By Chanda Temple
Test time: You’ve emailed a national magazine’s deputy editor several times to invite her to profile your small Southern town and it’s connection to Elvis Presley. Although the editor has never responded, you don’t give up. The next time, you take a new approach.
A) Pitch how Tupelo, Miss., the birthplace of Elvis, is an emerging, energetic Southern city with a lot of history and appeal
B) Provide a list of locals, with contact info, for the editor to use as a resource
C) Ask the editor to be a judge in an Elvis look-a-like contest
D) All of the above
For the woman pitching to Erin Shaw Street, Southern Living magazine’s deputy editor responsible for managing the publication’s travel and culture content, all three approaches worked. Why? It had a lot to do with timing.
You see, editors and reporters are busy folks who get hundreds of emails a day. When they don’t respond to an email, it could be for a myriad of reasons. Erin was super busy with deadlines and stories when she received the woman’s past pitches. But when the woman, who worked for the convention and visitors bureau in Tupelo sent Erin that last email with the additional information, Erin just happened to be free to cover the story.
Erin was not only a longtime Elvis fan, but she also liked how the woman had gathered so many resources to help her tell the story. Furthermore, the magazine had not been to Tupelo in quite some time, so it made sense to take a look at what was happening there now.
“When she sent me the list, I said, ‘Well, I really need to go to this town. It’s the kind of place we write about,’ ” said Erin. “It’s just an example of someone doing their homework and reaching out in a fun way.”
Such a scenario is one Erin shared during a recent Alabama Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America and the Public Relations Council of Alabama panel discussion at Tab Brewing Co. in Birmingham, Ala., where Birmingham print editors and a radio news director gave tips on how to capture their attention.
Here are some tips from Erin:
- Visit a publication’s website or read their printed product to see what the editors and reporters cover. It won’t do you any good to pitch a story about car restoration to a fashion editor. Know your audience.
- Learn the interests of reporters/editors by reading their social media and blog posts. Because the Tupelo woman knew Erin liked Elvis, she mentioned Elvis in her emails. A sample opening line could be: “I know you are an Elvis fan. Elvis was born here. Here are a few things that may interest you about our town…” Or “I read your recent story about the growth of small towns in the South. Please consider our town for a future story. We have … (fill in the blank.)”
- Be helpful. When Erin told the woman she was coming to Tupelo, the woman not only suggested people for Erin to interview but also which restaurants, shops, etc. to visit. “She’s an example of great pr,” Erin said. “When we spent time together, I left with a lot of story ideas of not just about (Tupelo), but what’s happening in Mississippi.”
- Step back from the bigger story. See what makes the story tick. Is there a small player that can carry the ball in the story? Go beyond the obvious. Dig deep for details and tell a story that will impact a community.
- Don’t send long press releases. Be brief with your pitches. Submitting something with the Who, What, Where, When and Why with bullet points can deliver a direct message.
- Know how to contact editors and reporters. To contact Erin, send story ideas to email@example.com. She covers travel and culture for Southern Living.
- Understand media outlets’ deadlines. Southern LIving is currently working on December stories and planning its 2015 lineup. For them to consider items for a certain publication, submit pitches three to four months in advance of the event. Erin also edits the Daily South, Southern Living’s online portal for what’s happening in the South. The Daily South highlights what people are talking about right now: travel, culture, style, food and the buzz.
Did this post help you? On July 22, 2014, I’ll post tips from the other PRSA/PRCA panelists.
To read the story Erin wrote about Tupelo, go here.
Follow Erin on Twitter here.
Follow Alabama’s PRSA on Twitter here.
Follow Alabama’s PRCA on Twitter here.
Chanda Temple worked as a reporter for 20 years before becoming a public relations professional. She blogs about being better in business and more at http://www.chandatemplewrites.com. Follow her on Twitter at @chandatemple. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.