Depending on what kind of story you want to be told, you will compile your pitch in different ways. Every time, however, you should provide the most complete version possible. Edit to nearly go-to-press quality. Make it easy to want to publish your story – make it into something you yourself would enjoy reading. This is not the step on which to circumvent corners. Do your due diligence. It absolutely shows.
We’ve eluded (no, outright said) that the act of getting a good story published doesn’t always happen on the first attempt. Especially if you’re attempting to DIY your PR, it’s not necessarily reflective of the quality of your game. Persistence and commitment to quality are rewarded…in due time. That’s a pretty big reason why people hire a PR team – people who have cultivated and maintained these relationships like it’s their job, because it kind of is. However, if you can’t afford the PR Dream Team or just DIY everything, including things that probably shouldn’t be DIY-ed, you can still get attention directed toward what you have to say. You’ve just got to stick with it.
There are plenty of online resources for aggregating media contacts interested in what you’re interested in. Make sure you do your research, keep up with who you’ve contacted and what you’ve done to spark and fan the relationship flame, and finally – keep at it. As with anything we recommend, get better every time you do it. Every time you send out a press release or pitch a story to a journalist or issue a media alert, make sure it’s better than the last time. Eventually that sort of mindful attention to detail, improvement, and giving people what they want will be rewarded in the long run.
Next week, it gets dramatic: fight the fire: navigating public shame in the face of unmet expectations and unmitigated scandal. We’ll explore the PR crisis timeline, from the first faux pas and first tossed tomato to the final stamping out of the burning embers of gossip and morbid curiosity. Not to be missed.