Today I am on the panel for the Boise’s Capital City Communicators (CCCBoise) September program Has Social Media Changed the Media Pitch? Tips to Get Your Story Told. I am lucky to be sharing the big table with Robb Hicken of the Idaho Business Review, Kevin Richert of the Idaho Statesman, and Don Day of KTVB Channel 7. I am excited to hear what these media veterans from the other side have to say about the subject.

My feeling is that the essence of a successful media relationship begins and ends with our ability to create a connection with the journalist. Whether it is our superb insights or our high-level access, relationship with writers and editors is what our clients depend on. The PR people who are successful at earning coverage on behalf of clients are the ones who can get through to the press, earn their attention and keep it.

Years ago, it was getting a reporter to take your call – then came fax, email and the internet. With inboxes now overflowing and conversations happening by the millions every minute, social media is the only way to stay ahead, as Facebook and Twitter have become the preferred method of contact for many journalists. Without a strong knowledge of these tools, our ability to successfully pitch stories decreases.

Recently, I attended #Journchat with Ryan Osborn, the new Director of Social Media at NBC News, which took place live via the web from @NBCnews headquarters.  The take-away for me was that each panelists noted more than once that social media – Twitter and Facebook specifically – was their main method for sourcing stories – email, fax and phone are dead for these national media professionals.

Clearly, our profession has changed. We might not fully embrace the changes or be head-over-heels in love with social media, but our partners in this media relationship – journalists – expect us to communicate on their terms, which today, means online, via social media. I rarely advocate a social media only approach to communications strategy, but when pitching stories to journalists, this is a public relations tactic that you want to employ early and often.

Happy pitching.

~ Jules

PS. Jules’ Rule on hooking journalists: Fish where the fishes are: in a stocked pond.

*NOTE: A similar piece ran in the September issue of the CCC Boise Member Newsletter

8 thoughts on “The Secret to Effective Media Pitches

  1. I just left the CCC Boise panel and I have a couple of take aways:

    1. Mr. Hicken, Mr. Richert and Mr. Day represent the best of what journalism brings to our society. As a community member and resident of the Boise area, I feel we are getting a lot more than we pay for with these three on the watch. Really, I could spend an hour plus with each one to hear his thoughts in depth.

    2. The PR/Journalism world has changed forever – like it or not. Everyone’s job now is to learn to adjust, but social media is still just a tool; part of the puzzle that is communications.

    3. The press release may be dead, or possibly, as I chimed in, “not gone, but on life support.” These news organizations are inundated with releases. If the relationship is not there, you’re going to be part of the noise (regardless if you’re online or not.)

    4. From the audience, I picked up a sense of dismay and concern about these changes. Communications professionals and journalists seem to have taken it in stride, but many organizations are reeling from the effects of this say anything-anytime-world.

    Questions to pros: Where and when to edit, limit and control social media? Do you turn it off when the discussion turns sour? Is preparation enough, or are there strategies to totally avoid an online flare up?

    Tell me what you think. I’d love to hear it.
    ~ Jules

  2. First of all, great job on the panel today, Jules. Very interesting! Secondly, it is really interesting to note the different (at least in some cases) view of national-type journalists vs. local journalists in terms of SM use…especially given that Boise is a big SM town.

    I just wonder how, long term, any of us are going to keep up when there are 1000s of channels to communicate. Will we have experts for every trend that comes along?

    1. Thanks so much, Jeff. I had a great time. That hour flew by!

      Two things. I am surprised how much concern was expressed because I too view Boise as “such a social media town.” I thought maybe the topic would be seen as “duh, we knew that already” so I was surprised to hear of the level of concerned that exists. Gives me lots to think about in terms of supporting clients.

      And the idea of 1000 different channels each needing experts scares me in a there’s-only-so-many-hours-in-the-day kinda way. It is going to move us a lot closer to relaxing and not feeling the need to control the message so much – we simply can’t.

      Thanks so much for visiting and for all you do with CCC Boise.
      ~ Jules

  3. I’m weary of writing “Great post, Jules”, though they all are. It would’ve been nice to participate in that panel. Perhaps a Skype-enabled Webcast is in the offing.

    Unfortunately the wealth of information available on the Web and elsewhere makes screening and tailoring information to clients’ needs that much more difficult. Clients look to PR pros to be that screen and often we’re as discombobulated, if not more so, as them.

    We keep up in the same way those of us who exercise stay in shape (not me, other people). We train, we learn as much as we can about what will help us achieve the desired physical result and we tailor our workouts to the muscle groups and/or cardiovascular regimen best suited to ensure consistent success. Similarly, splintering audiences demand data. From them, not from a third party or even word of mouth unless that word of mouth comes from a focus group. There are simple and inexpensive survey instruments available to glean important data from audiences or professionals dedicated to the collection, collation, analysis and presentation of demographic information. Jules, you know I worship at the altar of data. This will not change. Indeed, it’s even more important now.

    Social media’s dynamism, I would argue, legislates in the content, product, or service producer’s favor. The minute-to-minute nature of the beast favors the nimble, those attuned to the nuances of both audiences and the media through which they consume content. Any PR fiasco has inevitably been aided and abetted by some company or practitioner’s unwillingness to accept conditions on the ground and instead operate as they would have conditions be.

    In short (I know, too late) there are no strategies to completely avoid online brouhahas; there are too many people invested in the negative antics occasionally associated with fomenting discord on the Web. Editing is usually reactive rather than proactive; someone has already produced something requiring a response which, in turn, occasions another response. A sour discussion is an opportunity for a client to present good information to audiences that want it. Underestimating folks by embargoing information is generally a bad idea. Look at the Tea Party. Who knew they’d become a political force? Sometimes you let the waves crash over your little boat, know that you’ve taken your sailing lessons to heart, put on the life jacket and ride the waves.

    1. Benjamin ~ I very much appreciate your in depth response. I agree: a sour discussion is an opportunity for a client to present good information to audiences that want it. Underestimating folks by embargoing information is generally a bad idea. I feel for clients that live in fear of social media gone wrong because when it goes badly, it tends to go really badly. Fortunately we have your sailing analogy, which I know I will be tuning to in the future. Thanks so much! ~ Jules

  4. I was surprised when I read that the audience had so many concerns regarding social media… I felt the same way as you as far as Boise being a SM town. Everyone I know embraces social media and uses it to help their companies grow. Who would have known that so many concerns were waiting on the side lines?

    1. I know! It seems to us casual users that social media is everywhere, but there is a whole segment out there that has not embraced it yet. To their detriment, I believe. Thanks for being here! ~ Jules

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