PR is all about the impressions you make. As famed historian Daniel Boorstin put it, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some hire public relations officers.” However, PR is not just about creating a positive impression with the public. It’s also about creating a positive impression with the media, since journalists are the gatekeepers between businesses and the public.
The most successful PR professionals know that the medium is as important as the message. Their work is grounded in a strong network of relationships and they follow certain standards or guidelines of etiquette that enable them to achieve the greatest results. To people who are just starting out in the PR field or to business owners looking to get exposure, these guidelines can help you optimize your PR strategy. Here are three can’t-miss pieces of PR advice.
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Make It Personal
Making it personal is always important, whether you are giving a holiday gift, running for elected office, or waging a PR campaign. It shows people that you care about them, appreciate who they are, and understand their value.
When reaching out to journalists, avoid the “spray-and-pray” approach at all costs. Do not use generic greetings (e.g. “Hi there” or “Dear Sir or Madam”). Open emails with the name of the recipient, as well as any other touches that make sense, such as the name of the outlet for which they write. Your pitch email shouldn’t seem mass-produced, although not every email needs to be written from scratch. The body of the pitch can stay largely the same, but it should read like it was written specifically for that reporter.
Personalizing your pitches not only entails using someone’s correct name and outlet, but also ensuring that the pitch is relevant. It won’t matter if you write an email to “Catherine” or “Josh” if it’s a pitch about a digital health company when they write about travel. Before sending pitches out, invest the time and due diligence in identifying reporters who are relevant to you. Few things irritate a journalist more than pitches that have nothing to do with their interests.
Master the Art of Following Up
Journalists are busy and receive hordes of emails every day. This simple reality speaks volumes about how to approach connecting with them.
A reporter who is taking interviews, writing articles, editing their work, formatting and publishing content, posting on social media, taking editorial meetings with their team, and researching stories is strapped for time, to say the least. Most reporters are not sitting with their inbox open, responding to emails as they come in, especially given all the irrelevant messages they receive. They are probably behind on their email and sort through the chaos of their inbox by skimming.
If you send a pitch email to a journalist, don’t expect to hear back right away. Give it a couple days before sending a follow-up. At the same time, waiting too long or not sending a follow-up at all can backfire. If you don’t hear back, it could just be that the reporter missed your email, so don’t immediately assume that they are not interested in the story.
The key here is balance. Send one polite, well-timed follow-up. If you don’t hear back after that, it might be time to move on and rethink your strategy, such as pitching someone else or changing the subject line going forward.
Timing Is Important
Once you have identified relevant reporters and crafted compelling, personal messages, don’t let all that work go to waste with bad timing. “Bad” can mean anything from sending a pitch too early to sending it during the event you want to promote. For breaking news, journalists act fast. They are probably not planning stories more than a week or two in advance. If you pitch them on a story that will come out in a month, they may forget, lose interest, get sidelined, or tell you to reach back out when the date is closer.
However, you also do not want to wait until the last minute. It may take some time before you get a response, so your timeline needs wiggle room to send follow-up messages. Then if the reporter wants to conduct an interview, that also takes time to schedule and execute. The ideal window is to begin pitching two weeks in advance, especially if you are not sure how much coverage you will attract. This leaves time to adapt your strategy or try different reporters.
The day of the week and time of day also have an impact. Avoid sending emails over the weekend or at night, and stick to business hours. Avoid sending emails during a major conference or too close to a holiday, since reporters’ attention will be diverted elsewhere. If you send a pitch in the morning and don’t hear back, send the follow-up during the afternoon. Maybe that reporter dedicates mornings to writing and afternoons to sourcing and reporting, so afternoon emails have a better shot of being seen.
When it comes to PR, how you do something is just as important as what you do. Follow these guidelines to achieve the best results with your PR campaigns.
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