Having Trouble Connecting With the Media?

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Try These Tips for Tweaking Your Delivery


Article at a glance:

  • Don’t use ‘Please read’ as your email subject line.
  • Do your homework before calling or emailing.
  • Respect the journalist’s time. 

It’s beyond frustrating to discover that one of the first steps in your media campaign is a doozy.

Connecting with the print, radio or TV person who can get you in the paper or on the air can be like hitting the target at a carnival shooting gallery. You miss so many times, eventually you figure the game’s rigged.

Really, you just need to know how to play.

At EMSI, we have three staffers fresh from jobs in traditional media. Penny Carnathan, our Creative Director/Writer, was a features editor at a major daily newspaper until last year; Alex Hinojosa, Senior Campaign Manager, has hosted national and major-market radio talk shows for more than 15 years; and TV Campaign Manager Russ Handler has decades of experience as a producer and traffic anchor for major-market news stations.

I asked what made them pay attention to some telephone and email pitches in their former jobs and what made them quickly hang up or hit “delete.” They came up with so many do’s and don’ts, we’ll follow up with a part II next week.

First, some don’ts:

  • Don’t use “Please read” as your subject line. Journalists and show hosts, and just about everyone else we know, reads email subject lines in order to quickly triage incoming mail. Since “Please read” says nothing about the mail’s content or urgency, it goes to the bottom of the priority list, where it will likely be buried alive. Or, get deleted.
  • Don’t fill the upper portion of an email with graphics and whirligigs. It takes time for images to load and more time to scroll through them to get to your message, particularly if your recipient is checking their emails on a smart phone. The time it takes for your graphics may be all the time you get – which means your message is never read.

And some do’s:

  • Do research the person you’re calling or emailing. No one expects you to figure out all the duties that go along with esoteric job titles, but you should at least fire your pitch in the general vicinity of the target. That requires checking out the newspaper/TV/radio station’s website. Look for the names of show hosts whose topics and guests align with what you’re offering; look for editors and reporters in charge of the coverage you’re interested in getting. If possible, familiarize yourself with the newspaper or show, even if you have to do that by browsing clips on the site.
  • Do respect the person’s time when pitching by phone. Some of the best calls start with an introduction quickly followed by, “I understand you’re very busy, but I’d love to tell you about a new natural health product that might make a great feature story/show segment. Is there a better time for me to call?” Know what you want (coverage? a calendar listing? an interview on Marsha and Alex’s national radio show? J) and describe in a nutshell what you have to offer.
  • Do follow up phone calls with an email and vice versa. But don’t call and say, “I’m Suzy Bloozy, did you get my email?” Media folks who are portals to the public get hundreds of emails and phone calls every day. If you’re their grandmother or Don Quixote, they may remember the name, otherwise they likely won’t. And the question makes you sound both naïve and a bit foolish. Better to say, “I’m Suzy Bloozy and I sent you an email (or left a voicemail) about a cool new self-cleaning toilet, the Bloozy Bowl. If you think you might be interested and didn’t receive the information, I’d be happy to resend it.”

If you’ve been firing away and missing the target every time, try adjusting your technique using these tips. Penny says if the person doing the pitching was friendly and professional, she took the time whenever she could to at least listen to a pitch, or read it.

These days, however, she, Alex and Russ say, even more important is respecting the time of the person you’re contacting. Staffing at all the media outlets has shrunk considerably in recent years, meaning those who are left behind are doing double-, triple- and quadruple duty. They are busy!

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