By Stefanie Arck-Baynes, Philabundance
When I started out in the industry, securing PR was a simple formula: write a release, pull an exhaustive list of all reporters and producers in your area, plus national reporters on that beat, and send them a mass email. While you didn’t often hear back from a general blast, or have your story picked up, you could report to your client/the board/your boss that you sent the release to over 200 people! Today, the formula is the same… if you want to get blacklisted by every outlet in Philly.
PR is so much more than sending a mass pitch — it’s about building relationships, building trust and understanding your audiences, as well as the audiences of the outlets you’re targeting.
In my seven years of PR in Philly, I’ve made some missteps, but those missteps have led to some valuable learnings; many of which came from open and frank conversations with some very talented and successful women in the media. Their advice has been very valuable to me, and they’ve offered to share their advice with you to help those of us in PR better succeed in our efforts.
“The number one pitch killer for news reporters is getting an email with a generic salutation – ‘Hello’ or ‘Good morning.’ Even worse, though, is the salutation that clearly is not finished and looks like a template, ‘Good morning, XX’ or ‘Hello, REPORTER NAME.’ Those emails immediately go into the trash,” said Jan Carabeo, CBS reporter. “With that said, my one piece of advice for standing out amid a sea of pitches is to make your email as targeted as possible. That means doing your research. Use the reporter’s name, and contact the appropriate reporter at the station. Then, provide local experts and a local person who the story directly impacts. Finally, if you’re pitching to a television reporter, make sure to emphasize what visuals are available. The possibility of engaging, local video will get any reporter to pick up the phone.”
“Don’t pitch a story that is outside our brand. We realize that you have to pitch a whole slew of stations, but know your market. Go on our website/ do your homework. A few weeks ago, someone pitched me a cooking segment when my show only covers breaking news. If you do that, I’ll ask to be removed from your list.” – Tracy Davidson, NBC10 Anchor
“Instead of starting a pitch with ‘Hey Kristen, how was your weekend?’, mention a story I recently covered. You don’t have to compliment it, but by mentioning it, the reporter knows you’ve seen their work, and that is a compliment,” said Kristen Johanson, KYW reporter. “And don’t tell me there will be great visuals — that doesn’t tell me anything. Telling me what the visuals are and being descriptive about it is better. ‘There will be this person who will tell you their story about X’.
Another way to get great advice from reporters is to sign up for upcoming PPRA events, featuring local media. View all upcoming events here.