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Build Better Public Relations Strategies With These Reporter Pitching Tips

PR practitioners, beginners and pros alike, benefit from journalists’ first-hand advice on pitching best practices. Boomm enjoyed a refresher course on a critical component of public relations strategies – media outreach – when our team attended the latest HARO Connects event. HARO, a free service that connects the media with subject matter experts, hosted Chicago Tribune reporters Becky Yerak, William Hageman and Nara Schoenberg in a lively panel discussion about what reporters want. Some of the tips were old, some were new and some even busted stubborn PR beliefs. All should help you refine successful public relations strategies. Here’s a top line of the after-hours conversation:

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    Image credit: Roger H. Goun (Creative Commons)

    Focus on straightforward news releases using direct, honest language. Clever, cute PR approaches might stretch legitimate news angles and impede a reporter’s ability to get to the facts quickly.

  • Don’t be afraid to ask a reporter what type of stories they are currently working on. You may have an expert who can help.
  • That said, you should understand the reporter you’re pitching – his or her beat topics, the types of stories he or she writes – to avoid wasting everyone’s time.
  • Another thing to know about reporters: typically they are introverts and always they are crazy busy. That means they may not get back to you or respond immediately to emails. Persistence is okay – these reporters even green-lighted repeat emails.
  • When to send press releases is a million-dollar question. These reporters agreed that early morning and evening emails helped get releases to the top of the in-box.
  • Pitch peeves? Email attachments. Unprofessionalism. Getting the reporter’s name wrong.
  • Pitch preferences? Scoops. Trend stories or insights on trends. Fresh topics.
  • Email over telephone (as a general rule). The panel voted for email as the preferred communications channel but stressed that you should learn how your target reporters prefer to communicate.
  • And sometimes Twitter. While email was far and away the preferred contact channel, some of the panelists noted they had pulled stories from Twitter, as well.
  • It’s okay to reach out to more than one journalist at an outlet. These reporters acknowledged they don’t have time to go through all their emails and they don’t always know what colleagues are working on. When you’re not sure who should receive your release, it’s probably in your best interest to contact multiple reporters.

Do you have any pitching best practice tips to share? Any smart public relations strategies? Or other helpful PR hacks? We’d love to get your comments!