About this time last year, I was in the process of moving to Sacramento and was extremely single. At my friends’ behest, I tried my hand at online dating, thinking it would be a great way to meet new people and, more importantly, become better-acquainted with the city that I now call home. I soon found that online dating, although fun, was absolutely exhausting. I spent countless hours attempting to vet my online suitors via Facebook stalking, eagerly awaited each first date and then waited to receive the even-more anticipated “I had a great time” text the following day.
Little did I know that my rollercoaster of a dating life would prepare me for what now is one of my favorite parts of my job: media pitching. It’s an aspect of PR that most professionals dread, but when it’s approached like dating (which, understandably, some people dread even more), it can be a lot easier and, dare I say it, fun.
Do your research. After receiving a message in my OKCupid inbox from a potential suitor, I would immediately do three things:
1) Check out his dating profile. Likes, dislikes, proximity to where I live, what we have in common
2) Do more research. Look at his Facebook to see what he’s been up to lately
3) Check the FBI’s “Most Wanted” list…but that one definitely doesn’t apply to pitching
Number 3 aside, the same effort of research you put into deciding to date someone should always go into preparing a media list. Your time is precious and you don’t want to waste it trying to court the wrong reporter. After all, the same sense of rejection that can come with the dating process can also accompany media pitching. It’s important to take the time to figure out which reporters and publications will be the right fit for your client. Take your time—learn each reporter’s beat and area of coverage, what articles they’ve written lately, determine if they’re the best fit for your client and what is the best way to contact them.
Don’t fear rejection. The term “jumping in with both feet” fits the online dating process as perfectly as it does pitching media. Contacting someone you don’t know can be nerve-wracking and, what’s more, you want there to be chemistry. Pitching is a lot like suggesting to someone that you meet up for coffee; you want to tailor your message in a way that’s courteous but not overzealous–even better if you can do it in a funny and clever way. Similar to how one guy messaged me “hey girl, coffee?” and failed to get a response, the same lack of attention or personalization to pitching a news release will fail to get your client any coverage. Rejection happens, but with the right approach and enough practice, you’re sure to have more success.
Follow-up. Failing to send a timely follow-up after a first date can make the other party wonder if going on the date was actually worth their time and doubt that there will be a second date. It’s just as important to thank a reporter or editor for covering an event, as it is to thank those who couldn’t cover it this time around. A “thank you” email or a shout-out on Twitter can be key in helping cultivate any future relationship you have with a reporter and helps them remember you. Similar to the much-anticipated “I had a great time” text following a date (or phone call, if they’re feeling extremely chivalrous), following-up with a reporter leaves a great impression and assures them that their time wasn’t wasted.
Taking a human approach to media pitching can make it less scary and actually makes a big difference in the responses you’ll receive. Don’t be afraid to jump in with both feet, and remember: reporters are people, too.
And in case you were wondering about how my online dating went, that was also a success.