Hannah Richardson – PR Executive
At CommsCon18, Consumer Features & Environment Editor at the Daily Mirror Nada Farhoud revealed that at that moment in time, she had 92,000 unread emails from various PR agencies across the country. And that’s not because she’s simply disorganised.
Every day PR teams across the country are competing for the attention of journalists in an attempt to publicise the amazing work that their clients do. So it’s essential to stand out from the crowd in order to secure those essential newspaper inches and online articles.
Want to know how? Take a look at the below list of simple but effective tips to help get the attention of your journalist of choice, and ultimately increase coverage numbers.
Invite them for a coffee
Though a national journalist at the Daily Mail might not have time to meet you for a quick drink, the news editor at your local newspaper just might.
It’s likely that you’ll be sending releases to the same pool of journalists on an almost weekly basis, so it’s important to get to know them a little, rather than continue to email them without any real acknowledgement. All it takes is a quick ‘Would you like to meet for a chat over a coffee?’ – what’s the worst that can happen? They either agree to meet you or they politely decline – either way it starts that all-important conversation.
Meeting face-to-face is a great opportunity to find out exactly what the journalist is looking for – the slots they work on regularly, any upcoming features, or popular topics that they’re interested in covering. It’s also a great way to find out the best time to contact them, when their daily planning meeting is, what days they work and potentially new contacts at their publication.
It’s also the perfect chance for you to tell them all about your clients and what campaigns you have coming up. You never know, it might spark an idea!
And if you’re dead set on meeting with a national journalist, why not take the trip down to the capital and make a day of it? It’s surprising how many top journalists will take half an hour out of their schedule to meet you at their office for a quick chat. If you decide to do this, make sure to bring samples for them to try, and all of the relevant information you may need. Publications are also often housed in the same building so you can book multiple meetings in the same location.
You’ll leave the meeting full of intel, new opportunities, and most importantly a new contact.
Once you form a relationship with a journalist, pitching becomes one of the joys of the job. It’s great to get honest feedback on ideas, and they’re more likely to give you a chance when it comes to securing coverage on press releases. In return, you can help them with feature suggestions and any comments needed.
Send gifting hampers
Rather than send a release with information about a new product, why not send a selection of samples for journalists to try out? From personal experience, everyone loves a free sample – especially if it’s something that is of interest and relevance to their area of work, and it’s a great way to make yourself known to national publications.
Most journalists prefer to try something before they write about it. How can you accurately write about something when you have no experience of using it? The same goes for travel reviews – it always makes sense to try something so they can be honest with their feedback.
This can be an opportunity to be creative and stand out from competitors, which is key within the PR industry. Why not create a hamper as part of a larger campaign? It could accompany a press release, or even act as an invitation to an event. Create bespoke themed extras to add in, like a branded board game or personalised water bottle. This way the hamper makes a lasting impact.
As well as potentially creating some great social media content from high profile journos, it’s also a great way to start a conversation. A quick phone call to check that they received their hamper can turn into a discussion about the campaign itself.
Know your subject
As in all areas of work, it’s vital that you’re clued up in all areas of the industry. Check the news every morning, keep an eye on social media throughout the day, sign up to industry newsletters and news alerts. This way you’re in the know and can position yourself as an expert in your field.
In a rapidly advancing world, breaking news is now up on social media before news publications. Therefore, it’s arguably more important to keep social media open on a side screen to keep your eye on whilst working. Newspapers can be checked each morning, and online websites frequently throughout the day.
This means that you can demonstrate your expert knowledge to a journalist by suggesting ideas or providing information as soon as a story breaks. You may even become their go-to in the field.
Being in the know is also great for producing quick content on breaking news stories before anyone else. Labelled ‘newsjacking’, it’s a good way to inject your ideas into relevant areas – often resulting in widespread coverage and social media engagement.
It also helps to research your contacts beforehand. Check out their previous work, follow them on social media. This will help you to find out their likes and dislikes, and how you could angle your work in accordance with their interests.
Send engaging content
Perhaps the most important tip is to ensure that content you’re sending to journalists is interesting, original, eye catching, and of course relevant. A generic email with a plain press release attached just won’t cut it – not when hundreds of other PR bods are sending exactly the same thing to national journalists at top tier newspapers.
At CommsCon18, Gabriela Lungu, the founder of Wings Creative Leadership Lab, said that there should be creativity in everything a PR does. Develop an obsession for originality, and make sure to stay away from vanilla stories. It won’t do any favours for you or your client.
You need to create something that will stand out from the steady flow of emails that will be filling their inbox. This means an eye-catching subject title. Instead of a lengthy, slightly boring headline – why not get straight to the point? How about labelling your email as a suggestion for a particular slot that the journalist works on? This means they know what it is straight away, instead of reading a headline that probably doesn’t have much/ any context when standalone.
Even if you pass the first step, and the journalist opens your email – they need to read the first few lines of your email and be interested enough to continue. Get straight to the point, believe it or not a lengthy email full of detail doesn’t always work. That’s why it’s always good to get in key points and stand-out information that marks your content as interesting and different near the top of your email.
Why not try an alternative to a press release, like an e-alert, or infographic? They’re immediately attention-grabbing and could be just the thing you need to give your content the attention it deserves.
Pick up the phone
Again, this might not work with national papers, but journalists from local and regional publications are often open to a quick phone call.
Whether you want to find the best contact to send a press release to, or you’d like to run an idea by them, just pick up the phone – it often takes less time than an email and establishes another level of conversation between yourself and the journalist. Plus, it always helps with confidence when it comes to telephone sell-ins and helps journalists by not bunging up their inbox.