Media Relations Dos And Don’ts For Holiday PR

media relations dos and don'ts for Holiday Pitching

Tying media relations activities to key calendar milestones is a time-honored PR tactic, because it works. But if holiday PR opportunities are approached carelessly, they can be squandered. From Labor Day to New Year’s Eve, fall holidays probably offer the best occasions for media coverage, but the approach needs to be relevant, respectful, and creative.

Holiday season takes thoughtful pitching

Don’t force the story

Your PR team may be determined to grab some visibility during a holiday season, but if the story doesn’t fit, don’t force it. The Christmas/Hanukkah time in particular is so cluttered that a marginal pitch that might slip through on another occasion will probably be tossed out. Having said that, the tie doesn’t need to be literal; for example, Halloween might be an excellent time for a cybersecurity pitch, or even a “scary” near-death business story about an entrepreneur.

Do consider the meaning of holidays

A tone-deaf treatment of a solemn holiday can offend audiences or even risk backlash. Even Memorial Day – generally considered the unofficial start of summer and therefore somewhat disconnected from its origins – deserves respectful events or announcements tied to the day itself. Trickier still are occasions that have special meaning to specific populations, like Martin Luther King day, or that are controversial, like Columbus Day (now known as Indigenous Peoples Day in many areas).

Commercializing a serious holiday should be avoided, and it pays to consider the current news environment when planning a specific media pitch. Also, in our opinion, 9/11 is off-limits for anything that isn’t directly connected to the day and its survivors. Remember this absolutely tasteless 9/11 mattress sale ad that featured the mattresses falling like towers? Of course no PR person would create such a pitch, but it’s a good reminder that for many people, serious holidays have deep and emotional meaning.

Do release some relevant data

Solid data-driven PR story pitches are always welcomed by reporters, but especially so during calendar milestones or big breaking stories. It may make sense to generate employment-related statistics on Labor Day, or data on Jewish tradition observance in advance of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. The weeks leading up to New Year’s, of course, offer a classic media window for year-end lists and projections for the coming year – all the more compelling when accompanied by data visualizations.

Do use editorial calendars

For data-driven PR campaigns that rest on surveys or other research information, your data bureau will need to launch its survey or analysis well ahead of time. Consider the calendar when planning an announcement or new product launch to avoid conflicts or times when editorial or broadcast staffs are reduced. It’s always wise to keep tabs on publication ed-cals at key outlets, taking note of holiday plans that present pitching opportunities. For example, this October Ad Age’s calendar indicates plans to release “The Scary Issue: Brand fails, horror stories, and superstitions” — perhaps an opportunity for that cybersecurity pitch, or maybe a chance for a brand to show its human side with a story about a failed initiative or setback.

Do work the “news hole”

The week after Christmas is nearly always a news desert, which can present great opportunities for soft media pitches during that quieter time. But of course those stories need to be locked and loaded ahead of time, because chances are good that most media outlets are working on skeleton crews. Those few reporters that are working will be looking for good content, and the entire process may be more streamlined in the “news hole.” Not only might a good byline be picked up more promptly, but it may also enjoy a longer shelf life.

Do celebrate media relationships  

The December holidays are an ideal time to cultivate media relationships the old fashioned way, face to face at parties and informal lunches. PR pros and journalists rarely have time to meet, so holiday get-togethers can be the best opportunity to do some socializing. So don’t hesitate to RSVP and have some fun while you can, before things heat up again in January!

PR Tips For Reactive Media Pitches

A company’s expertise on a subject can become instant PR currency when that topic is in the news. PR teams can take advantage of sudden extra relevance by immediately pitching a client as a news source to media hungry for pertinent expertise. Some call it newsjacking. But in truth nothing is being “jacked” or stolen; instead something is being offered — ideally in the form of informed commentary. Here are the PR fundamentals for reactive media pitches.

PR tips for reactive media pitches

Combine automation with human monitoring

PR people are news junkies, and many start scanning the headlines before hitting the snooze button. But eyeballs can’t catch everything, so most set up digital news alerts. From Google Alerts to more formalized media monitoring platforms like Cision, there are number of tools to help identify relevant items quickly. For example, if you rep an online roommate pairing service, you will want alerts on news topics like the apartment rental market, housing regulations, or even roommate horror stories. Once you spot the opportunity to showcase your client’s expertise, it’s time to pull together a smart media pitch – on the double. Keep in mind if you’re seeking to be included in some reactive news, “day of” is essential. But contrary to convention wisdom, some stories may by their nature have the legs to last.

Reactive is a not always a rush job in B2B PR

If the top media targets are in tech or trade press, some breaking stories have such large ramifications that they could never be resolved quickly. Many tech-oriented narratives, from ongoing privacy breaches to Facebook’s role as a tool for Russian disinformation in the 2016 election will be discussed for months and years after the fact. Another example is the YouTube brand safety crisis.  The story of major brands finding their ads featured along side extremist propaganda and pornography has been going on for many months. So subject-matter experts in the many segments of ad tech had multiple opportunities to offer expert commentary as the story evolved. A good PR team will milk the ongoing opps for all they’re worth.

Ready before the news even happens

When assembling that brief but compelling pitch, the PR pro will include a quote from the subject-matter expert or SME. To save back and forth, we often create a spokesperson quote for client approval instead of asking for a comment and waiting for a busy client to craft it. Over time, the PR team can build a library of pre-approved client content for use when relevant news hits. It requires legwork, but prepared content allows for a fast reaction, and the media like it so they can file quickly. We have seen this strategy work particularly well on behalf of our cyber-security-focused clients. Data breaches and hacks have become almost a daily occurrence, necessitating a steady stream of reusable content. Having that library has been critical to our success.

Choose the right media

The PR team should compile a mini-media list that begins with those journalists who reported the trending topic. Though their stories have already been published, many will retroactively include insightful commentary into their pieces. Others will also write follow-ups that lean on your SME’s expertise. After that, you can broaden the outreach in a follow-up. Other reporters on relevant beats may be hustling to cover the same topic, and your SME may be a big help in bringing a fresh perspective to the story. You may then want to cast the net more widely to those media who may not have considered the topic – in which case the existing context will be a good selling point.

Don’t forget owned media

While the PR team is pitching media, the client can make good use of owned media channels, building more in-depth collateral and content through whitepapers, vlogs and podcasts, or guest blog posts. These assets can be powerful forms of thought leadership and effective marketing materials for customers or prospects seeking information about the breaking news. As a bonus, the content can also be used be re-purposed in briefing materials to help ready a spokesperson for any interview requests that require more depth versus a quick soundbite.

The reactive media pitch by definition cannot be planned, and it takes extra attention and agility, but the outcomes can be very positive. In a PR world where you’re always battling for a reporter’s attention, a reactive news opportunity can be a quick win for the client and the agency. As well, it’s often a great way to get on a journalist’s radar and begin a longer-term relationship.

A Journalist’s POV: 3 Questions From A NY PR Firm

Our  New York PR agency was fortunate enough to be part of the very successful national launch of a new beer this past summer.  This afforded our team the opportunity to cultivate new media relationships all over the country. One that stands out is Marissa Harris, a veteran TV producer with WGN TV News in Chicago who took the time to answer the questions in our occasional series, “A Journalist’s POV.” Here’s a recap of our interview with some helpful tips for PR pros.

Tell us three things a PR person should never do when pitching you an idea. Here are my top three PR “nevers”: Never send an email, then call just minutes later to see if I read it. Never spell the contact’s name wrong. It shows that you don’t care and aren’t detail-oriented, which can become a nightmare if we work together. Never pitch “blindly.” Do the homework on the type of things the program airs and proceed from there. It can be a good opening to reference something you’ve seen on our show that makes you think we’d be receptive to your idea.

What is the most outrageous PR pitch you ever received? Since we’re so close to Thanksgiving, I’ll start with that example; it’s not outrageous, just silly. The person pitched a story for a career website on “5 Ways to Leave a Mark on Your Career,” and gave examples of how to be inspired by historical figures associated with Thanksgiving. I knew it was going to be a hoot when I saw the line that started, “Pilgrims, the original networkers,” and it went downhill from there. Actually there was a similar one for Halloween about “reviving a dead career” which began with “rise at the witching hour.”  You get the picture. My advice: not everything needs to have a theme! We appreciate clever writing and puns, but we’d rather see substance. If you have to choose between really stretching to make something fit, err on the side of a good, visual story.

Can you provide an example where a PR person “saved the day” – went above and beyond to make a story happen? A fashion segment that went awry. Two models dropped out the morning of and a good PR contact of mine made sure to snag two interns from the office to fit the bill an hour before we went live, instead of just saying there was nothing she can do. We always appreciate someone going the extra mile, even in a case where we can’t make use of the suggestion. I also appreciate not even being pitched but being asked. For example, what are you working on and can we help provide a source or a location? That kind of help really builds relationships.