Garnering Media Attention in a Crowded Landscape

Pitching the media is always tricky. Here at Sterling, we only reach out to media when our clients have something to say – something newsworthy that we believe journalists and their audiences will actually care about.

Bottom line: Media attention is short, and we want to use it wisely. To that end, we use a variety of tactics in our outreach. While email has become the de facto (beating out phone a few years back), phone is probably still the most effective.

The next most effective? Social media.

Recently, Mashable published a piece titled “The Do’s and Don’ts of Pitching Journalists on Social Media.” While there are no hard and fast rules, this article is a pretty good starting point.

With H/T in hand, we’re borrowing a few of the rules detailed in the Mashable article today, with some experiences we’ve had here at Sterling mixed in for good measure.

1. Twitter can be a great place to reach out.

This is good general advice. We often find that reaching out to media on Twitter is an easier (and, for them, less offensive) way to get their attention. If they’re interested, the conversation almost always switches to email. However, this isn’t always the case. Recently, a Sterlinger reached out to a well-known technology journalist via Twitter, since she hadn’t heard back via email.

His response was quick and blunt: “I’m not interested and don’t send PR pitches on Twitter.” For us – that’s good advice. We’ve now updated our internal database and won’t pitch him via Twitter again.

On the other hand, I chatted with my colleague, Jordan Hubert, and he gave a great example of when this can work:

After seeing Forbes blogger and Constellation Research analyst Ray Wang tweet complaints on United Airlines’ reservation system, I thought this could be the perfect opportunity to pitch him with an offer to provide social sentiment research data on the topic from my client and social analytics solution provider, Attensity.

In a direct message to Wang on Twitter, I suggested he write a Forbes column around his negative experience with United, and recommended he compare it to customer service leaders Southwest and Virgin.

Wang not only quickly but also very enthusiastically got back to me, jumping on the idea and even applauding my use of social media to reach him when messages can so easily get lost in the flood of emails these days.

After providing the analysis from Attensity and offering answers to his questions, I saw his finished product go live on and thereafter earn close to 100 social media mentions in one week. A reprinted version then appeared on the Constellation Research blog, “A Software Insider’s Point of View” blog, and multiple airline and sentiment analysis blogs.

And, that leads us to perhaps the most important tip for pitching journalists on social media that Mashable forgot:

2. Use common sense.

This isn’t just true for social media, but for media relations and, well, life in general. If you know that a journalist is on a deadline, don’t tweet them. If you’re not Facebook friends with a journalist, don’t pitch them on Facebook. And, if you’ve never worked with them before, maybe you shouldn’t add them on LinkedIn.

Bottom line: Think it through before you reach out. The long and short of it is that these are busy people. In order to get their attention, you should have all the information up front. That brings us to our final tip:

3. Do your homework.

Similar to using common sense, know what you’re planning to ask for, who you’re planning to ask, and why they’re the right person.

Are you pitching an event in New York to a journalist in Chicago? They probably can’t make it.

Are you asking a security reporter to cover a virtualization product launch? You’ve just wasted their time and yours.

No matter where you pitch (Twitter, email, phone or, despite all suggestions to the contrary – Facebook – it’s important that you know who you’re talking to, and that they’re the right person.

While it is important to be respectful with everyone that you work with, when it comes to journalists, this is doubly so.