Aisling McCarthy offers 10 do’s and don’ts to ensure your job in public relations is nothing but smooth sailing.
1. DO think about your brand message
When working on a PR strategy, the first thing you need to decide is what message you want to convey to your target audience.
How do you want your company to be perceived by the general public? What do you want to communicate to them?
Starting here will help you get a clearer picture of the next steps to take.
2. DONT assume the media will write about you
Regardless of how amazing or revolutionary your product or service is, don’t assume journalists will want to write about it.
Remember that sometimes the brand, product or service you are pitching might not be the right fit for that publication, or not as newsworthy as you think it is.
Humility goes a long way when dealing with the media, and building a relationship with them is something that takes a lot of time and effort.
3. DO reach out to journalists
Journalists are always on the lookout for stories. They are used to being approached with pitches and leads on new companies, products and services, so there is no need to be shy.
Keep in mind that they are always busy, so it is best to contact them via email. Be sure to include all the necessary information – if they have to constantly contact you for more information or images, they are less likely to work with you again.
Remember to be polite and to the point in all your interactions. But most importantly, do your research. If you pitch good, relevant stories you can begin a good working relationship with the journalist.
4. DON'T bombard the media with messages
Once you have reached out for the first time, be sure to wait a few days before following up. Your best bet is to follow up via email first. Remember that a job in media is a busy one and most journalists don’t have time to be hassled.
Also, ensure that you only contact them through their professional channels. Do not reach out to them via social media or on their personal cell phone without express permission. You don’t want to come across as inappropriate and unprofessional.
5. DO tailor your pitches
Once you know who you want to send your press releases and pitches to, do your research. Find out what topics the publication and the journalist cover, then try to tailor your pitch to them.
Think about what would be the best angle to pitch to each publication or journalist that you want to contact. Once you have got your angle finalised, send a tailored pitch that shows you clearly know their publication, and tell them why it’s worth their audience’s attention.
media update top tip: Don’t try and tell the journalist that what you are pitching to them is relevant if they say that it isn’t. They know the publication guidelines more thoroughly than you do.
6. DON’T approach the media without researching them
On a daily basis, journalists and publications receive hundreds of pitches. It is extremely frustrating for them to get emails that have nothing to do with the issues and topics that they cover.
Not only will your pitch be ignored, but you’ll also put yourself – and your brand – in a negative light.
7. DO read your pitches before sending them
Before you hit ‘send’ – check your press release. Your writing style, grammar and spelling should all be top priorities. Mistakes in these areas can cause your release to be ignored, as it makes your writing much harder to read.
“Double, triple check your spelling and grammar. [Remember that] the writing style should always be aligned to the brand [you are representing],” says Jenny Griesel, CEO of Jenny Griesel Communications.
Remember that your writing is a reflection of yourself – so if your press release is marred with errors, it could reflect poorly on you.
Griesel also highlights the importance of writing with purpose. Keep in mind that no one wants to read something overly long – get to the point and do it quickly.
“Press releases should never be too long or too wordy. Nobody should have to feel like they have to read an essay to get to the gist of what you are trying to say.”
8. DON’T take rejection personally
Rejection is part of the territory, but don’t take it personally. Getting media coverage isn’t an easy task, and rejection can hinder your initial enthusiasm. But try to take each rejection as a learning experience and as a way to improve.
If you get a resounding “no”, get feedback on it and try to incorporate that into the next pitch that you send. Don’t be rude about it or push back too hard.
9. DO keep up to date with industry news
Want to know the best way to pitch relevant stories to journalists? Know what’s going on in the industry. By keeping up to date with industry news, you’ll be able to see what kind of stories the media are covering and adapt your content to suit the publication.
Industry knowledge will be of great service to you when you create tailored media pitches as you will know what the media want to publish.
10. DON’T lie. Ever.
Nothing can be more damaging to a brand than being seen to be untrustworthy. Try to be honest at all times, whether in your pitch copy or in your dealings. Being caught in a lie is something that very few companies can survive.
PR isn’t for the faint-hearted. Find out more about a day in the life of a PR in our article, Six daily struggles of a PR professional.