How to Win Friends and Make Placements: Best Practices in Talking to Media

Media connections

In an ever-evolving world of social media, influencers, and content marketing, it can sometimes feel like traditional media is going the way of the dinosaurs. No one really reads the newspaper, do they? Don’t they just use Facebook or Twitter for news? PR professionals shouldn’t discount the impact that traditional media outlets continue to have, though, or the ways they’ve adapted. Your local cable news channel, paper, or radio station likely has an entire online section and a strong social media presence. And that’s not even mentioning the way that national outlets like The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times are keeping themselves relevant through Twitter, Medium, and other platforms like Snapchat.

Traditional media is still a vital tool in any public relations strategy, and therefore media gatekeepers can often be overwhelmed or put off by contact from PR practitioners. Reporters and editors can receive hundreds of simple, impersonal pitches every day. When it comes to getting a pitch read and picked up, indiscriminately sending it out to random reporters you barely know is not the best approach. This kind of “spray and pray” method of PR will return a few hits, but nothing worth turning anyone’s head.

In modern PR, it’s important to establish a working relationship with the media contacts you want to run your stories. Getting to know reporters, editors, and publishers increases your chances of getting a pitch picked up, and contacts who like you are more likely to help you craft a compelling, impactful story. Establishing a rapport with your media contacts can lead to more placements, better exposure, and an easier pitching process. Never discount the power of making friends.

Here are a few of our best practices to turn media contacts into friends and earn better placements.

Do Your Research

Media personalities are easy to research, there should be no excuse for not looking into a reporter or editor’s background before reaching out to them. In the world of social media and connectivity, almost all media contacts will have social media profiles. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn profiles are great places to understand what your contact is passionate about. What about their work gets them excited? What outside of their work? Doing research can help you make connections with your contacts that will make interactions more natural and less forced for both of you.

In addition, research the media outlet where your contact works. Look at the things they’ve written and their beat. What other topics have they covered? What about the other writers on that beat? Get a handle on how they write and what they prefer to write about to help you better tailor your pitch to their style and preferences.

Make First Contact

Reach out to your target contact via email or phone, but don’t let your communication become just another in a crowd of overwhelming noise. Respect your contact by keeping your pitch brief, friendly, and tailored to his or her interests and focus. If you leave a voicemail, make sure it’s short and to the point – avoid rambling!

What’s the Story?

After making contact, be careful not to pester your contact too much. With a strategic approach, your personalized pitch will break through the noise and catch their attention right away. However, reporters still deal with numerous pitches every day, and sometimes your message may get lost in the crush. As a rule of thumb, wait roughly a week before sending a follow-up email or phone call.

Through your research and follow-up, you’ll be able to get in contact with the reporter or editor you’re interested in speaking to. If and when this happens, it’s important to make the conversation about them. Sell the story in the context of their interests. Why will it matter to their audience? You can have the most exciting angle in the world, but if it only matters to you, it will never run.

Keep in Touch

You did it! A reporter or editor, impressed by your relevant pitch and friendly demeanor, picked up your story! It’s time to celebrate!

Don’t move on too quickly, however. The best way to maintain a good working relationship with media contacts is to send them a quick thank you after the story runs. Make sure the reporter knows this story wasn’t a one-and-done deal, and promise to come back to them with story ideas in the future. Even a small “thank you and keep in touch” message will help you stand out from the crowd and give you a better chance at getting regular placements in your outlets of choice.

Interested in learning more about our media relations best practices and results? With years of experience backing up our strategies, we’ll work with you to develop a personalized media relations plan that will help get your pitches noticed and your articles placed. Give us a call, and start making friends!