By Chanda Temple
On a recent Tuesday night inside Birmingham’s Trim Tab Brewing Co., the beer was flowing and so were tips on how to get the media to notice your pitches from pr professionals.
Those doling out the info were Erin Shaw Street, deputy editor for Southern Living magazine; Rachel Lindley, news director for WBHM FM; David Magee, editor of Birmingham Magazine; and Walker Sorrell, associate publisher of Business Alabama. They were Trim Tab to participate in a panel discussion presented by the Alabama Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America and the Public Relations Council of Alabama, two organizations focused on giving pr professionals networking opportunities and tools to improve their craft. (Today’s post is Part 2 of the PRSA/PRCA panel discussion. To see Part 1, go here.)
Here are their tips:
1) Don’t call to pitch a story or leave a voicemail. Who has time for that nowadays? A better way to reach editors and reporters is via email or even social media. Don’t be discouraged if they don’t respond. Keep trying. “The phone is not the best contact, but it is a good way to follow up,” said Walker.
2) Try abandoning the formality of an email pitch and pitch an idea on Twitter. Some editors and reporters notice that.
3) Submit quirky news items, an anniversary of a certain event, the fact that this is the “first ever” event, said Erin.
4) Do make each email subject line interesting. If it’s vague, it will likely get ignored.
5) Don’t hesitate to reach out and say, “If you are not the right person, who is?” Erin said.
6) Know the reporters and what they cover. If they write your story, offer to promote it on your social media outlets. “If you get a reporter excited about it… they have the power to do the story,” David said.
7) Be passionate but short with your pitch. No one likes to read a three-page email. Say what you have to say in a few paragraphs. Use bullet points. Cut down to why it’s important, said David.
8) Don’t blind copy news organizations in a mass email. Take the time to customize your email for each news organization, said Rachel.
9) If you must send out a mass email/press release, send a second email that’s personalized and targets a certain reporter or editor. Tell them why this story should matter to them. “If I get two (emails) from you, I may say, ‘Hey, what’s this about?’ ” Rachel said.
10) Pitch stories that get to the fabric of why your business or your town is a place on the move. Don’t just say, “Hey, here’s a story you should cover.” Look at how your story will impact the community, economic development, jobs. WBHM does more in-depth stories, so they look for such details, said Rachel.
11) Think about the reader’s interest. How will your story help readers or businesses? Make the story interesting, said Walker.
12) Establish your boss or company executive as an expert. Let media outlets know that you have different experts available to talk on certain topics. Pitch in advance or when there’s a newsbreaking story.
13) Be creative when promoting an open house. Instead of saying, “Hey, our business is opening, stop by and check us out,” look at your staff and see if they have interesting stories. Are you selling only products made in Alabama? Does everyone on your staff have something in common? Did they all go to the same college? If so, that may be a hook for that school’s alumni magazine.
14) Have current contact info. To contact WBHM, send emails to email@example.com. Follow up by sending emails to individuals covering your area of interest. Andrew Yeager covers local government; Sarah Delia covers arts and culture; Dan Carsen covers education and science; and Rachel Lindley handles business and health.
To contact Erin Shaw Street at Southern Living, send story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org. She covers travel and culture.
Walker Sorrell works with PMT Publishing, which puts out Business Alabama and Birmingham Home and Garden. Erica West is the editor for Business Alabama. Her email is email@example.com. Cathy Still McGowin is the editor of Birmingham Home and Garden. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Walker’s email address is email@example.com.
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.