In his latest #OrchidsandOnions column, ad critic and life-long newshound Brendan Seery awarded an “onion” to those public relations professionals who still send out a general email to all-and-sundry in the media industry, instead of personalising their communication.
It’s certainly easier to send out a mass release in the hopes it gets published somewhere, but as Seery mentioned, successful PR lies in taking the time to successfully build relationships with media.
And rule number one in the public relations business is to not send shotgun press releases to journalists because, “The majority of them get spiked – and why not? Who likes to be the sloppy second, or third?”
The fact that the release was sent to “undisclosed recipients” wasn’t the only trigger, though – Seery says, “it had the temerity to pitch for an interview on ‘your breakfast show’. The only breakfast show I have is when I devour the delicious omelettes my wife makes.”
Snarkiness aside, a successful PR-media relationship is definitely based on doing the groundwork. Know who you’re targeting and why. Go so far as to explain why you’re sending on the information and show you’ve done your homework in terms of the beat they work in and what type of news they usually cover, in what format. It’s a waste of time all round sending high-res, 10MB images through if the website section that journo writes for is image-free.
More than this, in today’s world of information overload, where phones ping away with breaking news alerts, and social media has become a bit of a ‘truth battlefield’ with fake news on the rise, journalists and editors simply don’t have time to read, let alone publish, every piece of content they receive.
Taking that and the rapid speed of change into context, we felt Seery’s outrage signalled the perfect time for a brief recap of some of the points raised in Meltwater’s webinar presentation on How to Write the Perfect Press Release, presented by Bizcommunity’s editor-in-chief Leigh Andrews – she of the 300-plus emails per day. Who better to share insider tips and tricks to perfect your relationship with the media and remind us what we should and shouldn’t include before we press Send?
6 Steps for Moving Away from “PR Shotgun” and Towards Personalisation
(apologies to the agency formerly known as Shotgun PR, based in the UK!)
- First, she points out that the saying is true: It’s not just who you know but what you know about who you know. But there’s a caveat to this: If we know each other in real life, go ahead and mention something we have in common or comment on something we’ve shared on social media. If not, avoid coming across as too “stalker-y” when we have only ever chatted to each other over email.
- Remember that if the story is truly newsworthy, you won’t need to sell it to us. Send through the basics – including social media handles and photos – and if we need additional angles, pics in higher resolution, or contacts, we’ll ask.
- That said, make sure you’ve double and triple-checked the content you send through to ensure you’ve filled in any placeholder text and that it includes the basics – who, what, where, when, why, how – to minimise any back-and-forth if it tickles the media’s interest. You’d be surprised how often a crucial detail is missing like the date, time or venue of an event or the price of a new product.
- Pay attention to the format of the content you send through. Paste it into the body or the email and also attach as a Word doc for ease of copying out into the media worker’s CMS of choice, for easy formatting and publishing. Attach images to the email rather than sending over WhatsApp or embedding in the document, and please don’t send the text portion through as a PDF.
- Also be sure to have it signed off internally to prevent the embarrassment of having to recall the message that’s already been read, only to send it back with a single point changed – which the media are likely to have excluded, anyway. Similarly, the sending of updated versions of the release, often after it’s already been subbed, rather than specific changes to be made is particularly time consuming.
- Get someone else to run an eye over the release and overall email, as we’re often too close to what we’ve written to notice any obvious errors.
How to call a truce and build a better relationship with the media
That said, the average media worker also wears the hat of proofreader, fact checker, photographer or image generator, reporter, social media manager, video editor and basic graphic designer. On the average workday we do a quick news overview first thing before tackling their inbox to check were not missing any crucial coverage and meeting newsletter deadlines, then finding someone to commission that work from, if not dropping everything to quickly put something together on the topic. If you’re approachable and able to quickly send through a few snappy comments from your client on a hot topic, you’ll fast become a favourite.
But all these point can be boiled down to one: building a better media relationship is essential. That was the point of Seery’s piece.
You can do so by having a quick read of our top stories on site for an idea of what we typically cover but, of course, nothing beats the face-to-face interaction, to get to know the personality behind the email screen name.
We’re all in the communication game together, but tend to spend our days deep in our respective trenches, lobbing grenades together rather than calling a truce and opting to work together as allies. No need for leisurely lunches that will break your budget, it’s often as easy as inviting us to pencil in an hour for a quick coffee meet – even at our own offices – to chat through how we work and what we’re currently focused on. You’re guaranteed to get a better response to that than if you phone us weekly while we’re chasing deadlines to ask if we’re interested in covering your clients’ newest product feature.
All newsrooms are stretched so if you’re as speedy and accommodating to our sometimes obscure requests, we’ll be more likely to prioritise the content over the myriad other content missiles vying for our attention.
Get to Grips with PR Measurement for 2019 and Beyond
All fair and well, but of course you want results, too. To prove the effectiveness of all your hard work – hard to believe that PR was once just a case of typing up the spokesperson’s notes, then sending copies out to the established traditional media outlets.
Maiyo Febi mentioned just this when writing about the evolution of the public relations practitioner – to succeed at PR in 2019, you need to be responsive and well versed in many areas, mainly: marketing, social media and influencer management, while remaining tuned into the latest trends
likely to affect the industry.
We’re all doing much more, faster than ever before, so we need to make sure we’re working smarter, not harder when going through our work to-do lists.
To that end, make sure your PR measurement strategy is also on track by attending our free Webinar on this topic next week, where Lauren Chavez, Executive Earned Media Director at multi-award-winning King James Group, will cover how the industry has changed and what you need to do to keep up with What PR Measurement Looks Like Today.
If you’re still wondering what AVE means, using outdated metrics and wondering why the ROI from your PR efforts isn’t increasing, you can’t afford to miss out – it couldn’t be easier, especially as attendance is free.
You’ll soon be hitting that media target more accurately than ever before, and so busy doing so that the spray-and-pray PR approach be.