The evolution of PR over the years has definitely changed the way we pitch. Instead of an abundance of desk staffers, even big publications have resorted to content producers instead. With many journalists hot-desking or going freelance, things move quickly and many PRs praise tools such as Muckrack to stay on top of what people are writing about.
Even though you may access more contacts by depending on tools, the tried and tested personal touch will bring you much more success in PR. As an expert communicator, your first tool should always be your voice. The phone call, although old fashioned, still has its place in Digital PR. The use of online tools should always be secondary so that you don’t lose sight of building relationships with journalists.
Media Databases can only get you so far
By forming these relationships with journalists and finding out what they like to cover, you will get to know their beat and become a trusted contact when close to deadline day. You can search as many databases as you like, but without personalising your pitch or researching their past work, your email might never be read. It should be within your interest to find out what they like and what their role is.
Be the voice of your brand
As you are the person that journalists will associate with your brand, you must be prepared to be ‘on’ all the time. If you are not willing to put the time into engaging with journalists and cultivate relationships, then why should they buy into your brand? It is a two way street and if you are impolite or unwilling to help, this will be what the journalist will remember when someone mentions your brand.
Don’t bombard journos with a rigid pitch
Show your human side and always listen to tailor the resources you have to your target audience. The writer will always respect the PR that knows the latest press release isn’t for them, but will offer an alternative idea instead. By sending a robotic pitch, the journalist will simply switch off, which won’t benefit anyone. When creating your strategy, see what other assets and press materials are available so that you can be flexible when pitching.
Opportunities will arise organically
Most people use tools to see what journalists are writing about and bending it to fit their PR story, but by ringing them on a regular basis, you can stay in the loop and keep in touch. Instead of spending extra time on different tools, the phone is a quick way to keep on top of those relationships and be the first port of call when something relevant comes up.
Know their routine
When you build a relationship with a journalist, you can get to know their routine and their editorial plans for the sites they write for. For example, they might work on galleries on a Tuesday, interviews every 1st Monday of the month or regularly repurpose research content every month. This will save you time and make your pitching more efficient than the scattergun approach. Databases like Gorkana will often tell you when section pages go live, but crucially will not tell you when to send your ideas.
Use search trends to determine what people want to know when
Using tools like HARO will give you a clear indication on what will be trending and what is most likely to be featured online. Also, you can overlay trend data with search phrase analysis to determine what people are wanting to know more about. For example, if people are searching for festivals then you can tie your pitches in to the festival season. By keeping track of when topics are popular, you can craft your pitch to anticipate what information journalists want to know. But you have to move fast – there is nothing more off-putting than a PR trying to push their story when it is out of step with the news.
How can you harness those important relationships:
Stay true to the brand and your objective
Do not push irrelevant content to a journalist. You will not only be unsuccessful with a PR hit, but you will also could be at risk of ruining a relationship that would be vital for another client. If you do, you could compromise your brand voice for the sake of press coverage. This could possibly damage brand’s reputation and how other writers will view them.
Know the titles inside out
Following publications on their social and the key journalist’s profile is an easy way to keep track of them. Take note of what what they are interested in and what would immediately catch their eye. Once you get to know the writer you will able to have a sense what they will and won’t feature. This way, when new PR angles arise, you would instantly know who to approach first.
Have face to face meetings
No matter what tools you have, nothing can beat a personal connection. Make dates in your diary to meet important writers who work on authoritative sites. This way you can form relationships outside the office and get to know the person behind the computer screen. For journalists that are time poor- this is a great way to talk through your ideas without the distractions of the office and gauge their reactions in real time.