14 ways to reach the media

Having trouble getting the press’ attention? Be a first responder. Help reporters when there’s nothing in it for you. And rewrite that Twitter profile—even if you are a yoga-loving birdwatcher.

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There! You’ve written that pitch and uploaded that YouTube video about your new gizmo.

Now, how to get the attention of the press? Should you tweet reporters? Track them down on LinkedIn? Send an email? Pick up the phone?

For those who are having trouble figuring out how to get the attention of overworked reporters, a panel of journalists praised Twitter as an unobtrusive way to reach out.

In a discussion titled “Tweet me, link up with me, join my circle, or friend me on Facebook,” four journalists offered suggestions on how to get your big idea in front of them.

In some ways, it’s easier to reach a reporter or editor than ever, panelists say. But irrelevant tweets are no better than shot-gunning press releases to every media outlet in the English-speaking world. It still takes savvy to get journalists’ attention.

Here are some tips:

1. Pay attention to the journalists on Twitter.

Listen for what reporters are looking for. Anthony De Rosa, editor-in-chief at Circa and former social media editor at Reuters, often throws out a question on Twitter about a story he’s working on, such as, “In the past two years, what are the most interesting technologies that have come out in the healthcare and medical industry?”

2. Know what they cover.

So, Beth J. Harpaz is travel editor for The Associated Press. She’s bound to be interested in the new Mumbai location of your hotel chain, right?

Actually, no. The AP doesn’t cover hotel openings; there are too many around the world. Think big-picture stories, such as the start of ski season in November, or a piece on Jackie Robinson destinations in Brooklyn, pegged to the release of the recent movie.

3. Scramble!

Harpaz often works with PR pros to get images, and nowadays the good ones tend to have a reserve of high-resolution pics. “They save me every single time,” she says.

Drake Martinet, social editor for the video news network NowThis News, adds, “When I have a question, be the first responder. … Just have an answer. Have a link. Have some context.”

4. Be interesting.

Come on. Would you want to follow a string of product announcements littered with ® and ™ symbols? Why should a reporter?

The most successful communications professionals make their social media accounts a source of information that will grab journalists, Martinet says. The information is often about the industry, it’s current, and it is relatively unbiased.

Adds De Rosa: “I think it’s important not to always be pitching your own clients, and have a really good sense of your industry and what’s going on.”

5. Add contact information to your Twitter profile.

Go on. Right now. Tell us whom you work for. Drop in a link.

A lot of professionals “aren’t really thinking of their profile the right way—birdwatcher, yoga fan,” says Ragan Communications CEO Mark Ragan, who moderated the panel.

6. Try an @ mention.

“In general, the most reliable way to reach a journalist on social media,” says Zach Seward, senior editor of Quartz, a division of Atlantic Media, “is with an at-mention on Twitter,” or using the journalist’s handle with the @ symbol. “You may or may not get a response, but you’re pretty reliably going to be seen.”

7. Use your personal Twitter account.

Panelists said they would rather chat with a human being than the anonymous brand.

8. Know what’s going on in the news.

If something big is happening in travel, chances are the AP will have a follow-up story on it. The AP did a story on travel safety following rapes in India and a series of assaults in Rio de Janeiro. Harpaz quoted several people offered by PR pros, among them the VP of fly.com

9. To reach someone at the AP, stick with email.

The AP’s Twitter feeds tend to be reserved for posting stories, not conversation, Harpaz says.

“I almost never use the stuff that they routinely pitch me,” she says, “but relationships do develop as long as you don’t kind of make a pest out of yourself, and if you kind of are savvy about what’s in the news, what might a reporter need a source on today that I can fill that gap.”

10. Try LinkedIn.

Facebook isn’t the best way to reach journalists, but LinkedIn messages land in their inboxes.

11. Keep an eye on HARO.

Though several panelists said they dislike Help a Reporter Out, AP’s Harpaz often relies on it.

“We are often putting queries on there when we are looking for a needle in a haystack, literally,” Harpaz says. “And it is astounding how often we find the needle.”

Following a fatal drunken driving accident in Ohio, the AP used HARO to look for parents who had used the crash to caution their own kids. Several PR pros offered tips, even though it didn’t get a mention for their brand.

Harpaz says because these folks helped, she at least owed them a hearing on their own pitch.

12. Don’t call.

Please, these busy journalists said. Just don’t.

13. Skip the press release.

Like others, Seward prefers a “short, punchy pitch,” he says. “I don’t get press releases. … I don’t understand why ‘the press release is dead’ hasn’t won that debate.”

14. Use your website to back up your pitch.

Give the media what they need: Pictures, videos, text. “For me, if it didn’t happen on the Internet, it didn’t happen at all,” Martinet says.

@r_working

(Image via)

Topics: PR

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