July 9, 2012
Traditional PR Is Still In Style: Four Timeless Media Relations Tools
By Sandra Fathi, President, Affect Strategies
Articles seem to be popping up everywhere lately proclaiming the death of traditional public relations. It's true the PR landscape is evolving and new tools are constantly emerging, but the fundamental practice — building our clients' reputations — has stayed the same. While PR pros need to stay ahead of the trends and target their audiences on multiple platforms, it's important not to throw some of the traditional tactics to the wayside. As professional communicators, we should be constantly expanding our toolkits year after year, not simply renovating them by swapping press releases for YouTube videos or phone calls for tweets.
Here are four traditional PR tactics that are being touted as old fashioned and obsolete by some. PR Pros still need to know how to use them in today's world to build successful media campaigns.
Use a Wire Service:
In the past few weeks, several bloggers have claimed that newswire services are going the way of the dinosaurs. Despite the fact that these services have been around for ages, reporters still check the wires every day for breaking news and story ideas. For many reporters, wires are a main news source because they provide breaking, organized and accurate information to their personalized dashboards or emails. In fact, last week we received a call from a CNBC booker who saw the company's press release on the wire and wanted to include the client in an upcoming segment.
Quick Tip: Don't underestimate the press release or wire service. Posting an announcement to a company website, blog or Twitter handle — while important — likely won't reach all of your targets, especially any new reporters who may not yet be familiar with your client's brand or veteran reporter who still relay on this traditional staple.
Make the Call:
Using the phone to pitch a story may sound old school, but most reporters get so many emails every day they can't possibly read and respond to each one. Social media is important and more than a handful of big news stories have been picked up from a tweet, but social media platforms are crowded and have their limits: Twitter messages have to be short, and reporters don't want to hear from you on Facebook.
The personal attention a phone call provides may mean the difference between getting coverage for your client or not. Email, Twitter, LinkedIn and even Instant Messaging can be great avenues for reaching reporters, but a 10 second phone pitch is often the most successful at grabbing a journalist's attention, especially when he or she is bombarded with information through social media and email.
Quick Tip: For important pitches, pick up the phone. A live conversation will give you a chance to get the reporter's immediate thoughts, alter your pitch angle if needed, directly answer any questions and confirm what the reporter is currently or will be working on in the future. It can also make the conversation more memorable and help you build a better relationship.
Meet for Coffee:
Desk-side briefings. Remember those? Whether meeting a reporter yourself or coordinating a background briefing for your client, making time to meet in person will help create a stronger working connection and ensure greater engagement. Meeting in person also requires reporters to tear their eyes away from the computer screen and give you their full attention. Relationships certainly aren't everything, but they do help when trying to secure immediate coverage for your client or just getting a reporter to respond to your subsequent emails.
Quick Tip: Once a month, set aside time for one in person meeting with a key influencer. Whether it's lunch or a quick coffee to discuss what the reporter is working on, a face-to-face meeting sets a positive tone for future outreach. Even offering to buy a meal or a drink at a trade show can get you some quality time together.
Write Great Emails:
Emails are still the best way to contact reporters. An email pitch allows you to include a good teaser or hook and provide some background information to grab the reporter's interest. Emails are also critical for journalists who never seem to pick up their phones (we've all pitched them). However, it's important to remember that reporters get hundreds of emails a day; if you want your email to actually be read, make sure to write a great one.
Quick Tip: When writing an email subject line, keep it short, catchy and devoid of buzzwords — choose a sentence that could pass for the title of an article. Develop short, concise, yet detailed messages that refer to the reporter's previous articles or interests and include links, a press release (if you have one), key dates and contact information. Don't send attachments unless you're already in contact with the reporter, as emails with attachments often end up in the spam folder.
It's a great time to be a PR professional. We have more tools than ever to work with and every day brings something new. As we embrace new media, it's important not to throw away what still works. Taking an "old meets new" approach will ensure all your campaigns are a success.
Sandra is the Founder and President of Affect, a public relations and social media firm based in New York. Established in 2002, the company specializes in business-to-business and business-to-consumer technology, healthcare and professional services.