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By: Alexa Hershy and Ian MacDonald
In the public relations industry, media relationships are important to secure earned media stories that add business value for clients. We consistently take out editors, pitch our clients and build important, lasting relationships. But beyond standard relationship-building practices, how do we elevate our company and relationships in unique ways as editorial staffs continue to shrink and face-to-face time increasingly diminishes?
As the landscape continues to shift rapidly – print editions closing, frequent editor moves, etc. – it’s critical to hear directly from the source on a regular basis to learn how we can most effectively work with our key media contacts.
Cue the launch of Allison+Partners’ Media Maven Panel, an initiative developed in fall 2018 with Allison+Partners’ unique entrepreneurial spirit in mind to offer employees at all levels direct access to coveted media we frequently work with. The first panel’s theme, “Media 101,” presented an incredible opportunity to hear from three top-tier editors about how PR professionals can shine with a strong aptitude of media relations basics.
We hosted the below editors in our NYC office for an engaging discussion:
We purposefully recruited editors from three different verticals (lifestyle, marketing, tech) to get a well-rounded perspective on best practices. We covered all things media – from a day-in-the-life, to the stories they’re most passionate about and the qualities they most respect in their favorite PR practitioners.
The Media Maven panel success is two-fold – we learn directly from editors excited to share best practices that, in turn, make our working relationship much stronger. And it’s a fantastic relationship-building opportunity, unique to our company. Hosting editors in our office gives them a special inside look at the Allison+Partners culture – another incredibly special differentiator to our agency and an energy and enthusiasm felt immediately upon entering one of our offices.
Stemming from the panel, we walked away with three key learnings that can help any PR professional break through the pitching clutter:
Do your research – While this might seem obvious, not everyone does it (especially when on a tight deadline). Know the publication you pitch, what it covers/what it doesn’t and how your client most strategically fits in. Editors appreciate when you pitch them specific sections that prove you’ve done your research and know the publication or call out an article you’ve recently read and liked. Also, if an editor has just covered a topic, don’t pitch them on the same story. Doing your research also means knowing the editors’ beat and if they report for the print or online version – this of course informs their reporting timeframe and deadlines.
When to pitch, when not to and how-to follow-up appropriately – Editors receive an influx of pitches between the 9-10 a.m. hour. When possible, try to pitch outside this timeframe so your note doesn’t get lost. Also – avoid addressing multiple editors in one email. This often creates a bystander effect, and no one ends up responding. It’s more impactful to address the one editor that’s the best fit. When not to pitch? Right before a holiday (stories are typically already baked, they’re not starting anything new), before a life event (i.e. if an editor is getting married) and avoid the weekends. Regarding follow-up, all editors said: “Do not call!” According to the editors, the only appropriate time to call is when you’re offering a publication an exclusive with a tight deadline. Otherwise, follow-up via email with a maximum of two emails. Pro-tip – when following up, consider reframing the angle of your initial pitch to appeal to the editor in a fresh way.
Relationship building is critical, so invest in it – Again, something that might seem obvious, but it needs to continue to be a top priority for PR practitioners. Relationship building is important beyond securing placements for clients. It makes the editor more comfortable to share candid feedback (which our clients always appreciate!). Some editors might avoid transparency when it comes to candid feedback if they don’t know you. When setting up meetings, ask what’s most convenient for that specific editor – everyone’s schedule and preference is different. Some might only have time for a morning coffee where others are more open to lunch or after work drinks/activities. Not in the same market as a key editor? No worries. Nowadays, editors are often open to building relationships via social media or email. Comment on an Instagram you thought was interesting or flag a story you loved over email. If you notice an editor is visiting in your market, reach out to make plans. Editors will appreciate the effort.
In 2019, we look forward to hosting additional Media Maven panels across the network in different offices and markets – ensuring we’re always up-to-date on our media relations knowledge and putting forward the most thoughtful, and impactful media strategies. Because, ultimately, it’s about the work.
Alexa Hershy and Ian MacDonald are account directors in Allison+Partners’ NYC office, specializing in media relations across the consumer and technology industries.