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5 Evergreen Tips for Pitching the Press

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We all hear that media relations is changing – no freakin’ kidding. We’re also changing the way we make coffee (hello, Keurigs), host meetings (hello, video conferencing), and get around (to be honest, I still don’t understand Segways).

Yes, media relations is changing. I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’ll be ever-changing. However, 5 fundamental ideas are evergreen when it comes to facilitating communications between companies, PR professionals, and reporters.

CNN’s Laurie Segall hosted a panel at SXSWi titled “Sleeping with the Enemy,” where 5 media veterans discussed (somewhat heatedly) their successes, failures, and lessons learned in media relations. I’ve boiled it down to the following.

1. Research

“Stalk the shit out of everyone you’re cold contacting.” – David Tisch, managing director of TechStars

Sun Tzu says in The Art of War, “Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.” Nothing annoys and belittles reporters’ egos more than pitches that are completely irrelevant to their beat and areas of interest. Tisch reiterated several times that the Internet is free information to stalk. Do it. Stalk.

If you’re doing PR for your startup, it is your job is to spoon-feed media exactly what they want. People like to feel special. After “stalking the shit out of your contacts,” give them exclusives catered to them.

2. Timing

The talk of every SXSWi since 2009 has been, “Who is the next Twitter?” SXSWi speaker Bruce Sterling got it right. He stated, “You can’t have a Twitter every year. If we did, we’d all spontaneously combust!” What does that mean for launching your startup at high-traffic events? Don’t. Chances of gaining traction are slim. Launch when the media is scraping the bottom of the barrel for news.

3. Expectations

Set realistic expectations for media coverage. Realize that one article in Forbes, the New York Times, or any other large publication is not going to break you out. The average consumers’ attention is harder to get than ever. Tisch pointed out, “For mobile apps, you’re two full clicks away from a download.” Clicking to the app and then clicking download – you might as well require the user to provide their social security number at signup.

4. Don’t lose your passion

Julie Cabrill of Inner Circle Labs said that, time and time again, she’s seen founders launch their company with passion and aggressiveness but, a half year later, still be providing the same content and expecting the same amount of interest.

Founders, do NOT sit there spinning your wheels. If something isn’t working, figure out why, cut your losses, and be better. If reporters aren’t interested in your story, ask them the age-old philosophical question, “Why?” More often than not, they’ll give you insight into what they and their publication are looking for, which in turn will open a door for a future piece.

5. Networking

“Reporters are interesting people.” – Dan Terdiman of CNET

“Don’t pitch on the spot. Just introduce yourself and plot out a series of dots to form a straight line. Follow up with an e-mail later.” – Chris Taylor of Mashable

Guarantee: you will benefit from building a genuine relationship with your media contacts. Don’t be so narrow-minded to think that a reporter’s only job is to write about your company. First off, it’s their job to find and report on news interesting to their readers, not to boost your sales. Secondly, build bridges everywhere you can.

Conclusion

Inarguably, our resources, expectations, and attention spans are changing dramatically. That being said, the core of media relations will always remain the same. Keeping these 5 points in mind will always steer you in the right direction.

Jenn Tsang is a public relations and social strategy coordinator at Zenzi Communications, a public relations, social media, and influencer marketing agency. She stays connected to entrepreneurs and tech through her work at Zenzi and passion for all things geek. Follow Zenzi on Twitter at @zenzipr and Jenn at @tsangjenn.

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