Tips on DIY media outreach

Finding the right media contact is not an easy task, especially as of late, with media continually evolving  and reporters changing roles and outlets.  One would think that it would be easier given the digital media landscape with information literally at our  finger tips – but that’s not necessarily the case. Twitter accounts with profiles descriptions such as “Ottawa Citizen Reporter” are not overly helpful in finding the right media contact at The Citizen to share your story, am I right?

In a perfect world, reporters would update their social media accounts with bio information that described what they cover in more detail. Here are a few examples of Ottawa Citizen reporters who do this well.  (Most reporters from the Citizen and other outlets also do this well – we chose these three examples – there are others.  In addition, many twitter accounts for media outlets also provide twitter lists of their reporters by topic).  

At a quick glance, you can tell if your story is the right fit for these reporters:

Image of Janet Wilson's twitter profileImage of Pauline Tam's Twitter profileSome even provide email addresses to share story ideas and invite followers to other social media channels as in this last example.

Image of Meghan Hurley's Twitter profile

3 Steps to a Successful Pitch  

Beyond the obvious of delivering news value, the key to pitching  is to understand reporters and what they’re really looking for. I recommend that if you want to dabble in DIY media outreach, that you follow these three steps.

  1. Read the tweets and Facebook updates from media outlets.
  2. Watch the conversations being created around the news that is being reported.  Follow Twitter feeds. Be an observer of news for your industry.
  3. Follow the source of the news. Find the names of the reporters who cover your specific topic and search for articles by those reporters.  Subscribe to their feeds. Get a sense of their writing style, what they do and do not cover to better target your pitch.

One last thing…

When pitching a story idea, it’s important to understand the life of a reporter. Here is a link to an older post you might find helpful, or at the very least – insightful.

Reporters, I ask you this…

Wouldn’t it be nice to read ONLY pitches on topics you cover? Granted, this approach of full disclosure on social media profiles, may open the floodgates to more pitches. It will also not stop the non-news marketing pitches being disguised as press releases, nor will it stop those who do not do their homework, but don’t you think it will lessen the number of times you have to hit the delete key? Who knows – there may be gem or two in there that you would have not otherwise received!

5 ways to issue your news

image of airplane folded newspaper Issuing regular, professionally written news releases will open doors to the media and can have positive outcome on your business. But before putting pen to paper, think about how you want to issue your news. 

News releases are often lumped together as one single PR tool, however, there are different types of news releases with subtle differences in how they convey your message to the media.

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PR that hits home (run)

I see many posts from industry bloggers on “PR gone wrong”, but rarely do I see examples of PR campaigns that are well executed. I thought I would share this one that hit the ball out of the park to demonstrate the various elements that contributed to making it such a great campaign.
It’s the Workopolis “Go To Work Without Leaving Home on June 1: Unofficial Work From Home Day.”  The campaign boasted greater productivity and inclusion opportunities for employers, and a better work life balance for employees. They enlisted the help of a credible statistics and sources with facts and figures to get their point across, (which the media loves to back a story – by the way), and provided eco-friendly benefits that the public could really get behind, even getting the attention of Parliament.  Workopolis put it in perspective for working Canadians stating that “If Canadians worked from home one day a year…”

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the joke’s on who, exactly?

I’m all for companies who issue releases that provide a little humour for the entertainment value on April Fool’s Day – as long as it is obvious and all good and all in fun. In fact, some organizations have been pretty clever this year…

Yesterday, LinkedIn listed under “People You May Know” the likes of Albert Einstein, J.R.R. Tolkien, Sherlock Holmes and Robin Hood. Google was having a little fun too. If you typed “Helvetica” in the Google search box, your font would change to Comic Sans. They went as far to announce a new technological advance in its popular Gmail application, motion-controlled email.

Some companies went a little further (and over the top in my humble opinion).  Virgin announced its company founder Richard Branson had bought Pluto in order to reinstate it as a planet. Ikea released its ‘newest product’ via YouTube video: The Hundstol, or dog high chair, which confused consumers who asked about availability.

There’s a belief that all publicity is good publicity… but is it really?

I believe that ‘news’ should be exactly that…

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how do we get the caramel inside the Caramilk bar?

I follow journalists. I follow their twitter feeds and read what they write. 
I also follow their careers.  No, I’m not a stalker. I have a genuine interest in keeping abreast as to what’s happening in the world of media. I’ve witnessed journalists change jobs within the same media outlet, move to different outlets and even to different parts of the country as a result of their own career pursuits or mergers and acquisitions.  Keeping track of all this is not an easy task, but a crucial part of what I do.  

I’ve put much effort into building and maintaining my media lists, which took time to cultivate.  I am often asked by clients, after we have agreed upon which media we plan to target, to provide a complete list with contact names, phone numbers and email addresses.  I tell clients all the time, (tongue in cheek) – “That’s like KFC sharing the Colonel’s Secret Recipe or Cadbury revealing how they get the caramel inside the Caramilk bar.”

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what’s your story? here’s mine.

[tweetmeme source=”storylinePR” only_single=false]I’ve been getting a lot of resistance from fellow PR pros on introducing a new concept. My clients think it’s a great idea and I am still of the mind that it would be a great option for small and medium-sized businesses, (who are my target market), to enter the PR game. The concept is a pay for placement.  In addition to fee structures that I currently offer… retainer and by project, I am introducing a “pay for play” pricing model as an option. Essentially this will include a base fee, (to cover the up-front costs of campaign development), plus a fee associated with the type of media attained.

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the DIY news release

[tweetmeme source=”storylinePR” only_single=false]Presentation is key to getting journalists to read your release.  As mentioned in my last few posts, the most important component of the news release is that it needs to have news value to the editor and his/her readers.  Resist your impulse to sell your company and build your news release one objective and newsworthy section at a time.

Introducing the DIY Release Template image of do-it-yourself logo

The key to successful release writing is to ensure it is well written and presented in the standard format journalists require it in.  Created by popular demand, we have created the StorylinePR DIY news release template.   It will be available for FREE download on January 7th.  To gain access to the template, simply email with “DIY news release” in the subject line.  We will email you a password to access the template which will guide you through writing process.

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does your release have “news value”?

As I have mentioned on several occasions, building credibility with the media is as important as creating it for your company, and when it comes to public relations one rarely exists without the other. Working with the media should be a planned, well supported and carefully executed effort.

An experienced journalist can easily identify if your release is intended to sell the reader. While the end result may be to increase product awareness and sell your product or service, your release cannot sound like a television or radio commercial.  Distributing a news release that has the look and feel of a “sales pitch” can do more harm than good – and on a permanent basis. Future releases will tend to be ignored – even if it is written in the proper context and is a newsworthy release.

Are you looking at this from a journalist’s perspective?

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what makes news, well… “news”?

I get calls from clients all the time asking me what makes a release newsworthy.  This is not a subjective question, but rather an objective one – and that’s exactly what you have to be when writing a release about yourself and your company. I featured this on my blog some time ago – and its worthwhile to post again.  While the media landscape has changed since the original post,  the topics reporters write about and editors look for – has not.   This is, by no means, an all-encompassing list, but to be used as a general guideline… so here it is again.

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