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Yup – it’s that time of year: back-to-school time. And you know what that means? Time to freshen up on media relations essentials. Whether you’re a first year PR pro or have a decade of experience, these tips can teach (or remind) you how to be an asset to both reporters and your clients.

  1. Know the reporters and publications. Nothing bothers a reporter more than receiving an email about an irrelevant topic outside of their beat. When it comes to pitching your story, take the time to research the publication and the reporter first. Be sure to understand what makes them tick, know their writing style, review their recent work, and determine why your story is worth their time. Small quirks or common interests can help cultivate a relationship as well. For example, you would never want to pitch a reporter on the latest data breach if they’re the one who broke the news!
  2. Never make promises you can’t keep. PR pros are known for their dedication and ‘never give up’ attitude, but pushing the limit on this by lying or making empty promises can be detrimental to relationships. Reporters are loyal to those who act as resources and provide unique insight for their stories. Always err on the side of caution and if you’re unsure about the answer to a question, you can always go back to them later with more information.
  3. Exercise caution with embargoes. Embargoes have been a hotly debated topic of date and while there are benefits, there are also risks. While many reporters will honor them, not all do. Know the publication’s policy and develop a personal relationship with the reporter to ensure any pre-announcement outreach will go off without a hitch. Nobody wants an inbox full of emails from the media asking why they didn’t get an exclusive on the news!
  4. Pay attention to the subject line. Many PR pros argue that the subject line can be the most important part of a pitch. Reporters receive hundreds of emails every day, so how can you make your email standout? There are several winning ingredients: Be clear and concise, controversial and shocking, humorous, and don’t forget to personalize! Also, try not to overdo it with capitalization and punctuation. Would you want to open an email that’s subject line is “HOT NEW STARTUP!!??!!!!”? Probably not.
  5. Know your client and their industry. One of the key reasons companies choose PR professionals is for their relationships and knowledge of a specific industry. You should always be up-to-date on your client’s news, what their competitors are doing, and what’s going on in the their market. With a new flood of tracking and analytics tools, PR professionals are more empowered than ever to not just know their craft, but know their industries inside and out.
  6. Develop meaningful relationships. One thing we truly value here at Merritt Group is our relationships with reporters. It’s important to build relationships with the media on every level, not just professional. As we mentioned previously, finding a common interest is a great way to break the ice. Every relationship is a two-way street, so becoming a resource can have great return in the future for your clients. And remember — every interaction shouldn’t be a pitch. Trade shows and networking events are great for some face time.
  7. Follow reporters on social media. A great way to learn more about reporters is by following them on Twitter. Most reporters aren’t shy about tweeting what they do and don’t like when it comes to PR people. You definitely don’t want to be the laughingstock of a journalist’s Twitter account, especially when they’re friends with so many other reporters. Keep an eye out for what they post and think about it before pitching!

Do you have a tip that we didn’t include? If so, please share it below – we’d love to hear from you!

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