In the last ten years and with the emergence of new tactics and disciplines, the number of people working in PR has increased by an incredible 78%. Whilst this is great news for the industry as a whole, more PRs means more stories, and therefore more competition for those all important “column inches” and juicy backlinks.
Gone are the days PR people would have to schmooze journalists with a boozy lunch in order to convince them to take an interest in their clients’ news, and with 9 in 10 journalists saying they prefer PR professionals to pitch via email instead of phone calls, that means emails have got to cut through the noise more than ever.
So how are PRs expected to build relationships with journalists in 2022? And more importantly, do they even matter?
The relationship between a PR person and a journalist is pretty straightforward, and one that, ideally, is mutually beneficial. In short, PRs – and Digital PRs in particular – are tasked with creating newsworthy content that journalists want to use and write about. We’re making journalists’ jobs easier by providing them with news to fill their pages, whilst they’re returning the favour by giving our client’s stellar coverage and (hopefully!) backlinks to their websites.
Journalists are measured by their outputs and the level of engagement their articles receive, so they’re often on the lookout for click-worthy and shareable content that will get people talking. This means that whether you’ve worked with or spoken to that journalist previously or not, if you provide them with content that they simply cannot refuse, they should run it.
For this reason, content is king. It shouldn’t necessarily matter if you have a previous relationship with a journalist. If you have a brilliant story that you know fits their ‘patch’ and the topics they usually write about, they’ll simply have to run it! The bonus here is that if you consistently provide them with valuable content that they end up using, they’ll be more likely to open your emails going forward.
Content is king, and consistency is key.
You could be ready to launch the best campaign you’ve ever worked on, but if you don’t nail your pitch, it’s likely to go down like a lead balloon.
In an ideal world, PR people would have all the time they could possibly want to carefully research each and every journalist’s writing in order to craft bespoke and detailed pitch emails. Similarly, journalists would also have the time to read said lengthy pitch and respond accordingly. However, the reality is that working in the media industry – both as a PR and journalist – is extremely time intensive, and there simply are not enough hours in the day to do this.
So in order for your email to cut through the noise and have your campaign seen by the right journalists, it’s best to keep things short and sweet. MuckRack have summed up the purpose of the pitch pretty well:
“A PR pitch is a short personalised message that outlines the value of a story and explains why it should be published.”
Get it right, and again it won’t matter if you have an existing relationship with the journalist or not. A carefully curated pitch means that journalists will be more inclined to see your subject line, open your email and use your content.
Here are some tips for nailing the pitch, courtesy of MuckRack:
91% of journalists prefer pitches under 200 words. Nearly half (46%) prefer 1-200 words and a quarter (25%) prefer under 100 words.
68% of journalists prefer to receive pitches between 5AM and 12PM. Journalists again cited Monday as their favourite day to receive pitches (57%), followed by Tuesday (20%).
86% of journalists are OK with a follow up email within one week of the initial message. The other 14% prefer a follow up over one week from the initial pitch. 90% of journalists say it’s OK to send at least one follow up email; 38% say two or more.
Here’s an example of a pitch email we used recently. The content ended up being used on several national news sites with juicy follow links:
If you give journalists exactly what they want – quality stories that are relevant to their patch and likely to get lots of engagement – it won’t matter if you have an existing relationship with them or not. However, do this consistently and the bonus is that journalists will know they can trust you to provide the goods, and you’ll build a mutually beneficial relationship along the way. You might even find that journalists start coming to you directly, to see if you and your clients can help with stories they’re working on.
Remember that quality content is king, and pitches should be short and sweet in order to catch journalists’ attention.