The C. Pharr team recently attended this year’s Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Dallas Communications Summit and had the privilege of attending several insightful sessions regarding our industry and where it is headed. This and our next post will focus on the best tips and tricks we learned during these sessions. We hope you all will find these helpful hints as valuable as we did!
Session 1: The Changing Face of Media Relations
Reporters Give Two Thumbs Up to Tweets
Social media, and more specifically Twitter, has become a hot source for getting news and gathering tips. At C. Pharr, we use Twitter to post news for clients and to keep us up-to-date on what reporters are talking about. More often than not we come across a reporter we think would be a good fit for a client pitch. One question to ask – How valuable is Twitter to the reporters and news outlets we are pitching?
Leona Allen, deputy managing editor at The Dallas Morning News, Judy Freeman, an award-winning and nationally recognized blogger, and Stephen Wright, news assignment editor for NBC DFW answered questions about how they use Twitter to their advantage and the struggles they have found with it. Below are several interesting points we learned from the conversation.
- The media mostly uses Twitter as a news scanner and breaking news source. This keeps them up-to-date on what’s going on in the world and sometimes helps them find news leads.
- Using Twitter for pitching tends to be unsuccessful due to the limited amount of space provided to pitch a story. The panelists agreed they prefer email or phone.
- Journalists must use an entire tweet, word-for-word, if they want to use it as a source in a story.
- Twitter is not always reliable due to the high amount of non-credible/false accounts that are on the Web. Tweets must be thoroughly researched and verified for credibility before use.
Swing into the Pitch and Score a Hit
It’s true – You can spend hours crafting an immaculate, relevant and newsworthy press release, but if you don’t grab that reporter’s attention in the first few lines of your pitch, it’s all too likely that no one will ever read the release. Freda Ross of WBAP radio, a local news station, and Dana Driver, the current producer of Fox News’ local morning show, “Good Day” gave tips and bits of advice for pitching the media. Since both are experts in different communication mediums, their pitch preferences varied, but there were some points both enthusiastically agreed on.
Ross and Driver insisted that pitches be short, sweet, to the point and highlight why the reporter’s audience cares about the topic at hand. Driver specifically voiced a preference for topics that the community was already discussing, stating that she liked to cover topics that viewers think are newsworthy, rather than providing them with what they should think is newsworthy in a producer’s or editor’s opinion.
Both women listed building personal relationships with reporters as an invaluable skill. They also encouraged PR pros to always be prepared for breaking news and know where their client fits into major, unpredictable events like natural disasters.
Below are tips the panelists shared regarding their respective medium.
- Know who to pitch at the station. Don’t just send to the first contact email you can find.
- Don’t call radio newsrooms at the top or bottom of the hour.
- If you pitch via telephone, don’t jump directly into your pitch once you have a reporter on the line. Build a relationship and ask if “now is a good time to talk.”
- Provide the name of the person who would be appearing on TV and, if at all possible, a video. Whether it’s YouTube, or something filmed in an office on an iPhone, a short, poor quality video is better than nothing at all. Producers want to know who they’re giving air time.
- Know what visuals you can provide.
- Include past media appearances, recognitions or mentions.
- “Good Day” asks these questions of potential segment ideas: “Is it…Visual? Topical? Interactive? Fun? Local?”
- Call the newsroom a little after 10 a.m., or around 1 p.m. If you’re trying to reach a weekend producer, it’s best to call between 8:30-9:30 in the morning.