Unless you run an actual public relations agency, chances are you haven't spent years working in the PR industry and because of this haven't yet mastered industry secrets that can shave time and work off of your buzz building outreach. Does that mean you should take a crash course in PR? Decide you'll always be "in the dark" about some tricks of this industry's trade? No and no! Instead let us share four strategies most PR pros develop after years of practice, boiled down to you into straightforward, easy-to-follow tips!
Pre-Pitch Twitter Check:
Have you finally got together a stellar pitch (along with the nerve to finally hit the "send" button on your keyboard) to that editor, producer or blogger you've been dreaming out emailing? Perhaps you're getting ready to send out a series of pitches to different media contacts. One move that can ensure your pitch is going to be sent to a receptive audience and is used by PR pros is to first check Twitter before you hit send. If your contact is an active "Tweeter" as most members of the media are, you'll be better able to gauge if they're available and engaged, or if perhaps they're on vacation, at an industry event, or doing something else that may mess with your delivery. I recently held back a pitch that I was about to send to a major business editor because he had tweeted just moments before "on vacation for the next week, off the grid". The last thing I wanted was for my email to end up in a cluttered inbox with everyone else who emails him while he's on vacation. Instead I noted that in my media tracking chart and waited until the week he returned to reach out!
When the Answer is Simple, Ask for Exactly What You Want:
Do you need to find out any of the following things: whether your story is the best fit for an editor (after you've researched of course), whether someone is covering a specific section of a magazine or website; what the deadline is on a story; what a holiday gift guide theme is; and other questions that can be answered with a short answer and are not actual pitches, feel free to directly ask said editors/reporters/bloggers (or editorial assistants at those publications) without feeling the need to "disguise" the ask in a mysterious subject line or email. This tip is directly related to the phrase "Ask and you shall receive" because in this case it is right. Unlike a pitch which can't always be answered right away, this type of question will often get a quick response and save you from hours or days of trying to figure it out on your own. This strategy is true for both your "ask" email subject line and the email itself. It should all be direct. Here's are a couple of examples:
- Confirming the holiday gift guide deadline and theme
- Gabrielle: wanted to be sure you're editing Lucky Breaks
- John: confirming you're best person to pitch for Biz Makeover stories
Remember, the press are on your side and want to be of help. They want to make stories work, if they're the right fit for their readers, viewers and listeners. If you are sure you are but still need a simple question (and not a pitch) cleared up, ask directly and you'll probably get a direct answer right back! Time time saved, relief and possible relationship building that comes out of this are priceless!
Doing Your Homework Isn't the Same as Stalking...
Planning on reaching out to a producer, editor or blogger you don't know too well, or perhaps one you want to get to know better? Don't forget to do your research. Check to see if they have their own blog (many do), look at past articles they've done, glance at their social media feeds. Not only does this give you a better idea of who they are and what they are like as a person, but you'll also get to know their likes and dislikes, possible commonalities you may share (same college, same love of peanut M & M's, same passion for shelter dogs). It's often these small connections that lead to big opportunities. By showing them you've been reading up on them and getting to know them, you show that they're not simply one more name on a list you are pitching over the course of a day.
This doesn't mean "Friend Them" on Facebook or obsessively tweet with them, but it means if they have a blog in which they write essays on their travels, it could be nice to say "I really enjoyed your piece on Thailand" (if you did) or perhaps you see someone tweeting about their love of peanut M & Ms and you quickly mention your affection for the candy as well before you get into the pitch. In a world where everyone is trying to be heard, setting yourself apart by finding personal connections can be much bigger than you think!
The Phone Still Exists, and it's Okay to Use It
Most of us communicate these days by text, email, tweet or social media message - not only at work but with our own families! It's faster, takes less effort and at the end of the day is much less daunting when you're using those methods to reach out to the media. That's all well and good but sometimes you need to adopt the PR tactic of "Smile & Dial"! What does this mean? Exactly what it says. Pick up your phone, smile (your voice will match it), dial the contact you've been emailing and getting no answer from, and call them. It's handy to have a script with some bulleted talking points just in case the nerves set in, but you may not even need them! Often if someone isn't replying to your emails and you know you're a great fit for their outlet, they're either missing them in their inbox, or they may even mean to write back but keep getting distracted. A quick call will solve this. Feeling nervous and need an opener? Here is a simple way you can lead into the conversation:
When they pick up the phone introduce yourself in this way:
"Hi XXX, this is Sabina from Tin Shingle. I know you're super busy but I wanted to confirm you're the best person to share my small biz and entrepreneurship tips with."
Sam: "Yes, that's me"
"Great, do you have a quick minute for me to let you know who we are and what types of tips we can share with your readers, or would you prefer me to email them to you write away?"
And so it goes...Remember, every member of the media likes their communication done in a different way but if you are having trouble getting through to someone - or have timely material to share - picking up the phone could be your answer! It's a "forgotten art" in the PR world but pros who make things happen often use this tactic on a regular basis!