P is for Patience

P is for Patience

Branded content. Micro-influencer campaigns. Social advertising. The world of strategic communications has many darlings. We all know the anatomy of a strong brand narrative but when it comes to getting a story published, it can be easy to forget the art of traditional media relations. Although it’s a marathon and not a sprint, the reward of an in-depth, perfectly messaged feature story never fades. A priceless front-page story challenges even the most seasoned communications professional to flex a critical muscle: patience.

In the media relations game, we cater to two customers: our actual paying clients and the reporters we’re pitching.

Read on for a few tips on how to win at the long game that is media relations.

Diversify or Die
The media relations process is front-loaded, beginning with a careful selection of media outlets and reporters. Successful media relations agencies are flush with warm leads – in our world, our warm leads are established media relationships. Even the most well-connected agencies know keeping an eye on shifting editorial staffs and consistently pitching new contacts is critical to long-term success. Another way to diversify your media list is to challenge yourself to think of fringe industries your news will impact.

It’s Not Stalking, It’s Research
By reading a reporter’s coverage and stalking tracking their Twitter feed to understand their current focus areas, you’ll be able to formulate a clever angle and a strong narrative that speaks directly to what’s swirling around in the reporter’s brain. This may be the most essential element of a successful pitch—and it’s one that takes time. Before you reach out to the object of your affection, make sure your pitch sings with relevance and intrigue, and that you have data to back it up or someone to offer for interviews.

Patience is a Virtue
Once your value-packed pitch is sent, your job morphs from being an internet sleuth to being a bonafide sales person hell-bent on delivering value. If your pitch isn’t breaking news, there’s a strong chance it will take several weeks for a reporter to respond. Reporters today are overwhelmed by pitch emails. Some set up elaborate filtering systems just to make sure irrelevant pitches never even grace their inbox.

Sound bleak? Never fear. When your pitches are out and you’re hearing crickets, reassure your clients – and yourself on those tough days – good stories take time to cultivate. Once a reporter’s deadlines are met and they’re looking for good stories to pitch at the next editorial meeting, the first place they turn to is those e-mail folders.

Case in point: Stratacomm first pitched this story to HR Executive magazine April 3. We heard back from the publication in June, and the cover story was published in its July/August issue.

Nothing Good Gets Away
Remember, even if a reporter dusts off your pitch from their Boolean-powered email filing system and requests an interview with your executive or expert, a story is never guaranteed. That said, it’s time well spent and could pay off in the future. Don’t rush the process – treat every interview like it’s with the Wall Street Journal. Take the time needed to prepare your spokespeople, develop key messages, fact sheets and conduct media training, if necessary.

Savvy masters of media relations must also be persistent in their pursuits. You will find that some of your targets don’t reply, even after you place a pleasant follow-up call. Media relations can become a waiting game, and this is the part where you’ll need to tap into your wells of patience and faith.

If you’ve done your homework and you’ve connected a reporter to a timely story or smart expert, you’ll find yourself on the reporter’s “nice” list and you’ll have a new contact on your “warm leads” list. From here, you’ll have the opportunity to cultivate a longstanding, mutually beneficial relationship.

Nicole Pelto is an account supervisor in Stratacomm’s Detroit office.

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