4A’s PR Forum: 8 Tips for Pitching Reporters
Posted by the HIT board
The 4A’s, the leading trade association for ad agencies, held its second 4A’s Public Relations Forum, this year at J. Walter Thompson’s beautiful NYC offices on May 14, and the event drew a packed house.
Dubbed “24/7 Always On Communications,” the event brought together business journalists and hundreds of communications professionals from PR agencies and ad agencies to discuss changes in news gathering and media relations practices.
Top reporters from outlets including Fast Company, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Ad Age, Adweek and USA Today, as well as PR practitioners from agencies including, CP+B, FCB and Mullen lent their expertise on topics concerning reputation management and crisis communications. Additionally, executives from Twitter and Facebook discussed how social media engagement and real-time communications continues to change the world of earned media.
Still, media relations is the bread and butter of the PR practice, and journalist speakers talked about how technology and emerging media channels continue to impact their profession.
Below are eight insights that PR practitioners should keep in mind when engaging with the media in this 24/7 “Always On” world.
- Technology works. Almost all reporter panelists said that if you sent an email, “we got your pitch, and there’s no need to follow up four or five times to check.” That said, if you want to follow up once, Laura Petrecca from USA Today suggests writing “FOLLOW UP” in your subject line to make your point clear.
- Relationships are key. Reporters are much more apt to take your call if they know you. The takeaway? Build those connections now; they will pay off for years to come.
- Sometimes it’s just about luck: Ever wonder why the pitch you spent hours writing got no response but the one that took ten minutes got an immediate reply? The truth is, there isn’t a real answer other than timing. As Fast Company’s Editor Bob Safian pointed out, “It’s like getting a parking spot in the mall at Christmas time – it could take one minute, it could take 20. It depends what’s happening on that specific day and time — don’t take it personally.”
- The “aha” moment. Reporters and editors are looking for something new and surprising for their readers. If your pitched doesn’t elicit an “a-ha” moment it will be deleted.
- Remember the “why.” When pitching a story, it is essential to include the “why.” While this may seem like a given, the Wall Street Journal’s Suzanne Vranica said it was surprising how many pitches she reads that bury the “why.” Remember to include the business challenge or impetus for your storyline.
- Social media is critical. Reporters use social media to inform their stories and gauge hot topics of the day, so PR professionals should align pitches with topics reporters seem to have on their radars. As Twitter’s Melissa Barnes reminded the audience, “Not only are stories being discussed on the platform, sometimes they are breaking on Twitter.” With social comes more competition than ever for reporters, so it’s imperative to stay close to the real-time conversation and how it’s informing journalism.
- Deadlines don’t exist. They have become almost irrelevant. Everything is so real-time that reporters don’t always have time to respond to your pitch.
- Be concise. Suzanne Vranica says that actually, a one-sentence pitch via phone is more effective than a three-paragraph email. Take that to heart.