PR 101: Make yourself indispensable to the media

As digital news and social networks speed up the pace of modern media, the news cycle has become faster than ever before. Competition is stiff, and the stakes are high as everyone vies for a coveted place in the ever-shifting spotlight. When it comes to PR, you can’t just “spray and pray,” relying on luck that your message will reach the right media contact. Instead, becoming a trusted, go-to source for media involves fine-tuning your approach through careful research, original storytelling and timely delivery.

Looking to stand out from the pack? Here are a few tips that will help you become indispensable to the media.

Research your target.

Journalists and reporters can spot a form pitch from a mile away, so if you’re just filling out a form email pitch and adding a reporter’s name to it, you’re doing media relations wrong. Make sure you are researching journalists before you pitch, so you can gauge whether they’ll care about your angle. What’s their beat? What kinds of stories have they written in the past? Once you’ve gathered this information, tailor your pitch based on why you think this story will appeal to them individually.

Give enough lead time.

Timing can often make or break a pitch. Give reporters as much lead time as you can on evergreen angles, keeping in mind that columnists will often plan their stories four to six weeks in advance. While a great story can sometimes sneak into the editorial calendar at the 11th hour, don’t send your pitch at the last minute and expect to get a feature. If you have timely news in hand, pre-pitching a few days before you announce can make an enormous difference in the coverage you see. Get on the media’s good side by giving them as much notice as possible.

Say it in an email.

The media we’re trying to reach are just as busy as we are. They want good leads for stories, and they want information as quickly as possible. If you can’t fit your pitch concisely into an email, it’s not ready to send. Make life easier for your journalist friends by refining your message so critical information is front and center.

Tell compelling stories.

Taking something that isn’t necessarily news and finding it a place in the 24-hour news cycle is no easy task; it takes creativity and practice. As you come up with story and pitch ideas, keep in mind that journalists and their audiences are all searching for a story they haven’t heard before. You may have lots of interesting information to share, but without a clear angle, you risk your pitch falling into the slush pile. Make your message clear so the reporter doesn’t have to go searching for it.

Invest in media training.

Not every CEO is going to be an instant media superstar. If your client tends to freeze up in the limelight, invest in some media training. Media savvy is a learnable skill, and an executive who gives great interviews will keep journalists coming back for more.

Stay on top of your game.

With the news cycle moving at lightning speed, reporters don’t have time to unnecessarily chase down sources. If a journalist knows she’ll be able to get timely, relevant information from you in a way that keeps pace with the news cycle, you’ll become one of her trusted go-to sources. 

Keep them coming back for more.

At the end of the day, it all comes back to relationship building. You want your media contacts to trust you and reach out whenever they need sources for future stories. The easiest way to build these kinds of relationships? Consistently deliver on the points above. Be concise. Be timely. Personalize. Do your research. If you’re prepared to deliver your media contacts exactly what they need, when they need it, you’ll quickly become their first contact for stories related to your expertise.

Download our media interview guide.