It’s my birthday next week, and birthdays are one of those times that you get to be the person that everyone is thinking of. At whatever scale, friends, family, and co-workers are thinking of ways they can make the birthday person’s day better, happier, easier, and more fun—in other words, people are most compassionate on a birthday. This is how I think PR folks should think about pitching media.
It’s no secret that reporters are frustrated. If you’ve ever joined me in the search for “how to reach out to journalists with a media pitch,” you know the result is a long list of all capped, “DON’T’s, NEVER’s, and PLEASE’s.” Reporters speak out about specific annoyances, and they feel like the neglected birthday kid. You know, the one that’s never had a surprise birthday party thrown for them. Reporters want to be respected and valued for their expertise and talent, not just looked at as a tool to publicize our clients. We’ve all got deadlines and pressure, so it’s easy for PR folks to focus on themselves, their own story, and agenda. Too often PR professionals are trying to throw their own party.
Here’s how to make a reporter feel like it’s their birthday:
Act like the reporter is your best friend
Just like you wouldn’t serve a traditional birthday cake to your Gluten-free friend, consider how you may insult a reporter by sending an irrelevant pitch. You can show reporters compassion by knowing their expertise, learning their interests, and understanding their style. We’ve got tons of tools to access people just by knowing their first and last name. Aside from reading recent articles or their blog, check out their Twitter and LinkedIn profiles. People often tweet about personal interests and LinkedIn is a great way to learn about past work.
Give them what they want
We all know not to gift the friend living in Manhattan a pair of hiking boots, even though she is visiting Seattle soon and you plan to convince her that Mount Si is the best place on earth. You want that, she doesn’t. When crafting a pitch, think about what the reporter wants, which is ultimately to get promoted or great reviews from their boss. Great reporters are known as a source for breaking news or a new perspective on old news, so pitching a unique angle or offering an exclusive interview is what reporters want. PR folks can also help by providing great content. A lot of news outlets are understaffed, and so if you share photos or video, it opens up a chance for reporters to cover the story when they otherwise may not have had time.
Walk a mile in their shoes
You can’t effectively throw a surprise birthday party at 3:00 p.m. on a Friday, if the person of honor gets off work at 5:00 p.m. A reporter’s day is bombarded by hundreds of emails, most of which they can’t read, because from 9-5, they’re gathering information for another story. The busiest point in the day is the hour or two leading up to their deadline, which is usually 5:00 p.m. Make a strong and brief point, and only do it one time to make the most of a reporter’s time. Most reporters check their email at the start of their day, so it’s helpful to send them then. Time constraints make using the phone an annoying interruption, so only use it when a reporter has already committed to your story and needs information from you.
Reporters see the above points as obvious insights, which make actions that contradict them seem even more offensive. When compassion is applied, it can mean the world, and can also mean coverage for your client.