By Ana Pinilla and Liz Ballantine
On Friday, Oct. 21, Business Wire had the honor of sponsoring the Washington Women in Public Relations (WWPR) Annual Media Roundtable at the American Chemical Society.
Moderated by Lisa Matthews, Hager Sharp Vice President and former Planning Editor for the Associated Press, the event featured a distinguished panel from top news outlets: Eleanor Clift of Daily Beast, Laura Helmuth of The Washington Post, Michelle Remillard of C-SPAN, Fay Sliger of Vox Media, and Melinda Woolbright of NBC4.
Throughout the event, two overarching themes emerged: the impact of technology in reporting and best practices for pitching to journalists.
Undoubtedly, journalism has experienced a digital transformation over the years. When asked about the impact of technology, panelists agreed it has helped evolve their reporting efforts. The digital transformation has simplified their news gathering process. Woolbright said she uses social media as a main source of news. Clift noticed a decrease in her phone traffic, and most of her reporting is now dependent on email and social media. Sliger explained how the company doesn’t even have phone lines and relies on new media as their form of communication. Despite the heavy dependence on technology, Remillard still reads a stack of papers every morning for the Washington Journal segment at C-SPAN.
The panelists discussed some best practices for media pitches and ways communicators can connect with journalists.
Keep Your Pitch Mobile Friendly
Swiping through too many pages on a phone screen can cause journalists to lose interest. They simply need to know the story topic, how it relates to their current coverage, and contact information. Journalists typically don’t have time to read through a whole pitch so make sure your pitch fits on the screen of a mobile phone and is brief and to the point.
Building Relationships Through Social Media
Social media, especially Twitter, is a great place to build relationships with journalists and to stand out. Helmuth said “keep it fun and goof around -- not making it all about work.” She occasionally enjoys when PR professionals engage with her through social media. Now that journalists know you through Twitter engagement, they will pay attention and respond back to pitches.
Tailoring the Message
It is crucial for PR professionals to do their homework and tailor their pitch to journalists. Receiving an irrelevant pitch is a waste of journalist’s time and will less likely be considered for any future press releases. According to Business Wire’s latest Media Blueprint, journalists were asked what their number one pet peeve was and a staggering 73% said their biggest pet peeve is when a PR professional does not do their research on their beat. To provide an example, Helmuth, who covers Health and Environmental news, explained her confusion at receiving a story about pet Halloween costumes – something obviously was not geared to her news coverage.
Timing of the Press Release
As PR Professionals, it can be difficult to determine when the best time is to send a pitch to a journalist especially when it comes to special events. Woolbright and Remillard suggested sending the pitch two weeks prior to when they would run the story. Also, it’s crucial to pitch stories that go along with current events, holidays, seasons, etc.
We encourage you to use these takeaways to help your pitches break through the clutter. Remember to do research on your targeted journalists, work to build relationships, be aware of their deadlines, and keep your pitches short and sweet.