Why is it so hard to connect with journalists? Why don’t they respond? Why don’t they “buy” my pitch?
In short, what do they want anyway?
Many PR pros have asked themselves these and similar questions for years. In many ways, it’s easier than ever to get to know journalists, because their work is generally available online. At the same time, it can be harder than ever to connect with journalists, because their schedules are so demanding and they are overwhelmed with pitches and other material.
Fortunately, the Lawrence Ragan Communications report “What Journalists Want” describes many of the steps needed to develop good relationships with journalists. Here are some of their key points.
Engage with journalists on social media.
Follow them on Twitter. Retweet their tweets, but “don’t just click the retweet button. Instead, quote them in a tweet of your own, and include ‘RT’ or ‘MT’ and their @ handle. Tell your followers why the tweet matters, or even just add ‘Yes!’ or ‘I agree.’”
Target the right reporter.
Journalists have complained about inappropriate pitches from time immemorial. And today there really is no excuse to pitch the “wrong” reporter. Between online and social media, you should be able to confirm that you are approaching the right person.
Send appropriate email.
Most journalists (at least according to many surveys) prefer email to other forms of communication. But to get the reporter to read the message, you need a good subject line. Here are Ragan’s guidelines:
- Be specific.
- Use “you” when you can “connect the subject to a benefit.” (e.g., How your subject lines can make you famous.”)
- Think SEO.
- Explain “what’s in it for me?
- Keep it short.
Make the body of the email “a short paragraph explaining what you’d like the reporter to cover.” In the process, answer these questions:
- Why should I care?
- Why now?
- How is this new?
- What can you offer? (Sources? Visuals? Video?)
The whole email should be about half a screen. And, in general, you should not follow up with a phone call.
The report has other great tips on press releases, online news rooms and media interviews, which I’ll discuss in subsequent posts. But I am only discussing a few highlights. I encourage you to read the report in its entirety.