Recent Tech Savvy Marketing posts have often advocated getting connected with editors and reporters covering your market as a way of gaining awareness, credibility, and interest. This column discusses the rather simple rules for media engagement and how to become quite effective in gaining a share of editorial interest exposure and creating some publicity for your company. Here are the rules. Break them at your peril:
- Read the target publication and understand its direction and audience.
- Know what a specific editor or reporter writes about and don't pitch off-topic, irrelevant info.
- Respect the journalists' time by engaging them at their convenience, not yours.
- Have a well-rounded understanding of your market sector and be able to discuss trends and issues affecting it.
- Have patience when journalists don't understand technology or your products with the same depth as you do. They're generalists, not specialists. Take time to educate them.
- Don't expect a story or a mention in an article from a journalist just because you spoke with them.
- Respect their deadlines. Journalists have a lot of them. If you're late, you're out.
- Keep your promises.
- Don't lie or even stretch reality very far. Reporters get lied to almost weekly.
- Don't hype your product and be able to clearly differentiate it from competitors.
- Read the target publication and understand its direction and audience. (Listed twice for emphasis.)
You don't need to be a PR pro from a big agency to work well with the media. In fact, company managers themselves may often be in a better position to connect with editors than media relations pros. It's top management (CEO, CTO, VP, Director) who should be speaking for their brand, in any case. PR pros can be highly effective brokers and make lots of great things happen but management needs to "get" the rules above as well if they want to connect with their industry's media people.
Some are claiming the media has changed due to the rise of Web publishing. They're right. There are fewer journalists doing a lot more work. The so-called "fragmented media" is now portrayed as overworked, under-staffed, and bombarded with information. This has been the norm for decades. Perhaps today it's just even worse. It's tough, hectic work. I've been there and so have lots of people I know. If someone in professional journalism was ever underworked, had too much help, and wasn't getting more info than he or she could digest, I've never heard of it. Those people must have had great job!
Here's a recent quote from an editor and friend on the key area of misunderstanding. Rule No. 1 above:
My main gripe comes from people pitching stories on issues and subjects I don't cover. I've received proposals and offers to interview executives on very odd subjects that have nothing to do with what I do, which implies (they haven't) done the necessary homework. I used to respond explaining I don't cover the section, industry, etc., but many times the typical response has been to revise the offer to make it more suitable for my audience. That may seem like a good idea to the person but how do I make a subject on logging, for instance, suitable to the high-tech market?
You're pitching media effectively when you know the publication's audience, writer's areas of interest (editorial focus), what they've recently written, what they like to write about, and when to contact them and how. Don't believe me? Here's the word on pitching stories straight from the horse's (editors') mouth at Information Week, which has probably been pitched by more PR dummies than lots of other media outlets.
Even more convincing are the exceptionally clear and valuable published guidelines from editor John Dix at Network World. (Scroll down to "How do I pitch an idea for an article or story to a Network World editor?") This excellent advice is nearly universally applicable across most media, including the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Fortune, and EBN.
Pitching articles and story ideas to journalists and bloggers is frankly not rocket science. It's mostly about being considerate, reasonably knowledgeable about the publication and your business sector, and not trying to sell ice to Eskimos... Basically: knowing what the heck you're doing.