Four simple tips to level-up your media relations game

Nearly 20 years ago, The Hodges Partnership was formed, and since our founding, we have always prided ourselves on our ability to foster media relations opportunities for clients. While the agency has evolved over the years to incorporate a full range of content marketing, social media and audit capabilities, media relations still is at the core of what we do and who we are.

When we talk about media relations, a large part of what we mean is how we work to cultivate relationships with reporters and stay abreast of what they cover and the kinds of stories they are interested in. This often results in pitching story ideas that end up in print, broadcast or radio, and other times, it can even mean keeping clients out of the news.

There are many reasons our agency and others still put so much credence into earned media placements for clients, but tantamount to all is the third-party validation and credibility that organizations receive through a strategic media placement. Sure, sometimes a media hit can lead to an uptick in donations for nonprofits or increased business for commercial entities, but for many the most important aspects are the way these stories enhance credibility, raise visibility and convey the organization’s expertise.

Things are changing, but the appetite for news remains.

According to a recent Pew Research survey, the vast majority of Americans consume news on a digital device. More than eight-in-10 U.S. adults say they get news from a smartphone, tablet or computer. Irrespective of this an ever-evolving media landscape, some things on the media relations front have not changed, and there are some best practices when working with reporters or news outlets. 

Patience

A story that ends up in print or on the television screen takes time. It’s not abnormal for a story to take months to come alive. Reporters are people trying to do their jobs the best they can, and as PR practitioners, we can make their lives easier by not expecting their story to be turned around immediately.

In that same vein, start your story process early. Whether it’s drafting a news release or developing your media contact list, don’t wait until the last minute to get these materials together. I truly believe that when pitching with a sense of urgency, (i.e. pressing reporters to act quickly), reporters are less likely to want to pursue the piece. We all know what it’s like to be rushed at work…it’s not a good feeling, and we need to remember that reporters also don’t appreciate an avoidable sense of urgency.

Brevity

Have you ever been overwhelmed by a 500-word email that likely could have been a quarter of that? Well, I have, and it’s not a great feeling. When working to get the attention of a reporter, brevity is a must. Keep in mind that oftentimes, reporters are receiving more than 100 emails or pitches in a day. If you can keep your intro note or pitch short, it will be appreciated and is more likely to be read.

Ditch email (if possible)

Back to reporters receiving upwards of 100 emails a day. It’s not always that your pitch is being ignored, although that certainly is the case sometimes, but rather it’s not always possible for a reporter to see it. Whether in the field shooting a story or putting their package together afterwards, the current story always comes before the next.

When possible – usually after a relationship has been formed – ditch the email and lean into text messages. This again gets to the brevity point when contacting reporters and gives your pitch a better opportunity of being seen.

Lean into social media

Beyond getting to know the contacts you’re hoping to work with, following reporters is another great way to stay up to date on the stories they’ve been working on. Interacting with reporters across their social media platforms is a great way to garner hooks to include in future pitches down the line.

And sliding into DMs isn’t just for the hopeless romantics; it’s also a useful tactic for PR practitioners. Don’t be afraid to shoot your shot (pitch) over a Twitter or Instagram DM.

At the end of the day, there’s no exact template for building relationships with reporters. Since they all have their own styles, each might prefer different ways of being contacted. While these tips might help you succeed in earning more media coverage, the best way to do that is through patience and repetition. 

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Evans Mandes

A graduate of VCU’s Robertson School of Media and Culture, Evans joined Hodges in 2018, having previously worked in communications at Capital One and interning for CarMax’s public relations team. Evans works on a diverse mix of accounts including Kroger Mid-Atlantic, Monmouth University, UnitedHealthcare, Owens & Minor, Hilldrup and First Tee.

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