Media Relations in the Digital Age
In today’s Digital Age, almost every public relations professional wants to see their client or organization’s story placed with journalists at prestigious and influential media outlets, as well as in prominent new online media outlets. The PRSA-NCC Professional Development seminar on June 8, 2011 held at the Navy Memorial provided a diverse group of journalist speakers that addressed many of the issues involved in media relations within their various reporting beats and media outlets. About 80 participants were on hand to listen to speakers from Al Jazeera, The Huffington Post, Bloomberg News and the National Journal, who related methods of accessing information for their news cycles, and how to pitch information for their news articles, broadcasts, or blogs.
Considering that most journalists have entered the Digital Age, the speakers related examples of some tried-and-true methods of getting information for their news reporting, such as talking to top officials as well as direct quotes and access to pre-interview press releases, but depending on the news topic and media outlet, they may or may not include the use of social media. Tony Capaccio, Pentagon Correspondent of Bloomberg News mentioned that although readers/followers might read Twitter for events coming up, it is usually only top officials who can provide information that he is seeking for his reporting for the specific information needed in Bloomberg’s Pentagon news. “I’ve only used social media twice to talk to defense officials, such as the Admiral in charge of NATO, and only because he was a reader of Facebook,” said Capaccio.
For those who are more tech-savvy, Maggie Fox, Managing Editor of Technology and Health Care, said that many PR professionals need to refocus how they appeal to journalists, because “most journalists have to wade through 600 email messages per day. It takes up all my time.” She stressed “knowing who you’re pitching and why, so that the journalists and you don’t waste your time,” Fox said. “Only pitch if you can offer something no one else is doing, and be quick, topical and concise. Don’t be one of the PR types who bug people all the time.”
The bottom line, according to Jeffrey Ballou, Deputy News Editor of Al Jazeera, is that “journalists are tired from all of the world’s major upheavals, and if you don’t watch the media you pitch, you are not aware what is being covered day-to-day, so your pitch will be irrelevant.” And delivering the actual newsmakers to the journalists is something all speaker panelists agreed on. “You must be able to offer a speaker that has current experience in the news topics covered, such as diplomacy in foreign relations in the case of Afghanistan.”
Social media plays a big role too for many media outlets now, such as Al Jazeera and The Huffington Post, who say most of their reporting is done on social media, i.e. blogs, Twitter or Facebook, which were also the main outlets cited by panelists. Jennifer Bendrey, Washington Correspondent for The Huffington Post, said “We think about the audience and their niches, and we do welcome pitches, but know who you’re talking to before you call, and it helps to offer a couple of knowledgeable sentences for the journalist to get a flavor of the story you are pitching.”