As any successful sales person will tell you: "selling someone" on a product fails more often than not. On the other hand - if you provide your prospective client with a much-needed solution, or if you give someone the tools they need do their job better, boosting productivity or profits, you may just have a customer for life.
Media relations works much the same way. You’ll greatly increase your chances of success if you can put yourself in the editor’s shoes. And so, how do you think like an editor? Here are a few ideas:
- Remember the news is a business just like yours - a tough, highly competitive business at that. The editor you’re contacting has bosses to please, a demanding audience that wants useful, timely information, and a barrage of callers just like you. The boss and the readers/audience will always take priority, and if you want publicity, it’s your job to give the editor the means to look good to the boss and to the paying public.
- Know something about the media and the journalist you’re contacting. Editors usually resent having to educate callers on the type of story they cover. They expect you to know. Read, watch or listen, and know what this editor has covered in the past before you pick up the phone or start to email. Editors don’t cover the same story twice, but you can pick up on various "hot buttons" or favorite topics. Find out how the editor likes to be reached. Some journalists love email and others hate it. Likewise some welcome a quick, focused phone "pitch" and others want something in front of them to review.
- With these two points in mind, figure out what information or resources your company can offer that would help the editor fill the information needs of the publication’s readers and demonstrate his or her prowess to the boss. Remember those criteria - not your need for publicity - determine what topics get ink.
- Timing is everything. Don’t try to reach an editor who has a deadline looming. Don’t call the newsroom in the afternoon, if the particular publication is a daily newspaper, and don’t try to reach editors and producers an hour or so before airtime.
- Adapt your story ideas to suit the editor, the publication, and hot topics of the day. Provide the editor with the story idea and keep it short and simple. Don’t force a particular angle. Let the editor muse on it and don’t push.
- Recognize that follow-up phone calls can irritate editors. Ask if you can call to see if there’s any interest. Editors screen their calls; so don’t inundate them with calls. One message will suffice.
- Understand that the editor will "cherry-pick" the information you provide and - most likely - will contact other sources, too. Purchasing ad space is the only way you get to control what appears in print.
- An editor values contacts who offer to be of real help - who ask is there any topic/information the editor might like or how they might help. You want to be viewed as "a source" rather than a publicity hound.
Good press relations, like any relationship, take time to build. Try to be patient. If you position yourself as a resource to the editor, your efforts will reap results.