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Ten Core Media Relations Strategies
Tested tactics and tips to score the most hits.
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 by Charlotte Tomic
Tomic Communications

Charlotte TomicWith the news hole shrinking every day and headlines shrieking about celebrities with names like Hilton, it seems more and more impossible to get stories about your clients. 

As a longtime publicist working for major brands for the past 20-plus years, I thought that getting news articles about clients or placing them on talk shows would get easier.

Instead, I find it more and more challenging every day.

While the technology boom has fostered new media outlets that increase the probability that some ink will stick, getting through the clutter to actually reach reporters becomes more and more difficult.

With answering machines, cell phone numbers and the increasing probability that most e-mails are delegated to the junk mail file, how do you score wins for your clients?

Here are ten tried and true tips to follow:

1) Find out who’s moved to what publication or outlet. More and more journalists are leaving their jobs for new and more challenging opportunities. Someone who worked on the technology beat may now be a business editor. Keeping track of who is working where is a time-consuming yet necessary job that can minimize bouncebacks and wasted outreach.

2) Write catchy subject lines in e-mails. If you want to reach a reporter’s e-mails, write a captivating and sizzling subject line that will pique his or her interest. If the subject line is newsworthy, most likely it will get read.

3) Don’t send out generic e-mails or “.bcc” a whole list of reporters. Personalize your pitch letter or note and keep it simple. Don’t repeat what is already in the press release you’re sending, but write why you think the reporter might be interested in this particular news. Find a news hook or focus and make that the pitch, using statistics if you can. For example, add something that says, ‘A recent study shows…..” Or begin with your company’s survey or questionnaire results. All of this make the news relevant.

4) Cut down on bogus exaggerated terminology that your news is “breakthrough” or “revolutionary.”  Write in words that a layman can understand without making overblown claims that can’t be substantiated.

5) Practice your verbal voicemail messages before you call a reporter. Work up a sheet of talking points that ensure you won’t forget what you’re trying to recommend. Remember – your voicemail message should have a “smile” in your voice and enthusiasm should register as you talk. If you sound like you’re reciting the alphabet and have said the same thing over and over, no one will listen to you after hearing one line….

6) Set goals for yourself of getting a minimal amount of placements for each pitch or release you send. If you get more, it’s gravy. If you don’t get any, you’ll feel like you failed and will be discouraged to continue pitching for this client.

7) Remember that selling a story is just that — sales. You must use the techniques of a salesperson.  To succeed, you have to make a lot of “cold calls” to people you only meet on the phone. Don’t give up and make sure your skin gets thicker every day.

8) Take rejection gracefully but not too gracefully.  Sometimes it pays to be a sore loser.  But don’t be abusive to a member of the media. They will always remember. You always get more results with kindness. If you’re nice on the phone, respect a reporter’s deadlines and time constraints and maintain a good virtual and phone relationship, you will garner the most results.

9) Never underestimate the power of personal meetings. If you actually can network and meet reporters, developing that human connection and seeing them in another setting can create a relationship that could well-serve you for years to come. Follow a reporter’s career. Express interest in their moves to new positions. Maintain contact with them even after they’re written their story for your account.

10) Don’t lie. If you don’t know an answer to a reporter’s question, don’t make believe you do just to keep them on the phone. If you don’t know something, tell the reporter you’ll get back to him or her. Remember - your reputation is always more important than landing a story.

Charlotte Tomic heads the Tomic Communications
a Miami-based public relations agency that marries strategic 
and creative work to maximize results for its clients. The 
agency is small and provides nimble, individualized, 
consistently hands-on consulting for its clients.

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