Recent layoffs and hiring freezes hit media companies particularly, amid declining advertising revenue and recession fears. In 2022, CNN laid off hundreds of staffers, NPR announced a hiring freeze and the Washington Post eliminated its Sunday magazine. The list goes on.
Journalists were already stretched thin before these cuts. According to MuckRack’s 2022 State of Journalism report, the average journalist covers four beats (up from three in 2021). As news media consolidation continues, this means fewer outlets, leaner staff and constantly shifting focus areas for reporters.
These macroeconomic factors heighten the importance of thoughtful media relations. Afterall, it’s our job to be a resource for journalists – not a nuisance. Here are seven best practices for thoughtful media relations:
1. Engaging Subject Line
Your subject line is the first thing reporters will see and will make or break your pitch. Keep it short (6-8 words max), use numbers, and location to stand out.
2. Shorter the Better
The same research from MuckRack found 68% of journalists prefer pitches under 200 words. They only want to know the essential information, why they should care or what the news hook is. Avoid the small talk (e.g., How are you? Hope you’re doing well. Happy Friday!) and get right to the point.
3. Approachable Language
Write pitches how you talk and avoid industry buzzwords at all costs. We get it, your client is the “leading” company “transforming” your industry with “innovative” technology. However, superfluous company descriptions can be off putting to journalists.
Spelling the journalist’s name correctly and reiterating their beat in the opening sentence of your pitch isn’t personalization. You’ll stand out to reporters if you’re consuming their content and engaging with them on social media. Like their posts on Twitter, acknowledge their life updates and find common ground. Not every touch point with a reporter needs to be a pitch.
5. Know When To Pitch
It’s not a perfect science but consider the newsroom dynamic and experiment with different days, and times to maximize visibility. Editorial meetings typically happen before lunch and in the afternoon. Monday mornings are typically a slush pile of news and catchup. A reporter’s inbox on Friday afternoon is the equivalent to a dark black abyss as they try to meet deadlines while wrapping up for the weekend.
6. Call To Action
Are you offering a phone interview, or an in-person meet up? What executive are you proposing? What’s the day and time of your announcement? Make it clear in the closing what it is you’re offering them (and be prepared to deliver on that promise).
7. Follow Up Thoughtfully
Give it time – don’t follow up in the same week if possible. Offer something new (e.g., don’t say “Just checking to see if you received my email” or “following up” or “sorry to bother you”). Acknowledge an important deadline. Share a new data point. Expand on something shared in the original pitch. A follow up email (or two) is usually appreciated, but don’t bombard reporters with unsolicited emails – or risk getting blacklisted.
The best pitches aren’t always company centric, but reporter and audience centric. As PR professionals, we need to think like journalists, anticipate what they’ll want and be willing to go the extra mile for them. If you do, you’ll no doubt be on your way to building lasting relationships.
Are there any tips I didn’t cover? Let me know.