"If it's really hard to be in marketing and PR right now, then it's nearly impossible to work as a journalist." That was our assessment at the start of 2023, after major media outlets' "bad winter" of sweeping layoffs.
And welp, it's gotten worse since then. Today, the reporters and editors left standing after even more big cuts are being asked to get by with much less in an industry that's dogged by a double-whammy dip in consumer trust and ad revenue.
So, what can brands and the publicists who work with them do to make connections with reporters and, in turn, place winning stories with influential outlets? Turns out, a lot. Even with headwinds blowing strong.
Here are our top tips to amp up your game in the year ahead. Be sure to read through to #6, our most timely and important tip of all for PR pitching in 2024.
1 - Know the media landscape Doing your research before pitching is critical. Read through an outlet's recent coverage and get to know the reporters and what they cover. Many journalists have more than one beat, which makes it super important to know what they DON'T cover. Pitch only the stuff that is a great match; otherwise, you'll frustrate them with a pitch that's totally outside their wheelhouse.
2 - Be prepared to answer quickly and be available If you pitch a journalist on a Monday and they respond that day, don't sit on the email until Thursday while you gather your response and check if your sources are available. Get back to them immediately, ask about deadlines, and go from there.
And remember: Many journalists are faced with rolling deadlines every single day. If they don't hear from you right away – sometimes in a matter of hours – they may be forced to move onto another story or expert source.
3 - Adopt a multifaceted approach Old PR models often put a lot of emphasis on the "spray and pray" method – i.e. sending out a single press release to a list of thousands. That simply doesn't work anymore. You can still issue a release but it should be one part of a multifaceted approach that also includes personalized pitches, press kits, press conferences, media advisories, social teases, photo opps, etc.
4 - Don't stalk on social, but do engage Liking and commenting on reporters' posts – and, importantly, engaging in positive ways with their coverage – is a good way to build rapport. But social is not the platform for pitching. Unless a reporter explicitly notes in their bio that they're open to DMs, don't hit them up on IG.
5 - Offer up experts who can provide context
A good way to make friends with a reporter is to offer them a bona fide expert who can help them with a story they're working on. But this requires relationship building up front so that you know what and who they're looking for and when.
6 - Pay attention to the Zeitgeist This one might be the most important tip of all as we head toward what experts in commerce, culture, diplomacy and government affairs say will be a season of increased economic uncertainty and geopolitical tension. As you work every day on pitches, keep your eyes on the world. Monitor headlines in spaces that impact your client – but also and importantly, in realms outside their usual reach. If you don't read the room, so to speak, you could open your mouth or amplify messages that get yourself and your client in trouble for being out of touch, insensitive or worse.
When timing your media outreach, look beyond the current headlines and consider other ongoing or long-term shifts in social and cultural climate and their impact on humanity.
And, finally, think about how all of the above impacts journalists' workloads. After all, when trends emerge or news breaks, they're on the story, day and night.