Five Tips for Media Relations Success

February 3, 2009 · 17 comments


My last post – Relationships Don’t Matter MOST in Media Relations – sparked some spirited conversations last week. Most people who commented agreed. A few disagreed. One asked if I would share more about what I believe DOES matter most in media relations.

Here’s my take on that. It’s based on what has helped me hit media relations home runs so far in my career. These are the tips I’ve used to land a couple thousand great stories for my clients in places like Good Morning America, People magazine, The New York Times and The Today Show.

T-1. The Silver Platter – This is one of the two most important ingredients in media relations success. It involves going beyond developing a great story angle to pull together everything a reporter would need to tell the story. Dig up stats and trends to support your angle. Find a third-party expert willing to be interviewed on the topic and offer them up as part of the pitch. Make it hard for the reporter to say “no thanks.” Serve the story up on a silver platter.

T-1. Relevancy – Relevancy is the second of the two most important ingredients. The perfect pitch doesn’t matter to the wrong reporter. Don’t trust Cision or Vocus blindly. Before calling a reporter, look at the last five stories she’s written. What does she cover? Is your story relevant to her? Is it relevant to her readers?

3. Relationships – Relationships are very important. You build them by delivering on the first two tips above. Relationships get you returned phone calls, opened e-mails, incoming calls when a source is needed and, sometimes, allow you to mitigate or lessen potentially negative news. (Hey, I didn’t say relationships DON’T matter. I said they don’t matter MOST.)

4. Resourcefulness – Your ability to come through in the clutch will save stories from getting scrapped. I once worked with Good Morning America on a story that took a span of two months to pull off. It almost fell through three different times, but I kept sharing alternative ideas with the producers to keep it going. Don’t easily accept missed opportunities if you believe they are worthwhile. Hustle. Be creative. Be resourceful.

5. Guard the Gates – Protect the reporters you’ve built working relationships with during your career. Don’t hand off their contact info at the request of everyone in your department without first finding out what they are pitching. If it’s a poor pitch, tell them your contact wouldn’t be interested. If you must share the reporter’s info, insist that your colleague NOT use your name as a way into the conversation. Too many poor pitches that start with “David Mullen said I should give you a call” will quickly be bad for me.

What about you? What are your tips and tricks for generating more news coverage for your brand or your clients?

*Image by Rick Harrison.

{ 5 trackbacks }

The Art of the “Reverse Pitch”
February 3, 2009 at 8:54 pm
Media relations: Be a Resource | The PR Practitioner
February 5, 2009 at 11:11 pm
Make the Jump…Silver Platters, Stupidity, Saving the Newspaper « PR Musings Weblog
February 9, 2009 at 9:57 am
17 Links to Bookmark So You Can Pitch Like a Pro « PR Interactive
February 11, 2009 at 6:33 am
25 Tips from 25 PR Experts « apm35
February 4, 2010 at 2:07 am

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Melanie Thompson February 3, 2009 at 8:53 am

Try to provide your contacts with non-client information. It shows the reporter that you care about their success and that you really understand their beat. By putting the reporter’s needs above your own, you are deepening the relationship, which will benefit you in the long run.


2 davidmullen February 3, 2009 at 9:16 am

Melanie – great addition. When you can do that, it’s a great way to show you’re resourceful and build relationships.

For example, I’ve worked with the executive producer of one of our local TV affiliates on four stories in the past few months. Two stories were on one of my clients. The other two were on things happening in the community that I knew about, but had nothing to do with my clients.

Now she calls me to see if there’s anything going on when she needs story ideas because she knows I’m connected in the community and that I share more than just client news. It’s been great for building our relationship. In fact, we grab coffee together once every two or three weeks to chat.


3 Keith Veseleny February 3, 2009 at 10:25 am

As an editor I agree 100% with the Silver Platter approach, we almost always run a story if its delivered in this manner unless it is too self serving. I am very busy and if you just give me a research project then it ends up as just that… a post it note of something to do when I’m bored (which rarely happens)


4 Richie Escovedo February 3, 2009 at 10:31 am

Great list David. I would only add the following: Read what they read – Try to pay as much attention as possible to the things that your reporters are focusing on and get a jump on national stories with potential local legs. We’ve anticipated stories (or potential stories) based on what we knew our reporter friends were following.


5 Lara Kretler February 3, 2009 at 11:07 am

Love the list, as well as the comments. I would also add “bundle stories.” I usually don’t go to a reporter with just one angle or pitch – I give them two or three options with different hooks. That way they are more likely to find something they like. If they bite on one, then I go right to your “Silver Platter” approach above to flesh it out and truly provide value.


6 Jackie Brook February 3, 2009 at 12:41 pm

Great post, David. One tip that I’d like to add is to re-read your pitch, then trim it down by at least 50%.

There’s no argument that an editor’s or reporter’s time is valuable; showing you understand that by writing clear, concise, and thoughtful pitches will take you a long way.


7 Ari Adler February 3, 2009 at 1:10 pm

Great post David.

I strongly encourage people to build relationships with reporters, not just to get stories, but also to help mold stories and, sometimes, diminish or kill them.

I’ve developed relationships with reporters that have helped me trust that when I’m speaking to them “on background,” that’s really what it is and I won’t be quoted.

Sometimes, reporters aren’t looking for a quote or a pitch from your side, they just want help to understand the issue a little better.

Other times, being able to explain an issue more in depth helps reporters realize there are more important things to cover today.

In my career, I’ve been quoted thousands of times, had my employers’ names scattered hither and yon with publicity and, more importantly, kept an employer’s name OUT of a story a few times, too. :)


8 James S. Walker February 3, 2009 at 1:31 pm

What you say regarding relevancy is SO VERY KEY! Cision has definitely led me off the trail in the past.

In addition, reading the last few stories clues you into a lot about how reporters tend to cover a story, and if you find a tie-in from a piece they’ve done, you’ve definitely got their ear.


9 Caleb Gardner February 3, 2009 at 4:19 pm

Great tips, David. Thanks again for following up on my request.

I especially liked the part about resourcefulness, which is something a lot of people forget but can come in handy in a pinch. If you really believe in a story, why shouldn’t you fight for it?


10 Matt Batt February 3, 2009 at 8:24 pm

David – Great follow-up to your post last week! I think your 5 tips for media relations success are right on. In fact, the debate you triggered with your last post…then reading this post inspired me to share one of the most important tactics that I learned, something I call the “reverse pitch.” If you check out my blog post today, we might be able to share in some of the conversation on this topic. Overall, I think PR and marketing people need to utilize some degree of commonsense when pitching the media. By that I mean realizing that these journalists are in control of thier company or client’s story and it doesn’t hurt to start your interactions off with questions instead of diving right into your pitching…hence the art of “reverse pitching.”

As always, I enjoy your professional opinions on these subjects and really enjoy seeing the dialog you spark as a result!



11 Scott Meis February 3, 2009 at 10:34 pm

Nice comment flow and additions to a solid post here. In particular, I really like #4 for a couple of different reasons. First, being resourceful can mean helping think through an angle or offering an alternative idea. Think beyond the press release or original pitch. Is there additional content (video, podcast, etc.) or an additional spokesperson you can supply? Is this maybe not just right for the paper but a better fit for the reporter’s blog? In today’s media climate, I think any reporter respects that you’re willing to help do the hard thinking.

Second, be that person willing to put other people’s needs in front of your own. Story on HARO not quite a fit for you? Take a lead and direct a tweet to a contact who may be a better fit. Play the role of connector and you’ll be paving a smoother path for your future needs.


12 weight loss Houston May 6, 2009 at 3:45 am

hi all,
Nice list David but its just only for the famous man or woman because media will going to write about them but what about the common man…..


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