Vanguard’s Best Media Relations Tricks (and Treats)

In honor of the arrival of October — known as the month of Halloween — we decided to share our best media relations tricks and tips (a.k.a. treats).

Read before your pitch. It seems like an obvious tip, but I cannot tell you how many reporters I meet on a regular basis who tell me they get pitches completely unrelated to their area of coverage. So know the reporter’s beat and read a few of their stories before you pitch them.

Treat every outlet like they’re the New York Times. Treat ALL media no matter how inexperienced or what outlet they represent as if they are in a senior position at a top tier outlet. Many of those cub reporters or small-town/trade media go onto incredibly impressive jobs at highly-coveted media outlets. They always remember how you treated them when they were starting out and will make time.

Hold on to your ace. Pitching a new reporter is like going on a first date. You’re not sure where the relationship will go, but you know you have something they want and vice versa. Keep that in mind and don’t reveal too much. Be authentic. Your goal is a second date – not a marriage proposal.

Be aware of deadlines. After introducing yourself and your organization, the next words to come out of your mouth should be along the lines of, “Do you have a minute to talk?” Showing respect for reporters’ time will improve the quality of your conversation, interaction and hopefully, the resulting story.

Give them a break. Unless you have hard breaking news or an urgent item, you shouldn’t follow up with a pitch call immediately after sending an email. Reporters HATE this and are likely to ignore you in the future as a result.

Pay attention to details. Taking the time to personalize your pitches goes on a long way, but make sure that you use the correct first the name of the reporter that you are pitching (Molly should not be called “Holly,” Melissa should not be called “Alyssa”). Accuracy in all communications matters.

Focus your pitch. Keep the pitch brief, concise and to the point. Reporters don’t want to sift through large emails to find out what you’re pitching. A few paragraphs should do the trick.

Avoid attachments. Don’t attach any items to a pitch email unless requested to do so by a reporter. Emails with attachments are often blocked by spam filters. Add your content to the body of the email instead.

Know spokesperson availability before you pitch. When you offer a spokesperson for your story, be sure that the person is willing and ready to talk to a reporter, understands the overall outreach goal, and is prepared with the appropriate messages.

Be resourceful, but don’t be a stalker. If you have multiple methods (i.e. email address, office number, cell phone number, social media profiles, etc.) to contact a reporter, use different channels to connect. Just do not hound them. If they aren’t calling you back, it may be because they aren’t interested in your story. Harassing them will only undermine your relationship and hinder your chance to work with them again in the future.

Witness the interview. Whenever possible, listen in when a media interview occurs. Being present will allow you to witness all of the questions asked by the reporter and note how your spokesperson answered each question. If inaccurate information or statements are included in the story and attributed to your spokesperson, being a witness offers you a stronger position to request a correction.

Show appreciation. Send a follow-up note afterwards a story runs or a media interaction ends. It doesn’t take any time to show appreciation for their work and the collaboration. Reporters seem to really appreciate the gesture and generally respond to that quick email. It will make you memorable, and help build a stronger relationship with that reporter.

What is your best media relations tip? Share it with us in the comments section below.