Distributing a news release? Pitching an editorial feature? Announcing an event? When it comes to communicating news through public relations many focus on the art of storytelling, ensuring it’s written according to AP style, it’s proofread, factual, relevant and timely—all those good things that make a story newsworthy. Although crafting a creative and effective message is important (and fun!), many give this step in the process more time and effort than necessary. The fact of the matter is … good story pitches or truly newsworthy releases practically write themselves.
Don’t let your storytelling efforts overshadow your strategic planning for the distribution of your news. Often, WHO receives your news and HOW they receive it can be the deciding factor on whether your news makes it to the front page. Building a list of quality contacts is a huge component of your public relations efforts. It’s the roll-up-your-sleeves, digging, less desirable part of the job that’s not often discussed, but can seriously impact your results. You can compose the perfect attention-grabbing message, but if it doesn’t get distributed to the right media contacts … It may never see the light of day.
Here are a few simple guidelines to consider when determining your audience and developing a list of quality contacts to better ensure your next message meets the masses.
It sounds obvious, but this is a step many forget. Before formulating your news release or pitch, stop and think about who will consider the topic newsworthy. Think carefully about which media outlets have readers or viewers most interested in what you have to say before writing one generic release and clicking “send to all.” Think about how your story applies to different regions, demographics and which types of media will best communicate your message.
It’s always easy to get the contact information of someone who facilitates ad sales for a TV station, newspaper or magazine. In fact, they may have already sought you out. Finding editorial or news media contacts will likely require more digging. When searching online, look beyond the “contact” page—scour their site, download the media kit and examine it carefully, or search LinkedIn. If you can’t find information online, pick up the phone and try to make a connection by asking around.
At many news media companies advertising and editorial departments may be in the same building, but are worlds apart. They have very different and equally important roles in media, but it’s important you know the difference. Your advertising representative may be able to help you collect editorial contacts, but they most likely do not have authority over editorial content.
Some media outlets make communication very easy by supplying large staff listings online. Select contacts carefully based their titles and the topic of your story. For example, if you’re a landscaper sharing tips for spring gardening, one well-crafted pitch to the paper’s garden columnist will go much further than 10 emails to general staff reporters.
Staff changes are frequent and inevitable in the journalism world. It’s important to maintain your list by purging old contacts and bounce-back emails. If time permits, scrub your list for accuracy before and after each mailing. Another option is to subscribe to a media database service such as Vocus, Cision or PR Newswire. These services can be pricey and are only necessary if you send news releases or pitches to changing audiences on a regular basis.
Get to know the people and businesses you are pitching to. Building relationships strengthens your list of quality contacts and ultimately makes communication with those contacts easier and more comfortable. Also, when reporters, anchors and editors already know you and your business, it makes their job easier. They can skip the introduction, background research and task of finding a fit for your story, which can be helpful in the fast-paced environment of a newsroom.
Emily was managing editor of the national cable marketing magazine delight!, and previously managed marketing projects for top cable providers in the nation. Diverse writing experience, combined with exceptional organization and strategic planning skills, make Emily a key component of the content department. Emily holds a degree from UW-Oshkosh in journalism, with an emphasis in advertising/public relations.