Earned media is a key component of an integrated marketing campaign that can help diversify exposure for your brand.
Earned media is a key component of an integrated marketing campaign that can help diversify exposure for your business and build credibility. You may already be in the habit of writing and distributing press releases when you have a big announcement or other business news to share, but media relations goes far beyond sending press releases to every journalist on your media list. Media relations is more of an art that requires targeting your outreach and creating customized, engaging story pitches to better connect with a smaller number of higher quality journalists that are the best fit for your specific story.
When you're ready to boost your earned media presence and grow awareness among your target audience, you need to navigate how to get your story idea in front of a journalist who can help tell it. No matter how compelling you think your story might be, this isn't as simple as sending a link to your website with a note to check out your great work/fun new thing/big announcement.
While you're intimately familiar with your industry and ready to rattle off the reasons that the work you’re doing deserves attention, keep in mind that journalists have countless pitches landing in their inboxes on any given day. If you want your story to receive coverage, you need to make sure your pitch stands out amongst the clutter and captures attention. Before blasting your pitch out to anyone whose email you can get your hands on, follow these steps to fine-tune your efforts in media relations, develop relationships with journalists who can help tell your story, and ensure greater success in raising visibility in outlets that can make a difference for your business.
Make sure you're pitching the right journalist
You may have a target outlet in mind, but before you reach out be sure you know who at that outlet you should be contacting so that your pitch doesn't fall on deaf ears. In the simplest terms, you wouldn't pitch the sports editor of your local paper with your new hire announcement if you're a bank. We all get dozens of emails every day, and if yours doesn't land in the inbox of the right person, you're only wasting your time - and likely ensuring your future outreach will be sent straight to the trash bin.
Do your research. See who is writing stories that are in line with your topic of interest. What will your target audience be reading, and who is the author? Is there a topic they've covered recently that gives you a great excuse to reach out to them specifically? Most importantly, make sure the story that you're pitching is up their alley. Take a look back at their typical coverage, as well as what they've written over the years. How has their focus shifted, and is your pitch in line with their current interests?
You won't know for sure that the journalist is interested until you hear back from them, but choosing the right person automatically ups your chances of getting a response to your pitch.
In researching your target journalist, consider the recent material you found to support your decision to reach out to them specifically. Making the connection for them will not only show that you're paying attention, but place the emphasis on why they might be interested in your particular story. For example, "Hi, I noticed your recent article on vacationers opting for off the beaten path locations and I wanted to introduce you to a business owner whose yurt getaways in the Maine woods have seen so much demand over the past year that he’s able to spend this season expanding to accommodate the influx of new guests. Here’s the unique element he provides for his guests that really makes a stay at his accommodations one of a kind."
You can further sell your story by including other relevant stats or studies that show the story you want to tell is relevant now and to your target journalist’s audience.
Keep your initial outreach short and sweet
With your initial email, you’re making an introduction and floating an idea by your journalist - you're not writing the story for them. If you're not selling your pitch immediately, you're losing their attention before they can get through your email.
Keep your email to three paragraphs if you can.
Let them know why you're emailing right off the bat. This might be where you reference a recent article that piqued your interest and ties into the story idea you're sending their way. Provide them with a quick summary of why your story idea is compelling.
Reference supporting evidence for why your story is relevant right now and what makes your business stand out from others that are doing similar things. Maybe this includes a recent study with surprising results, a big news item, or a sweeping trend that’s gaining visibility by the day.
End your email by letting them know how you can help pull the story together. What supporting materials can you provide, or who can you connect the journalist with for an interview that will bring the story to life.
Don't fall off their radar, but don’t be annoying
You want to follow up to ensure your email was seen, but you don’t want to end up blocked because this journalist is so sick of hearing from you. Wait a few days, send a follow-up note, and if you don’t hear back it’s time to move on. There are plenty of other journalists out there that might also be a fit to cover your story and will be more responsive to your outreach.
Continue building the relationship
This relationship-building piece can benefit you in many ways. For one, it helps keep you informed about relevant topics and will ensure you're able to make the connection to potential opportunities as they arise. Follow journalists on Twitter, regularly read your target media outlets, and share relevant articles on your own social channels (journalists will appreciate the engagement and it may help them recognize your name when you reach out),
If your story is super local or hyper-specific and there are a limited number of people who can make your news seen, it can be particularly important to focus on building your relationships rather than inundating a specific person with pitches that aren’t being responded to.
Like all good relationships, your connection with a journalist will take work. Focus on nurturing these relationships over time, which in the long run will benefit you as well as the journalists you're getting to know. Send them interesting story ideas or news items that are in line with their specialty without asking for anything in return. You might go so far as to connect them with people who aren't your clients or within your organization (i.e. you're not gaining anything from promoting them) but who have interesting, relevant stories and might be a valuable source. Once journalists begin to view you as someone who follows through on making connections and provides valuable story ideas, you're more likely to have their attention when you have something compelling to pitch them on.