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What’s Getting in the Way of Solid Digital Media Relations?

By: Julia Angelen Joy

November 11, 2019

While some social marketers have the benefit of focusing solely on social, the majority of us must take a marcomm approach for our organizations, merging public relations with social media management.

For those of you tasked with media relations on top of social, I’ve got a major grievance with the online media relations world to air: I find the current state of pitching to be infuriating. Online communicators need to break the cycle of bad pitching practices and start giving media relations the strategic attention it deserves.

If you ever hang out on Twitter to talk communications, you’ll see many instances of the hashtag #PRfail. And it doesn’t just apply to brand snafus: There is a constant stream of journalists calling out bad press releases and media pitches. Articles have been written; chats have been hosted; digital communicators even gather around the water cooler IRL to groan about bad press—but from what I can tell, nothing is changing.

The communications industry’s continual inability to meet journalists’ needs is a failure not just of individual professionals but of leadership. While proper pitching seems like PR 101, the increasing number of disgruntled journalists hints that this is not a malady of the occasional untrained staffer, fly-by-night agency or rogue freelancer.

Day-to-day journalist outreach has proceeded en masse without oversight by senior managers in our profession for too long, and it’s high time we step it up. We must clear up the lack of understanding as to how the media works—everyone seems to be winging it. A basic understanding of journalists’ priorities would serve our professional communities and help educate the newest entrants of our profession. There are numerous articles on the correct processes for creating and distributing press releases, yet journalists are still overwhelmed with inappropriate and ineffective releases and pitches.

My simple approach to improving press releases and pitches is the following: be SMART.

S: Strategic Stories that are well planned and developed.

M: Meaningful to the recipient (hint: this is not your boss).

A: Accurate (in facts and newsworthiness), distributed to media lists that are…

R: Relevant.

T: Targeted.

A final note: Email and social media have provided a zillion corners for us to cut. As a mental exercise, avoid leaning on your digital laurels for once and pretend that you are going to call someone—interrupting their day—and have 10 seconds to make your pitch. If you’re not comfortable doing that with your target journalists, then rework your list. This kind of thinking will help you get crystal clear on who you should pitch on any given day at any given time.

While this seems like basic PR, these tenets are missed every single day. I learned media pitching in the old days when (gasp!) we had to get on the phone with journalists, and I am telling you, if you are ever dressed down by an angry reporter for wasting their time—knowing that his entire newsroom can hear him and probably all the people in your office too—you will never, ever make that mistake again.

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At The Social Shake-Up