Wow, it is hard to get press coverage these days. However, the results I’ve secured for my tech clients have been decent.
How did I do it? I’ve had to constantly think hard, be creative and stay on top of things minute by minute to make stories happen.
Strategic outreach resulted in fairly recent stories in Business Insider, Bloomberg, FITNESS, Teen Vogue, TIME, Wired, Network World, Baseline Magazine and a few deep industry outlets like EBNOnline, EdTechDigest and Manufacturing Business Technology.
Here are 10 tips to keep in mind when doing press outreach in the second half of 2017. These guidelines help me daily.
1. Know when the journalist’s big conference or vacation is happening. Are they mostly looking for stories related to a conference they are attending? Conference-related news will be more likely get noticed at that time. I usually see vacation plans on Instagram and trade show comments on Twitter. An interview during your CEO’s West Coast press tour won’t likely be set up during a journalist’s honeymoon in Greece.
2. Don’t try to target too many media outlets at once. The best pitch is written for one reporter. Keep in mind that journalists like scoops. Some news campaigns will involve outreach to more people but if it’s not major news, be careful. Tom Foremski of ZDNet and Silicon Valley Watcher infamously says he doesn’t like press releases because they are “anti-scoop.”
3. Check the most recent contributed article guidelines before submitting an article. For example, TechCrunch published a story in early 2017 saying it’s now invite-only for new contributed writers. There are three ways to pitch Forbes: send a story to the editor; pitch an already successful blogger as a regular contributor; or pay a sponsorship fee for a monthly spot in “Community Voices.” How did I become a Huffington Post blogger? They invite people sometimes. I signed up during the last window. I also had a lot of blogging experience before signing up. I was syndicated by Business2Community before asking to be a Huffington Post blogger.
4. Beware of hiring SEO experts saying they know PR. I read a dozen PR trends stories to find new inspiration for this article; sadly two thirds were by search experts trying to look like PR people. The other third were real press relations experts. One of my favorite PR bloggers is Lou Hoffman. He’s an experienced PR guy who has a decent amount of knowledge about search engine optimization and content marketing. He’s not an SEO person claiming to know PR. A skilled PR person needs to know journalism. If they know about search too, that’s a plus. But many search experts don’t have a clue about journalism.
5. Make sure the spokesperson’s title is appropriate for the outlet or opportunity. There are many top B2B “IT” writers who like to interview CIOs or CEOs but no one else. So don’t pitch them a case study and interview with a controller or market analyst. Here’s a specific example. IDG Contributor Network is accepting bloggers right now; they don’t like writers who do product development or work directly with customers. They prefer CIOs, IT managers, and people who recommend technology. Folks who work at analyst firms or standards bodies would are okay.
6. Skip the “unpitchables.” There is a Forbes contributor named Louis Columbus who writes quality stories about analytics and enterprise software trends but is likely unpitchable. Why? His bio says he works for Ingram Cloud. Why would someone from Ingram Cloud accept an interview with most companies they are not targeting from a business standpoint? Note that a “light” note introducing the blogger to a client is not a bad thing in this case. But don’t expect much in return.
7. Write like a journalist. Is the pitch falling on deaf ears? Did you leave a message and send a follow up email? Have you not heard back? Did you know that many popular tech writers receive 400 emails per day? Make sure there is something interesting or surprising in the pitch. Continue to improve writing skills and learn; think hard about what a pitch needs to sell.
8. Refresh your press relations skills. New PR people do not know enough and most old timers could use a refresher. Take a class at a university or attend a webinar. PRSA hosts several journalist talks and panels; Cision also has many educational webinars. I enjoyed and benefited from a Saturday media relations class at Stanford University given by an San Francisco Chronicle writer turned PR pro a couple of years ago. (By the way, his main message was shorten everything. Pitches are typically too long; the perfect sentence is no longer than 26 words.) While I was taking a class, I set up an interview with Business Insider that resulted in a fantastic feature story about my client, a startup CEO.
9. Maintain a positive attitude. Surveys say PR is one of the top 10 most stressful professions. It’s up there with police officer. Stress could ruin chances of great results. The solution is simply maintaining a good attitude by bouncing back fast from rejection. Suppose the topic was timely and the spokesperson was more interesting than Elon Musk and Steve Jobs put together. But the writer did not bite. Maybe the timing was just off.
10. Don’t expect a story from a friend meeting. If a journalist likes you and has written about a topic you have suggested in the past, they will be more likely to agree to the next interview. However, know that it could be a meeting favor only. It’s better if they like the story topic and interviewee before the meeting is scheduled. This is a gray area though. Once in a while the interviewee ends up saying something so interesting that a story results from a background-only interview.
To summarize, be careful about the “spray and pray” approach to PR. Instead properly research a journalist before pitching them. Stories are much more likely to result.
[10 ball photo credit: Shutterstock]
Michelle McIntyre is the president of Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC, on the executive team of TEDxSanJoseCA, the Santa Clara Valley PTA vice president of communications, a blogger for VLAB MIT Enterprise Forum, and an IBM PR vet with 10 awards for results.