In the world of public relations, you have to run to keep up. The landscape is constantly evolving, and technology has significantly changed the way humans operate across all communications platforms. In an age where information is instantaneously accessible at our fingertips, “keeping up” is no longer good enough. Staying ahead of the curve is essential for success, and not adapting can be a death sentence.
Recently, Shannon Powell Hart, an award-winning journalist with over 20 years of experience, shared some insight on how PR professionals can set themselves apart from the crowd. Below are six key takeaways from her presentation on how to make a lasting impression.
- A little research goes a long way.
To the account executive who’s blasting out press releases to every media contact, regardless of the subject matter: stop it. You’re giving us all a bad rap. While this may seem like a no-brainer, the importance of research cannot be stressed enough. Taking the time to explore the outlet, the reporter and recent topics they’ve covered is a sign of respect. On the same note, make sure you spell their name correctly. A simple misspelling can ruin even the most beautifully crafted pitch. Also, don’t attempt to start relationships as soon as you need something – start building your relationship with them early.
- Beware the mass pitch.
If you’re pitching several people on one team, tread carefully. A lack of transparency can sometimes lead to frustrating situations. There may be a diffusion of responsibility – otherwise known as the “somebody else will take care of it” mentality – that results in not getting coverage. Another scenario is someone on the team starting to work on your pitch without the rest of the team knowing. If a second or third reporter decides later to jump on the opportunity, they come across as being late to the party to their editor. Making a reporter feel foolish is an even worse outcome. An easy solution is to focus on clarity in your pitches.
- Be conscientious of deadlines.
Bottom line: people are busy. If you pitch a media contact, be available in case they reach out. Being mindful of their time will only be beneficial in the long run. Although newspaper, television and radio are different, all reporters have deadlines to meet. For example, a great time to pitch a story for television is between 8 and 9 in the morning because editorial meetings typically take place right at or just after 9 a.m.
- Social media is an absolute must.
According to the Washington Post, 78 percent of reporters regularly use social media to check for breaking news, and more than 60 percent perceive that social media leads to faster reporting. Take advantage of this by following journalists and being aware of what they’re talking about. Consider questions such as: How does your company fit in? Do your clients have any insight? Do you know a subject matter expert for the topic at hand?
- Don’t pitch a product – pitch an idea.
Pitch a complete idea. High quality pictures and videos are crucial to all outlets, even for radio stations because they can relay that media onto their websites and social media. Be prepared to present someone who can speak properly on camera, and if you keep getting turned down, don’t get discouraged. As the saying goes, “if you fling enough spaghetti against the wall, eventually something’s going to stick.”
- Diversify your team.
Staffing a variety of employees from different backgrounds and experiences equates to a wide-range of perspectives. By expanding the types of people you work with, you increase both your knowledge base and areas of expertise. This broadening of perspective is not only an advantage to each individual in the organization, but it benefits the company as a whole.