Key Learnings from PRSA Central Ohio’s 2020 Meet the Media Event
This year, I’ve had the pleasure of serving on the program-planning committee for the Central Ohio chapter of PRSA and recently helped plan one of the chapter’s most popular annual events – Meet the Media. This event features a panel of several prominent members of the Ohio media and gives PR and communications professionals the opportunity to learn directly about how to effectively work together and successfully position clients when pitching stories.
This year’s Meet the Media event on September 24 featured Angela An from 10TV, Jennifer Bullock from NBC4, Kelly Lecker from the Columbus Dispatch, Taijuan Moorman from Columbus Underground and John Seewer from the Associated Press.
Here are a few top tips and insights from the event that may be helpful in engaging with media and landing your next placement.
Every PR pro has struggled with this age-old dilemma: I have a great pitch to share – now to whom should I send it? The panelists suggested pitching one reporter directly versus multiple reporters within a single newsroom. It’s acceptable to send a pitch to both a news desk and an reporter, but, to prevent confusion and duplication, you shouldn’t send the same pitch to more than one reporter at an outlet. If you’re unsure of who to pitch, send it to the reporter you have the closest relationship with and ask if they would be willing to connect you with the appropriate contact.
The reporters said they are always looking for emotional stories with strong human interest and local angles. Including great visuals with your pitch will also increase the likelihood of the story getting covered. The panelists recommended sending a Dropbox folder of photos, videos, graphics or other relevant materials in the initial pitch, and to make the attachments as accessible as possible so that reporters have everything they need to cover the story, right off the bat.
To optimize the likelihood of getting your story picked up, pitch reporters early in the morning. This offers reporters and newsrooms enough time to fit the story into their news cycle and gather any additional information they need. None of the panelists wanted to be contacted in the evening or on weekends. It is also important to be mindful of deadlines. For example, 4 p.m. is generally the worst time to pitch reporters since that is a common deadline time. Most reporters prefer to have information at least a week in advance, especially if it’s for an event, so don’t plan pitch an event or product launch the day before it’s set to occur.
The subject line and first paragraph are the most important components in grabbing the reporter’s attention. Be concise, show the local tie and, if you’ve worked with them before, remind them of that specifically, or bring up a story they’ve recently covered that’s similar to the one you’re pitching. Always personalize the email when possible, know what beats the person covers and be honest about whether you have sources or not.
The primary takeaway from this year’s event was to build and maintain your relationships with members of the media and to treat them with respect and kindness, just as you would with a colleague, business partner or stakeholder. By doing so, you’ll be far more likely to be successful, and have a more positive experience when pitching reporters and working together on stories.