May 20, 2011

Social media has dramatically affected how PR pros conduct media relations. Some might even call it “professional stalking” – but those people just aren’t doing it right. While results are the bottom line for PR, it still pays to have a strategy and some manners.

Here are a few best practices for building a mutually beneficial relationship with the media online without being creepy.

Study your media.

Just like in football, knowing your X’s and O’s will make you a better player when it comes to executing plans. The same concept applies to PR. When you select the media person you want to reach, research what beat they cover and read their articles, then help them out by passing along links that are relevant to their beat (even if it’s not about your client).

PR Week’s Kim Julin Guyader suggests you create a “wish list” of the top media outlets that are most relevant to your client. Develop “round-up” releases that outline topics and trends specific to their beat to increase the possibility of potential coverage. It’s also recommended that you find their online stories and post comments, as reporters often read them in search of new ideas or sources.

Build a personal relationship

Once you know a reporter’s interests and preferences, it doesn’t hurt to actually build a long-lasting relationship in the real world over a happy hour setting, lunch or for coffee. Also try attending professional networking events or meet-ups. There is often someone from the media there that you can meet and make a connection that you can build on.

Also, be proactive and engage them by asking questions, finding out what they are into and how they prefer to receive information. Making a genuine media relationship will not only strengthen your opportunities beyond your network, but it can also form a possible friendship through shared interests (if not forced and if you click really well).

Check social media platforms

Nowadays, getting in touch with someone via phone or email isn’t the only way you can see what they’re up to. News is time sensitive, and social media allows us to constantly check our Twitter, LinkedIn, Digg, Facebook or Tumblr accounts to catch the latest updates, newest blog posts and hottest trends.

Find out which social networking platforms the reporters you want to reach are using, and try contacting them through there. For example, when reaching out to food bloggers for client Johnson & Wales University North Miami Campus, rbb’s Senior Account Executive Emily Taffel-Schaper sends direct messages via Twitter, pre-inviting them to current events such as themed Restaurant Experiences.

There’s an elephant in the room that should be addressed: A recent survey revealed that only one percent of reporters actually want to be contacted via Twitter. Don’t let this statistic scare you off – this just means you could be one of few credible or lucky ones to actually get through to reporters and receive a response from doing something right. Following best practices tips like the ones outline here also greatly increase your chances, because you’re humanizing yourself as a PR pro, not a Twitter pitching machine.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T and consideration

I won’t sing the song but I’m sure you all know it. Respecting that person’s wish is proper etiquette. A simple golden rule to remember is to always ask if a reporter is on deadline, what is the best time to contact them and/or how they prefer to be contacted. Keep in mind that you’re not the only PR person vying for their attention, so following up is key too. Media and PR professionals should have a mutually beneficial relationship; they will respect you for respecting them.

Paint the picture and get creative

After you’ve done your homework by knowing a reporter’s beat, write an effective pitch that is succinct and focuses on the “meat” of the information. Before writing, ask yourself a couple of questions: What’s the point of the story? Who does this benefit? Is it timely? Is there a call to action?

Keep in mind that sometimes the story is more of a trend piece, meaning reporters will need more examples other than your client. If that doesn’t work, try different tactics to get the media’s attention, such as media teasers. Assemble a creative package/basket to send using items that you want to pitch to the media. Feel free to get creative to ensure you capture a reporter’s attention. At rbb, the Feld team created a teaser for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s FUNundrum circus tour in Miami consisting of cookie train jars, clown noses, spinners and flashy bling necklaces to select media, attached with media alerts wrapped in cellophane.

Hopefully these additional tips will be applicable at some point. Take it from me: As a young practitioner learning as I go, these practices have worked in building and maintaining a mutually beneficial media relationship between our publicists and the media. Good luck!


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