Are reporters reading your pitches? Are you tweeting journalists to no avail? At PRSA-NCC’s professional development workshop “Media Relations and the New(ish) Guard in the Press Corps,” a top-notch panel of journalists provided valuable tips and insights for PR professionals to be more successful when it comes to working with the media.
Gordon Witkin, Center for Public Integrity, Executive Editor
Olivier Knox, Yahoo.com, Chief Washington Correspondent
Kate Sheppard, Huffington Post, Senior Reporter/Energy and Environment Editor
Libby Nelson, Vox.com, Education Reporter
Jim Swift, The Weekly Standard, Assistant Editor
The speakers offered insight into pitching, confirming that they do not want to be pitched via Facebook and Twitter. When researching content and collecting information, panelist Gordon Witkin said that he would rather have a conversation than spend time going back and forth through email. The Weekly Standard’s Jim Swift said that getting to know him is the best way to pitch him. “Know your journalist. Talk with them. Learn what they like to cover,” he added.
Chief Washington Correspondent of Yahoo News Olivier Knox begged: “Please, in the name of all that is holy, do your research.”
The panel agreed that good PR professionals should always do their research and recommended following these best practices: do not pitch the same story to multiple reporters, know what the reporter covers, know their audience, get their name right, and be respectful of their time. Some journalists get more than 150 pitches per day, so the panel members sternly suggested that PR professionals avoid calling to follow up on a press release. According to Huffington Post’s Kate Sheppard, PR professionals have no idea how busy the average journalist is. “Don’t be a bad ex-boyfriend.”
The panel went on to discuss visual elements. In email pitches, PR professionals should not attach infographics and videos—media outlets want to create their own. But if you include data or statistics in your pitch, the journalist can easily add those numbers to their story.
With all these rules and regulations of journalism and public relations, what if the reporter does not respond to your pitch? There’s good news, says Libby Nelson: journalists will file away a pitch to use that information in a larger trend piece.
– Rachel Ghadiali
Rachel Ghadiali is a public affairs specialist in the U.S. Marine Corps.