I help a variety of business journalists with their stories on a regular basis: I enjoy seeing these people at events, which are now mostly online, chatting with them daily at Twitter, and reading the interesting things that they write.
I subscribe to a lot of daily newsletters, such as Morning Brew, and check the Twitter feed often. Reporters are often smart and funny, so I enjoy my job.
Think you know how to do media relations? If you’ve been a publicist for more than five years like me, it’s important to refresh the way that you do things in this post pandemic world. Tip: We are now in an epidemic.
The PR profession has changed quite a bit since the pandemic hit: It’s five times harder to develop relationships now because there are very few in person meetings and conferences. Previously you’d run into a reporter a conference or party, or you’d hold a mixer, like a wine tasting, with journalists. That rarely happens anymore in the technology business world.
Here are seven things to do to develop better relationships with business press in modern times:
- Make the note short. I was advised in a media relations refresher class at Stanford Continuing Studies to make emailed pitches no longer than 250 words. The instructor a former San Francisco Chronicle reporter, was very good. This tip works.
- Personalize the pitch. Make it friendly to their time zone, location and topics they seem to really like covering. Consider a journalist as your client, not your client as your client. Read what they tweeted in the past hour. If you pretend that a journalist is paying you, you’ll treat them with more respect and in turn get better results.
- Write a compelling subject line. But don’t make it click bait. People don’t like being tricked. An example is, “The shocking news about Prince William” when it is about how he likes Nutella on his bread instead of the more appropriate and healthier avocado, not true probably, but I’m trying to make a point. Your mind jumped to, “The prince is having an affair.” Treat journalists with respect. They are people. Treat them the way you want to be treated.
- Always read a journalist’s Tweet or recent story first. Looking up their stories helps because sometimes you find out that they haven’t written in a couple of years and took a corporate job. Then don’t waste the outreach time, unless you want to network with a peer.
- Be brave but not annoying. A follow up by text or LinkedIn direct message might be needed. If you have hard news that you know is major, but the reporter hasn’t opened the email note yet, figure out a polite but direct way to get their attention.
- Be sensitive to COVID concerns when setting up meetings. Don’t push an in-person coffee meeting on someone who is more at risk for COVID. “Read the room” as the saying goes. I set up an in-person meeting with a reporter who tweeted, “I would like to meet c-suite executives in person” recently. Note that an online tip has less of a chance of getting canceled. A reporter or executive with breakthrough COVID might still attend the meeting.
- Don’t overpitch your favorite journalists. I need to keep reminding myself of this. I’ve heard two editors say that they like hearing from certain PR people no more than four times per year. This one is hard to follow if you serve a large number of clients. I typically serve between two and five PR clients at any given time.
On a final note, use these tips for trade reporters as well. Trade reporters need to be treated with respect as well. Don’t save the “weak pitch” for the trades. Give them strong spokespersons and relevant news as well. Trade press cover business topics as well. ###
Michelle McIntyre is a Silicon Valley-based PR consultant who helps startups and their VCs get valuable attention. Prior to that she was the West Coast PR manager for IBM. @fromMichelle on Twitter