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The Future of Media Relations, As Told By a Journalist

Last week Walker Sands hosted their first ever virtual Ask a Reporter with Nicole Fallon, Assistant Editor at Business News Daily.  Fallon graduated from NYU with a Bachelor of Science in Media, Culture and Communications, and has a background in public relations, marketing and journalism. In fact, before graduating, Fallon completed marketing and public relations agency internships, and freelanced for Business News Daily.

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The session was informative and filled with takeaways helpful for any PR pro trying to build and strengthen relationships with reporters. The basics of relationship building, like knowing a reporter’s beat, sending personalized emails and being genuine were covered. But what stuck out to me the most was how much Nicole alluded to the future of media relations. Here are some media relations takeaways for 2015:

Embrace the Morning Commute

Hour-long bus and train rides are the perfect time for reporters to pick up their phones and sift through email. Fallon admits that most of her commute is filled with answering emails and sorting pitches. She reads through emails and news headlines, and explores wire services for stand-out stories.  Her advice? The earlier the pitch the better.

It’s the responsibility of a media relations specialist to reach reporters when they aren’t already knee-deep in writing. For a lot of reporters, that’s in the morning before they’ve gotten to work. Schedule pitches that will send before office hours, and be cognizant of time zones. If you’re in Chicago, and you’re pitching reporters in New York City, coordinate your pitches to send at commuting times in EST. This may mean using Boomerang or Outlook to schedule your pitch, but if it’s sent before a reporter is on deadline, you may have more luck getting a response.

Think like Twitter

If you want to make your pitch standout, think like Twitter. Journalism is changing, and so is the way we receive and digest information. People get their headlines from Twitter, so journalists need to be quick when developing content. When pitching, give the reporter the information they’ll need to turn a story around quickly.

Fallon admits that she doesn’t want to scroll down while reading an email. When thinking about content, Fallon suggests three to four short paragraphs that identify the source, the angle, and what the expert can talk about.

Just the same, subject lines should be as concise and information rich as possible. Lead with relevancy, and grab the attention of the particular publication you’re pitching. This may mean spending more time researching the outlet, but if it increases open rates, it’s worth the extra 10 minutes.

Rely on Google

Fallon explained that she and her editor spend time tracking Google Analytics to see which types of articles perform the best. Because of this, it’s important to understand and be aware of trends. In fact, most of their content is based off of the stories that have performed well in the past.

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Before pitching a reporter, research their past articles and see which stories have received good engagement. Look at social shares and comments, and base your pitch on the format of that article. For example, if you notice that a website receives engagement from list-based articles, offer a pitch with bulleted tips.

Do the same when brainstorming pitch ideas. A great resource for this is Google Trends, which shows what keywords people are searching most for on Google. There are worldwide topics, but you can also explore based on your client’s industry.

Build personal relationships

When it comes to relationship building, Fallon appreciates an introduction email. In fact, she keeps a spreadsheet with contact information and a thought leader’s area of expertise so she can reach out when she needs commentary.

Landing the perfect placement relies on building strong relationships with reporters. You can’t rely on blindly sending three pitches a week to the same people and hoping you’ll get coverage. Build the relationship by offering a reporter your client as a resource to them, sharing relevant articles and staying up to date with their latest coverage. Showing a reporter that you’re interested in more than client placements is the first step to building trust.

Journalism isn’t dying, but it is no doubt changing. And the changing media landscape offers unique challenges for public relations professionals. Progressions in journalism create opportunities for public relations professionals to stand out in their media relations efforts if they take the time to personalize, research and be strategic in their outreach. Happy pitching!