Media Relations: Working smarter for placements

The Pew Research Center, which regularly tracks the ups and downs of the nation’s newspapers, recently offered some encouraging data. Americans are rediscovering their newspapers…on digital platforms.

While print edition readership continues to dip, the traffic to newspapers’ websites has been growing considerably. Digital circulation is up a whopping 30% from 2019 to 2020. Since 2014, when Pew first started tracking online circulations, the average number of unique monthly visitors to local news websites is up 44%. At the same time, many online-only publications are thriving, with outlets like Huffington Post, BuzzFeed and Axios among the most-visited news sites.

The data is welcome news for media outlets, even as they work hard to maintain profitability and standards of journalism. As public relations professionals, we must adjust our own strategies and expectations in how we work with busier-than-ever reporters where the digital environment puts even more demands on their time.

Here are a few tips to consider:

Make your pitches work harder

What do I mean by that? Very often when we pitch a story, we leave it to the reporter to flesh it out. We provide the nuts and bolts, and reporters often can use them as the foundation for something bigger. Once they’ve talked to our experts and heard our story, they then reach out to other experts or even competitors to add depth and nuance to get the whole picture. Nowadays, it behooves us to make it easier for them to get those other perspectives. Make it clear in your pitch that you not only can put them in touch with our expert, but that you also can provide them with contact information for others who can round out the story. Got photos (that you have a license to) or video you can provide? Even better. Think of it as akin to serving as the reporter’s editor.

Get to know the current team

We love our relationships. Having worked with reporters over the course of many years makes them easy to pitch. They recognize your name in their email inbox and appreciate the quality of your pitches. But turnover within newsrooms means it’s time to start building new relationships. Follow reporters on Twitter and other social media sites. Invite them to coffee or lunch. Send them emails complimenting them on stories they’ve written. The newsroom is not a static place, and neither should you be.

Spread your pitching wings

It’s easy to default to major outlets like the city’s daily newspaper, but they aren’t the only game in town. Local weeklies, online-only outlets, trade pubs and even influencers with popular blogs are all viable options, and in many cases, make sound strategic sense.

Have an opinion

Some of the stories we tell intersect with issues and policies that may lend themselves to a commentary piece or even a letter to the editor. Some papers have reduced the space for their own editorials but continue to welcome well-crafted op-eds, those that are long on facts and set out a persuasive point of view. Such pieces usually can find a home in the opinion part of the paper.

Own your content

As the media landscape has shrunk, the inverse is true when it comes to online opportunities to create and own your own content. We are evangelists of the EOP approach to public relations – earned-owned-paid. As the earned piece contracts, the owned piece – blogs and podcasts and videos that you create yourself – has breadth and depth that earned media can’t match. Sure, we give up that third-party validation that comes with a media placement, but we’ll trade that now for the chance to create our own expert storylines that we can deliver precisely to target audiences on digital platforms.

Successful pitching demands adapting to an ever-changing media landscape. And solid storytelling never goes out of fashion.

Josh Dare

Josh’s career in communications spans more than four decades. In addition to providing strategic counsel and crisis communications direction to clients, he is the resident Writer-In-Chief, regularly writing op-eds and bylines on behalf of clients that have been published in The Washington Post, The Richmond Times-Dispatch, The Philadelphia Inquirer and Huffington Post, among others.

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