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Ask any basketball coach what his or her plan is for the first practice after a big loss. More than likely, those coaches would identify one or two parts of the game that caused the team to lose, and then they’d train the team’s focus on those elements. The famous but clichéd quote heard during the losing teams’ press conferences all over the country is, “We didn’t play well tonight. In fact, we were terrible. It’s time for us to go back to the fundamentals.”
In basketball, the fundamentals are rebounding, playing good defense, taking care of the ball, etc. But what are the fundamentals of media relations?
As communications pros, sometimes we get so caught up in winning the game of media relations – tracking down our targets and figuring out a way to get a stack of clips – that we lose sight of the fundamentals.
You are the leader – the point guard – of the team, and it’s your job to run the plays…err, pitch the stories…that will get your client the best results. But before you hit send on an email or pick up the phone to follow up, remind yourself of these three fundamentals of working with members of the media and you’ll have more success in generating winning results:
News Trumps Everything. Yes, Everything. – It doesn’t matter how cute your headline is, or what type of cool video you’ve created to support your media outreach. If you don’t have news to share with the media, don’t waste their time. In my experience, news has several characteristics – it’s different, it’s timely (recent), it’s prominent, and/or it creates controversy or consequence. Be sure your news has at least one or two of these elements, and you’ll have a better chance at securing coverage.
Navigate the Newsroom – If you’ve never worked in a newsroom, you’ve also likely never seen the chaos and scrambling that is done as deadline quickly approaches. You’ve probably also haven’t been on the receiving end of 200 unsolicited phone calls from readers and PR people who are complaining or pitching stories, respectively. Understanding when reporters are on deadline – and not interrupting them when they’re scrambling – will improve your chances of them listening to your news and finding a place to use it.
Rely on Relationships – Sometimes the news you’re pitching isn’t that strong, but results are needed just the same. What to do? Call in a favor. Journalists remember the most helpful PR people first – like the time when you helped them wrangle up a source at the last minute or provided much needed artwork for their blog post. You can tap them for a favor too. Ask their opinion on your story’s news value or ask them to filter it around the newsroom for discussion. The relationship you built could prove to be the jumpstart that your pitch needed.
Easy to remember? Yes. Simple? Yes, and extremely important in your day-to-day media activities. Just like in basketball, the fundamentals are your foundation and something you can lean on time and time again.
(Plus, those fundamentals will keep you off the Bad Pitch Blog.)