Five Types Of Bylined Content That Work For PR

As outlined in my post on PR tips for effective bylines, bylined content is a powerful part of a B2B PR plan. It can help deliver key messages, communicate expertise and drive thought leadership for business brands. But there are many types of content that build credibility and leadership as part of a strategic PR program. Here are five of the most common.

Traditional Trend Piece

Content that explains a new or emerging trend is among the most valuable for business customers because it helps educate prospects. Educational content is particularly useful for any category with a long purchase cycle and steep learning curve, like software or insurance. Executives who are subject-matter experts can share relevant insights on business happenings. These will typically include a specific point of view about an industry trend, what it means, how businesses should prepare or respond, and possibly even how they can help, although this may only be implied. For example, we represent several ad tech companies at a time when major browsers like Chrome are phasing out support for third-party cookies. What does this mean for digital advertising? How can marketers cope? What does it do for publishers? These issues seem arcane for anyone outside the industry, but they’re hot-button topics in the ad tech lane because the community is rushing to adapt. As in any category, change represents opportunity for those who can seize it.

Personal/Lessons Learned

We love this type of piece because we represent high-growth technology companies often led by entrepreneurs, and they all have stories to tell. What’s more, these pieces are usually both well differentiated and authentic. The important thing to bear in mind for “lessons learned” content is that the most influential and widely shared articles will offer insights for the reader as well as an interesting personal experience. Right now, many businesses have learned and changed enormously as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Among our base of clients there are some excellent stories about what they’ve learned, how they’ve adapted and how they’re continuing to navigate the situation as business leaders and as citizens. A “lessons learned” piece is also among the most versatile, and it can usually be augmented or even replaced by a video version. 

Service Content

This type of content can overlap with the “lessons learned” category, but it is typically more tactical and less personal. It may also be far more grounded in research. An effective service piece can be in the form of a whitepaper that offers proprietary industry data and outlines key steps for customers who face a specific decision or business dilemma. The best service articles are generous with data but offer clear tips, steps, or checklists for moving a business forward, responding to customer preferences, or effecting specific change. Service content is among the easiest and best types of content for incorporating different types of visuals beyond text, including digital graphics, charts, and short video snippets. 

Opinion/Contrarian Piece

This type of contributed content showcases a personal opinion on an important business, social, or cultural matter. Op-ed pieces and bylined articles are a staple in politics, but they’re equally effective for entrepreneurs and business leaders who want to communicate their ideas and build a reputation for bold thinking. The most effective such articles set out a single take or point of view and back it up with statistics, experience, or other evidence. An op-ed is a perfect vehicle for experts who want to help shape a public conversation. A contrarian opinion and/or a strong call to action can help an op-ed writer stand out. In our world, a less popular opinion may have a better chance of being published in an influential business or trade outlet – but only if it is authentic. 

Call-to-Action

A Call To Action, or CTA, can exist in nearly any type of content but it’s worth calling out because it is essential to achieving content marketing goals. The CTA tells a target audience what action they should take after reading through the post. The most basic CTAs involve encouraging the customer to buy a product or service. Other types might involve asking readers to share the content, make a donation, subscribe to emails, and so forth. CTAs should be short and concise so the reader knows exactly what to do and can easily follow through. 

Leverage bylined articles for maximum exposure

After deciding on your content mix, it’s important to make sure it is seen by the most relevant target audience. Any business can ensure that its pieces are seen by those who matter most: clients, prospects, referral sources, alumni, colleagues, internal staff, and, of course, the media outlets that influence different segments. Promoting content social media and encouraging others to share it as well is important for gaining maximum exposure for your piece. Direct marketing to customers and employees through timely emails is also useful. We will explore the best ways to merchandise business content in an upcoming post. 

 

Crenshaw Nominated For 2020 PRSA-NY Big Apple Awards

The Crenshaw  team is delighted to be nominated for a 2020 PRSA Big Apple award. The Big Apples are the gold standard of excellence for PR practitioners in the New York metro area and celebrate the best work of PR agencies, companies, governmental bodies, and not-for-profit organizations during the prior year. 

This year, we have been nominated in the  B2B PR category for our campaign on behalf of event management software company Bizzabo. “EMPOWERing Gender Diversity in Events” helped Bizzabo build brand visibility and align with diversity-conscious event and marketing decision-makers. Winners will be announced September 30 during a virtual awards ceremony. Good luck to all who are nominated!   

5 Ways to Build Better Journalist Relationships

For PR people, few things are more important than media relationships. Ties with journalists don’t guarantee results, but they’re an important entree to getting out the stories we tell for clients. Good relations with reporters and producers usually means your pitch will get a hearing at the very least. Often it means you’ll get valuable feedback even if every offer doesn’t turn into a quick story.

With that in mind, here are five ways to stay on the good side of journalists to ensure that you build — and maintain — strong relationships. 

Always make it relevant 

When approaching media, it’s critical that the news you’re sharing is relevant to their specific beat and the types of stories they cover. The way to ensure this is to do your research. This can be something as simple as a Google search on a reporter, or browsing the publication’s website. Familiarizing yourself with their work will allow you to bring them stories that fit their beat and interests. That, combined with keeping a close eye on breaking news, can give you a serious advantage over others. Jumping on breaking news is a relatively easy way to get your client covered. The key is timing and making sure you’re not late to the game.If you wait even a few hours to reach out to a reporter, you could miss the boat entirely. 

Schedule face time 

Today, the bulk of media correspondence takes place through email and phone. And while this is convenient for day-to-day, when possible, it helps to put a face to a name and meet with a reporter in person. This can be anything from post-work drinks to a quick bite — even something like group karaoke. Getting together can help humanize you outside of a professional setting and help build trust with the reporter. Since COVID-19, in-person meetings aren’t possible, so Zoom happy hours have filled the gap. They’ve become a common networking tool that plays a similar role to build relationships between PR pros and journalists.  

Don’t be a nag

Journalists are often juggling multiple stories and tasks, and their job requires undivided attention. As a result, they may not respond to emails right away. This shouldn’t be a reason to constantly follow up. It’s best to spread out any follow-up emails or calls so that you’re respecting their time. Bugging reporters too much also comes across as desperate. Further, they could be even more likely to ignore you and not consider your ideas for future stories.

Use social media..but thoughtfully 

There’s no denying the importance of social media in today’s culture. And most journalists are active on various platforms, particularly Twitter. They use social platforms to share their stories and to comment on current events in the industries they cover. For PR pros, commenting, retweeting and interacting with their posts in any way shows that you’re interested and knowledgeable about the topics they cover. Connecting with journalists on social media is also a less formal — but definitely effective — way to get their attention before sending them a formal pitch on email. But preferences about social media approaches to journalists vary, and they should be made only when you know the reporter. 

Be yourself

When sending pitches or emails in a professional environment, it’s easy to abandon your true personality for something that’s more formal, or even robotic. In PR, however, it’s more acceptable to be yourself. Keeping things human can strengthen your relationships with media. For example, I like to keep pitches casual. If journalists feel like they’re getting an automated email instead of an approach from a real person, they’ll be less likely to respond and take it seriously. In addition, it’s always good to be transparent about what you want from a reporter. Don’t beat around the bush. If they feel like you’re leading them on or have some sort of ulterior motive, it’ll turn them off and they likely won’t cover. So when communicating with reporters, treat them in a similar (but, of course, appropriate) way as you would a friend.

How To Get Media Coverage When You Have No News

When big things are happening at your organization, it makes the PR roadmap fairly clear. But what if you have no news? What happens when your big story from last quarter has run its course? Media relations can be a lot like that Ariana Grande song, “Thank U, Next.”  You’re only as good as your last story. 

One skill of a great PR team is in generating opportunities to keep an organization relevant and visible, even in the absence of hard news like a new product launch or a CEO change. Here are three ways to get media coverage when your company has no news. 

Chase a breaking story

With credit to David Meerman Scott for the name, “newsjacking” by any label has been around for decades. It can be an excellent way to generate visibility in between announcements. Newsjacking involves injecting your brand into a breaking news story that isn’t generated by your organization. When done correctly, it can generate extensive media coverage and reinforce expertise or even leadership. 

In my experience, the best way to newsjack is to offer a select number of reporters a quote relevant to a breaking story through email, shortly after the news hits. This way, reporters working under tight deadlines can use and attribute the quote in their reporting. Those who have a bit more time may respond with questions or ask for a briefing, which is ideal. But in many cases journalists covering a breaking story don’t have time to chase quotes or do interviews. So sharing a timely comment will increase the chance of your company making it into the piece.  

For example, when we saw reports that President Trump would sign an executive order to boost research and development for artificial intelligence (AI) in the U.S., the Crenshaw team offered select journalists expert commentary from executive leadership at Fractal, the world’s leading AI-provider for Fortune 500 companies. The news gained plenty of coverage, and Fractal’s CEO Pranay Agrawal was quoted in many of the resulting articles, from The Wall Street Journal to TechTarget

There are other ways to take advantage of breaking news stories, especially those that stay in the news cycle for several days or weeks. A company blog post on a newsworthy topic will often help media and influencers link a subject-matter expert with a breaking story. So will joining social media conversations about the news. If all else fails, the calendar is filled with predictable occasions and events that editors and producers tend to cover regularly, like seasonal items, or live events like the Super Bowl or the presidential election. 

Create your own news with research data

Another way to create buzz when you have no news is to make your own news through a well-designed survey. Timely research can spark coverage where there would otherwise be none. And for B2B companies, a survey can strengthen a brand’s positioning as the first port-of-call for relevant data in a given industry. 

Surveys are relatively inexpensive when conducted through a respected third-party research partner. Often the responses can be packaged into a press release or news nuggets for sharing with key media. A recent example is a survey we designed for Lotame, a leading unstacked data solutions company that works with marketers, ad agencies and publishers. 

Our team built a research report around the state of data quality with the goal of communicating Lotame’s credibility and leadership around those issues, which are paramount in the ad tech category. We pulled the most intriguing insights and offered them on an exclusive basis to Adweek. The exclusive was published in advance of a wider outreach, setting the stage for additional media conversations. The survey generated 11 stories that reinforced the company’s standing in its sector, and the data was useful for sales, marketing and analyst relations as well as PR.

Branded content pays long-term dividends

Bylines or longer-form content can be very useful for communicating a brand’s point of view or mission. And as a bonus, a well-written byline can be searchable for months or even years, adding brand visibility and promoting media requests for interviews when news does break.

Our team is very active when it comes to content creation, because it works particularly well for companies with deep expertise and insights who may be hampered in sharing news due to customer confidentiality. One recent example is a piece our team helped generate for Qure.ai, a leading healthcare startup, about the promise of smart intelligence for trauma caregivers. It’s an important topic, yet a specialized one where branded content that offers education and insight can work even harder than product news.  

When offering a bylined piece, bear in mind that each publication has different guidelines for contributed content. Their preferences for inquiries also vary from wanting a short pitch to asking for the complete piece. Also, some publications are seeking regular contributions while others are fine with one-off articles. 

It’s also important to target content thoughtfully. For QURE.ai example, we targeted a publication that reaches leading medical professionals and healthcare decision-makers for the trauma care piece, and it found a home with DOTMed. A strong bylined piece will generate coverage in between announcements, while also reinforcing brand expertise and leadership at the top to the right audience.

Media can have short memories. If you want to be on their radar, look beyond the obvious news stories or devise ways to create your own. 

PR Lessons From Twitter

In this blog, we often dispense practical media relations or PR advice based on years of experience in the trenches of tech PR. However, no one can advise PRs better on how and what to pitch reporters than… reporters. Journalists love to take to Twitter to offer up best practices or, more likely, let off steam about the terrible pitches that clog their inboxes on a daily basis. Their style is sometimes brutal, but the advice is priceless. So, we monitored some recent tweets from frustrated journalists and were both amused and a little embarrassed by what we saw. Here’s a reminder for those just starting out in media relations.

Note to PRs: It’s still about relevance

It’s probably the most fundamental rule of pitching media, but it needs repeating. PRs have to research the beats, reporting style, and preferences of those they approach in order to avoid irrelevant pitches that are more likely to end up as a mean tweet or on Muck Rack’s bad pitch roundup than as a published story. Take it from BuzzFeed’s David Mack and Tampa Bay Times’ Kathryn Varn (to pick just two): what seems difficult and time-consuming at the outset will save pain in the long run.

Pr pitches

 

Don’t be overly familiar

Media pitching shouldn’t be a vehicle for false intimacy, hints of quid-pro-quo, or – the worst – clickbait-style subject lines. Those are presumptuous at best, unprofessional at worst. There’s another way to get in good with reporters — help them do their job well. See this post for real ways to build stronger media relationships.

bad pr pitches

Breaking: Journalists want to report news

Nicole Perlroth makes a good point in a tweet today about her “PR Wasteland” inbox. The bar for relevance in certain categories, like her beat of cybersecurity, is high. Funding alone isn’t necessarily newsworthy to an IT security journalist. (Try TechCrunch or VentureBeat for those.) It pays to remember that what’s newsy to a client, like a product launch, exciting new campaign, or corporate reshuffling, may not be enough for an article. Our job is to help a journalist connect the dots for a story about a larger trend or happening.

bad pr pitches

Respect ethical lines: PR’s not bribery

This one’s dangerous. Occasionally an inexperienced or unscrupulous PR pro goes beyond carelessness into ethically questionable territory. It’s possible that the person described here confused Dan Goodin with an influencer who accepts payment for social posts or branded content, but if so, that compounds the error. Any good media relations professional understands that no reputable journalist accepts money or gifts, and calling it “compensation for their time” is an insult to both parties.

bad pr pitches

Don’t be a bully

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s also the example noted here — a completely unacceptable attempt by an executive to spike an already published story. While it’s good practice to ask for any mistakes to be corrected, an attempt to bully a publication in the absence of factual errors is doomed to fail, and it will do nothing for the company’s reputation. See our earlier post for more tips on maintaining media relationships under pressure.

bad pr pitches

bad pr pitches

C’mon, PR pros! There’s no excuse for these careless flubs 

Finally, from the dark files of PR pros need to get it together come some real gems. Everybody makes mistakes, but these three episodes show a need for remedial education — and possibly better email software.

3 Rules For “Off the Record” Conversations

An “off-the-record” conversation with a journalist can sound mysterious or complex, but in PR it’s a very effective tool. Whether you’re providing candid background about a frustrating trend in your industry or trying to blunt the impact of a coming story about your organization, off-the-record interactions with reporters can deliver benefit for your brand, even though the impact may be indirect.

Off-the-record chats aren’t limited to politics or crisis management, although we often hear about them in that context. The New York Times posted a primer on the term after President Trump famously spoke about an off-the-record meeting he had with publisher A.G. Sulzburger, thus breaking the agreement. Beyond politics, however, such agreements can be useful for business and technology PR and storytelling. Yet as the Trump incident illustrates, the term is sometimes misunderstood, or it’s confused with other journalistic terms of art like “on background” or “deep background.” Even when the rules are clear, it can backfire when undertaken by the wrong people.

For those who need a refresher on what “off the record” means, check out Mashable’s overview. As they put it, when a conversation is off the record, “the understanding is that she or he will not only not quote you, but not even paraphrase what you’re saying. There will be no record, and no mention of this information anywhere.”

So, if the information can’t be used, why bother? Because off-the-record conversations can impart valuable knowledge that may guide a journalist in subsequent research. It can also help to shape future coverage in meaningful ways. But the reporter must refer to other sources and proof points. Think of it as pointing the journalist in the right direction and offering context for future inquiries.

With that in mind, here are three rules to keep in mind when having off the record conversations in 2019.

Get it in writing
Keep in mind, an off-the-record agreement is not legally binding. Rather, in the news world it’s a culturally accepted method of sourcing information. Reporters generally honor off-the-record agreements because they want to continue being trusted by sources to share worthwhile news and background. It’s also widely accepted practice among journalists and frowned upon in media organizations to burn sources.

With that said, mistakes can happen. Perhaps a journalist you spoke to on the phone recalled the conversation differently, or for some reason is backpedaling on what you believe was an agreed upon off-the-record exchange. This is why it’s smart to get the “agreement” in writing over email (“Can we chat off the record?”) in advance of any conversation so that you can refer to it later, if need be. And even after an exchange of emails, it’s best to reconfirm the off-the-record guidelines before speaking on the phone or in person. Needless to say, if you or a client speak publicly about the meeting, the agreement changes and the discussion becomes fair game.

Don’t go overboard
An off-the-record conversation is an opportunity for you to share essential information. It’s not an excuse to speak endlessly about every opinion or grudge because you’ve been granted immunity. Do not go overboard when engaging media off the record. Otherwise, you risk having the journalist go down the wrong path.

Consider the nuance here. Professor of Journalism Roy Greenslade has said: “A single ‘off the record’ quote is also qualitatively different from an ‘unattributable background briefing’, which usually involves a lengthy and considered statement by a source to a trusted journalist.” Length matters, and when sources provide too much information, things get fuzzy.

For example, a client might feel compelled to badmouth a competitor in an off -the-record conversation. This can backfire, with the media contact going to the competitor with seemingly independent questions that provoke a similar negative response. The result is a back-and-forth in which you and/or your organization is badmouthed. It’s a vicious cycle with no winners except for the reporter who will pick the best angle to run with later. (There is no loyalty here.) My advice: steer clear of hollow bloviating. When it’s off the record, get in and get out, and stick to the issue at hand.

Trust your PR team
The biggest mistake a brand makes when an executive wants to have an off-the-record conversation is that they go over their PR team’s head. Every PR person has seen this happen at some point. For whatever reason, the exec takes it upon his or herself to negotiate an off-the-record agreement and conversation with a contact rather than allowing the PR to do it. And more often than not, it fails.

Collectively, PR teams have negotiated hundreds of these types of conversations. Remember — an off-the-record dialogue is not a simple transaction. It’s a delicate negotiation that requires experience to understand the nuances that deliver success. Your PR team has shared experience that is absolutely critical to ensuring the best outcomes for your brand. (Assuming you have the appropriate PR team, that is.)
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Going off the record is an invaluable strategy. But its execution can be complicated and involves navigating multiple sets of individual (reporter-specific) and cultural (industry) norms. What do you think about the practice? What tips have worked for you? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @chrisharihar.

5 Tips for Maintaining Media Relationships Under Pressure

The relationship between PR professionals and media is often seen as a necessary evil, especially by media. In my sector of tech PR, reporters rely on us to connect them with brands and keep them in the know about upcoming news. We in turn depend on them to generate the coverage that keep our clients happy. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always happen that way. Every PR pro has experienced the stomach-churning moment when coverage goes bad or a piece doesn’t run in time for an embargo lift and we scramble to fix the situation before things fall apart.
While we sometimes have to deal with these scenarios in the moment, there are best practices for anticipating and avoiding disaster. Best of all, you can keep the relationship in good standing. Based on interviews with my favorite media contacts, here are four tips for doing just that.

Do your research

Most media criticisms of the way PR pros operate have to do with poorly targeted pitches, careless e-mail blasts and apathy or ignorance about a journalist’s beat. While a well-placed mail merge can result in some good “quick hits,” PR people are ultimately doing disservice to their reputation — and the agency’s — with a tactic that is short-term at best. On the flip side, an informed pitch to a handful of media targets can get the same results or better, without causing aggravation. It may seem like an extra effort, but in the long run, it saves both time and friction.

Learn the media process

PR people often don’t understand the journalist writing processes. And while it’s common for PR teams to be under the gun for securing announcement coverage, it’s unrealistic to expect a tech reporter to agree to coverage under tight timelines. The article workflow is intense. A writer must get familiar with the news, draft a piece, wait for copy editors to flag changes, make edits and then schedule it for publication. Sending a reporter a release at 5:00 PM with an embargo lift scheduled for 8:00 AM the following day — or moving an established embargo date up — only results in frustration and destroys the tenuous trust between both parties.

Never mislead media

One of the surest ways to destroy a reporter’s trust in PR is to mislead or grossly embellish what’s considered “news” for the sake of getting coverage. While honeypotting a reporter with the promise of exclusive or ‘top-secret’ information to mask a less interesting story may sound clever, it’ll only ensure that they never trust you again. Be as honest as possible about the content you’re pitching, even if it makes finding a home for news difficult. This will result in more karma points with media and will be an education in navigating soft story outreach overall. On the flip side, see this earlier post for a few rules to break for killer media relations.

Know how to wield an ‘exclusive’

PR pros should be wary of when and how they go about using the ‘exclusive’ for coverage – meaning, we offer a specific journalist first crack at a story. The exclusive works best for a large targeted story in a high-profile outlet or to make a softer piece of news more attractive to a relevant mid-tier or trade outlet. Regardless of the scenario, a surefire way to alienate a contact is to promise them the exclusive and retract it when a bigger outlet comes knocking. Even if it’s a second or third choice, you made the pact to give them the news. Taking it back will burn a bridge, and it’s never worth it. While it may seem like “no big deal” in the short term, if or when that contact moves to a better publication, your long-forgotten mistake will come back to haunt you twofold.

Tread lightly with product reviews

Once of the challenges we face in technology PR is a bad review for a client product or service. No matter the stakes, it’s never a good idea to attack a journalist over a negative review, unless it’s factually incorrect. Instead, understand who the reviewer is. Learn the ratio of favorable to unfavorable reviews for similar products and be aware of the pros and cons of the product itself. Product reviews are ultimately reflective of the reporter’s experience. Therefore, they’re paradoxically both subjective and objective. If the content of a review is factually wrong, then PR pros have a responsibility to sensibly and courteously rebut the errors and ask for a correction. If there’s nothing incorrect, badgering a reviewer to change their take simply to appease a client will only damage the reporter relationship and ensure that that reviewer won’t collaborate again.
These are just a handful of tips for better cultivating and nurturing relationships with tech journalists and those in other verticals that we’ve seen work best here at Crenshaw. See this earlier post for more ways to cultivate better PR/media relationships.

8 Media Interview Mistakes To Avoid

In the PR agency world, after weeks of fine-tuning messaging, crafting stories and pitching reporters, there’s no better feeling than landing a top media interview for a client. It signals that the overall public relations strategy is on the right track. Most importantly, of course, a media interview will lead to positive coverage – assuming it goes well.
Nailing the interview, however, isn’t always easy, especially when it comes to technology PR opportunities. Even with advance preparation, executives can fumble or leave opportunities on the table. With that in mind, here are eight seemingly small media interview mistakes every spokesperson should avoid, regardless of whether the interview is in person or over the phone.

Showing up late

Here I’m not talking about live television segments, which obviously must happen on time and for which we routinely build in a generous cushion. But for any type of interview, being punctual conveys respect and sets the tone for the conversation. Still, I’ve seen several executives arrive more than a few minutes late to a media sit-down. It’s also easy to run a few minutes late for a phone interview, but that’s even worse, because a phoner is typically squeezed into the journalist’s daily schedule, and he may not have decided whether to do a story. Lateness can annoy the journalist, and in general, it pays to get as much time as possible with a key media contact. The more time, the better the chance of a story, particularly in situations where technical details must be highlighted.

Being unprepared   

Every PR person has been on an interview where the client calls the reporter by the wrong name or confuses their publication with another one. It’s cringeworthy – and easily prevented. In advance of an interview, it’s critical for clients to read or even study the briefing materials their PR team has prepared. A briefing document includes basic information about a journalist as well as deeper insights on their point of view, relevant stories, and more. It ensures clients are prepared and don’t make unforced errors. Outside of a formal media training, every good PR agency team will take an experienced spokesperson through anticipated questions to prepare him for the conversation. It simply takes that extra time commitment.

Referring to other media interviews

For some reason, many executives will tell a reporter that they’re seeing “lots of interest” from the media about a story, or that they’re “speaking to the media to get the story out.” Some will even name the outlets where they’ve had interviews. None of this is helpful. For any media interview, it’s important to treat the interviewer like they’re the only one in the world hearing that perspective. If they feel like the story is being covered by other outlets or that it’s being shopped around, they may choose to take a pass on the story.

Steamrolling the interviewer   

Ideally, an interview should be a back-and-forth, with participation from both sides. Sometimes a journalist’s interview style might be more passive. Yet it’s better for the executive to pause as he or she shares information, particularly when it comes to technology stories. This allows the journalist to absorb the spokesperson’s point of view and areas of expertise and interject questions. I sometimes recommend that the executive pause and ask the interviewer if what they’ve just outlined is clear. That way, they have more cues about how well the journalist if following the conversation and how compelling it is to him.

Having a passive PR host

This one may be controversial, but my clients will tell you that I frequently jump in during interviews. I’ll chime in to communicate a key message or theme, to clarify a point, or to share background. A media interview’s PR host – and every interview should have a PR host, if possible – should not necessarily be a passive participant during an interview. They should be looking for opportunities to support the client where appropriate. Too many PR pros simply “listen in” but fail to direct the conversation. In my view, that helps no one.

“You can email me”

This is another point where professional communicators can disagree, but I discourage direct contact between media and client spokespersons. By the end of an interview, a client may invite the interviewer to email them, but this is risky. It’s the PR team who should be the point of contact for any follow-ups. PR professionals serve several functions, but one of the most important is as “buffer” between client and journalist. If a journalist has a tough question, why should they be able to reach out to an executive directly? I see our role as ensuring that our client addresses the question appropriately, or can avoid it if that’s recommended.

Vomiting marketing jargon.

A media interview is an opportunity for a journalist to get substantive information to support a story. While it’s critical to weave in key themes and messages, speaking like a marketing robot that regurgitates jargon from a messaging document or website will turn off the interviewer. Clients should speak naturally and show their expertise about the topic at hand. This is easier for some than for others, but it’s always possible with advance preparation.

“Is there anything else I should know?”

At the end of every interview, the reporter will ask, “Is there anything else I should know?” While some view this as a formality, for the interviewee, it’s really an opportunity to summarize key points, take stock of what was said and to plug any gaps from the conversation. Too many clients will respond to the “is there anything else” question with, “Nope, that’s it.” Take 30 seconds to end the call as effectively as possible.
These are just a few common media interview missteps or lost opportunities we’ve seen. What are others interviewees should avoid?

5 Tips To Build Stronger Media Relationships In 2019

In tech PR, the story is the cornerstone of every good pitch. It all starts and stops there. Tech reporters, like most journalists, get hundreds of pitches each day. Most are ignored, even when they’re well-written. They’re like banner ads — the sheer volume makes tune-out inevitable. So, let’s face it — media relationships matter.

Building authentic rapport with a tech journalist helps a brand stand out amid a barrage of emails, DMs and phone calls. It removes the friction and uncertainty reporters encounter when dealing with an unknown brand or publicist. If you’ve provided them with a good tip or story in the past, maybe you have something good this time around. Unfortunately, building credible media relationships is harder than ever. The competition for a reporter’s time is fierce. And media are naturally skeptical about thirsty PR and comms people. As Drake has famously said, “no new friends.”

So how can tech brands build lasting bonds with media today? Here’s what works for me.

5 tips for stronger media relations

Play the long game

Real media relationships take time and effort. In the beginning, there is a courtship period. Grabbing a coffee has never created an instant friendship. But having multiple in-person meetings throughout the year, attending panels the reporter might be moderating, and interacting with him or her on social channels all work together to forge real connections over time. It’s not hard to do. After all, PR and reporters want the same thing: to tell great stories. Once that hard-earned bond is formed, it needs to be maintained over time like any other relationship. That long-game mindset is important.

Don’t be afraid of rejection

Some journalists will become your best friends. Others just won’t want to get to know you. They might even come to hate you. That happens. But one of the biggest hurdles to building relationships is the fear of rejection. If you’re in tech PR, you’ll have to overcome that fear. Ultimately, to get anywhere meaningful relationship-wise, brands and PR pros must put themselves out there. You have to make the initial awkward asks for a coffee, to grab a drink or to go to karaoke (never underestimate the power of poor singing to form bonds). See this earlier article on how to avoid media relations mistakes.

Stop selling 24/7

A real relationship never feels transactional, and PR pros enjoy real relationships with journalists. If you approach every reporter interaction as if it’s a sales opportunity, you won’t get very far. Sure, you might get some occasional coverage, but you won’t have a relationship that can deliver better quality stories with greater consistency. PR people and reporters often work in collaboration to create great stories. To get there, you need interactions that don’t always have an explicit marketing or sales benefit. Don’t grill them on what stories they’re working on; find out what’s going on in their lives. As in most aspects of public relations, salesmanship has its place, but it shouldn’t be the centerpiece of your communication.

Promote their work

Journalists today are under pressure to generate views and clicks, and we can help. It’s never a bad idea to follow the top media in your area and boost their stories by sharing them with your own social networks. PR people are natural born news junkies, consuming the morning news right after the alarm goes off and during the commute. Here at Crenshaw, we flag the biggest tech headlines of the day each morning and often share them on our social channels through the day. Another way we promote reporters’ work (and their personal brand) is by enlisting them to moderate a client’s event, like a discussion panel — which has the reciprocal benefit of increasing credibility for those clients.

Get out of the office

It’s easy to reach people through email or social media, and it’s great to stay in touch that way. But relationships take on another dimension when you run into someone in real life – at events, conferences, social outings, or a simple sit-down over coffee or something stronger. There are limits to how much rapport you can build over phone and email. There’s no substitute for looking someone in the eye. Face-to-face interactions make you (and the reporter) more memorable. So, if you’re the shy type who likes to hole up in the office, you may be missing out on fun, productive media relationships.

Building Media Lists That Get Results

It’s easy to relegate media list development to the remedial PR file —  things that are too basic to analyze or improve. But for PR and media relations people, a good media database is critical. Even the most stellar pitch is useless if the wrong people are targeted; a carefully selected list of fewer reporters will yield better results than a spray-and-pray approach. What’s more, the universe of journalists is always changing, so the humble media list is something that requires not only external database tools, but constant updating, re-creation, and reinvention.

PR tips for killer media lists

Consider all angles

The desired audiences for a story depend on the corporate communications goals involved, whether general visibility, opinion leadership, or product support. If your company has secured $10 million in Series B funding, it seems like a straightforward business/entrepreneurship pitch, but there may be additional sectors that maximize receptivity to the story. These may include industry beat reporters, local media outlets, women’s interest or multicultural media (in the case of a female or minority founder), or even lifestyle press. The target audiences will dictate which media to include, but be creative when thinking through the story possibilities.

Themes, angles, and beats

Once you’ve determined the story theme and the audience, you’ll need to consider all the possible angles from which you can present the story to the media. While this may seem easy and obvious, it takes a certain talent for “creative analysis” to avoid missing pitch opportunities. If your company that just secured the $10m is about to unveil a new mobile application that alerts you when an ex-boyfriend is nearby, then you may have some interesting crossover of angles to pitch, from relationships and lifestyle to data privacy to mobile marketing. Next, to choose the right reporters and outlets, you’ll need to brainstorm possible beats that might match your story angles. Once audiences, pitch angles and story beats have been confirmed, it’s time to jump into Cision.

De”Cisions”

Using a database platform like Cision may seem like a streamlined and easy way of tossing together a media list. But to find the correct reporter contacts for your pitch, you’ll need to speak Cision’s language. Basically, you translate your story’s themes into keywords that match desired beats. “Relationships” beat writers can be searched using keywords like lifestyle, romance, and women’s interests, while mobile marketing beat writers are found under terms like mobile apps, mobile computing, and mobile communications. But be careful not to go down the keyword rabbit hole into the wrong beats. While a mobile apps reporter may like the story, a telecommunications or consumer electronics reporter will be annoyed with your offbeat pitch.

Good media lists improve relations

It may seem harmless to fire off email blasts to a hastily prepared list of media contacts, but every irrelevant or inappropriate email will deduct media relations points from your PR account. That annoyed reporter may not open your next note, or any others after that. Note that you will keep the lists for different verticals separate, since they require different pitches. Don’t forget to consider the size and prominence of the targeted outlets. Some story angles will be so broad or high-profile as to demand national publications with huge circulations, while others may be tailor-made for trade outlets, smaller publications, or bloggers. We strive to avoid wasting any journalist’s time. See this earlier post for more tips on good media relations.

Read the fine print

When parsing the list of media contacts, it’s easy to miss clues that disqualify them from your outreach. Though they may cover the correct beat, high-ranking journalists like editors-in-chief or managing editors don’t review pitches from PR people. Additionally, keep your eye on the fine print in Cision contact listings. If it says, “not an appropriate PR contact,” trust that advice. If the reporter lists no contact email address or has a generic like stories@USAToday.com, do not include them. After you’ve exported your media list from Cision, it is imperative to double check the contacts using Google, since Cision is not always updated in real time.

Don’t stop at Cision

Cision is simply the starting point. Googling will not only serve as a double-check, but it yields additional reporter contacts. Use Google to check and see how often your listed journalists are published and if they tend to write relevant content. A contact listed under the “women’s interests” beat may write about anything from career to family health. And if a reporter has published only a single story in the past year, it’s a good clue that the contact’s information has not been updated in Cision. You may find that you have multiple reporter contacts listed for many outlets. Some PR pros believe that you should only pitch a single reporter per outlet, but we believe that in today’s fast-paced mediascape, pitching two or three reporters at an outlet is perfectly acceptable. Plus, some outlets like Forbes online enlist the aid of lots of freelance contributors who are not on staff.

A meticulously compiled media list of 30 reporters beats a haphazardly thrown together list of 200 any day of the week. Knowing your story themes and angles, the target audiences, and the right outlets – all in consideration of PR goals – will help pull together the best possible list. Consistently solid media research will lead to greater success and better media relations, which for most PR professionals is a top priority.