4 Media Relations Questions to Ask Before Pitching

“NOBODY CARES!”

Sounds harsh, but when I was a major market talk radio host, our staff played a sound effect in a deep booming voice saying just that, “NOBODY CARES!” It was a method to remind ourselves (on the air) that we’re droning on a topic too much without a payoff for the listener. Twitter was really just becoming popular and society’s shrinking attention span hadn’t quite become as short as it is today.

Fast forward from the beginning of this decade through the age of Instagram, Snapchat, click-bait, and #FakeNews. Today, holding the viewer, listener, and/or reader’s attention is much harder than before. Producers, hosts, and journalists are under pressure to grab and hold audiences across multiple media platforms.

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This means quality media relations requires stellar creativity and news judgment. Our job is to protect clients, provide opportunities to deliver key messages, and offer value to media contacts.

Since we’re always in a balancing act, here are four media relations questions to ask before pitching:

  1. “What’s in it for ME?” – There’s a reason this question is at the top of my LinkedIn profile. With any topic or story, you have to answer this question from the media consumer’s point of view. If there’s nothing in the pitch of value for the viewer, listener, or reader, then there’s very little chance you’ll secure meaningful media coverage. Another way to ask this: Will anyone care? If the only person who will care about the topic/story is your client, manage expectations for quality earned coverage.
  1. “What are you working on?” – Ask your media contacts this question out of genuine curiosity. Newsrooms are shrinking and our media contacts are now juggling many internal responsibilities. We shouldn’t forget to serve them, even if not in our own best interest. Connect them with someone you don’t represent if you can easily help. Build the relationship(media relations) to be a great resource and not just pitching when you need something from the producer/journalist. A mentor of mine, a former newspaper writer and communications director for a global brand, reminded me of this tip earlier this year.
  1. “Will my client allow us to tie them to breaking news?” – There are two categories in media: What’s in the news and everything else. When building my daily talk show topic grids, we’d break out topics and pitches like this to prioritize the amount of airtime we’d devote to a conversation. Take a look at your Twitter timeline. You can apply the same filter and see a direct correlation to what tweets get the best engagement. If you are lucky enough to have a client who is an expert on a topic and is willing to comment on the news of now, thank your lucky stars. It’s still your best shot to land top tier earned media. Even more so in the Trump era. Understandably, not all clients will let you go there. Be grateful for those who do.
  1. “How can we add meat to the bone?” – Said more professionally, “How can we enhance the story?” Said less professionally, “How can we giftwrap this turd?” (Did I mention I was a former radio shock jock?) Gathering additional sources for our media contacts is one way to help when asked. Sometimes it’s as simple as fielding a market research PR survey to generate standout data when pitching. Just remember to get creative when developing your survey questionnaire. Within market research guidelines, do your best to craft questions and answers that could payoff with stats that open media opportunities.

In summation: How do we keep everybody caring? Honest council with clients. Heaping loads of creativity. Helping our media contacts however we can when possible.

Need help with media relations? We’ve got your back!

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