We like to describe our Midtown Manhattan Public Relations firm as a newsroom-meets-college dorm room, complete with piles of newspapers and magazines, desks in every corner, a dry-erase board with current client initiatives and a flat screen TV hung on the wall, so the team is constantly tuned into breaking news and the latest celebrity guffaw on the talk shows – basically a modern day classroom. As much as the atmosphere sounds like a buzzing boutique PR agency, I have noticed that as the team grows with new hires, the office gets quieter. The younger staff prefers tweeting client pitches instead of calling reporters on the phone.
PR clients want fast results and sometimes waiting for an email or a direct response takes too long. I have a hard time understanding why someone would not just pick up the phone and get an answer. After all, we are in the Public Relations industry and doesn’t that mean People Relations? It is important to be digital-savvy but not at the expense of sacrificing personal relationships with the media. As back-to-school season is upon us, I want to revisit s a few old-school PR tactics that balance both traditional and digital outreach and are a sure-fire way to win media results for our clients – even in this Social Media driven world.
- Pick up the phone: Every pitch should be followed-up by a phone call, not only will you establish a great repoire with the reporter but the client will be grateful knowing that their Media Relations Specialist actually followed-through on the efforts they are paying for. You will also be surprised at what a five-minute conversation can result in, including additional leads.
- Know your plan of attack: A colleague recently asked the best way to go about securing the famed New York Times society journalist Bill Cunningham at an upcoming event. Believe it or not, Mr. Cunningham asks that invites be sent via fax to the New York Times newsroom or snail mailed. An EP at NPR’s All Things Considered also prefers an old fashioned snail mail pitch, no email or fax please. As much as we may laugh at this archaic method, a lot can be gained by the direct mail approach and it is imperative to know how reporters prefer to be pitched. As an alternative, I have even seen reporters asking to be pitched via twitter only. Your communications approach can make or break the story.
- Coordinate desk-sides: Cultivating a relationship between your client and a targeted reporter is a great way to secure media results. The reporter likes to feel as though they have a relationship with their subject and feel important enough for a CEO or President to make the effort to visit them at their place of work. Thinking outside the box, we have even proposed sink-sides for a hair specialist launching a new line of shampoo where the reporter would have the experience of meeting the physician while receiving a hair treatment. Being creative in your approach always helps making your interview desirable.
- Write a thank-you note: A simple hand-written note, without typos of course, is a great way for you to build credibility with a reporter and to win points with them. Thanking them for their thoughtful attention to your client’s work or details in the story they wrote, is a smart way to prove yourself as a professional and grateful PR publicist! Who knows, if your stationary is creative enough, the reporter may even tweet or instagram your great note! Double win.
- Get out of the office: I am always alarmed when someone does not leave their desk for 8 – 10 hours at a time. In PR we should be out and about, relating to people, not glued to a computer screen. I love when the team takes field trips to the nearest food truck at lunch and tweets about their experience or initiates a client lunch or happy hour. Engaging, networking and talking shop in person is the best way to fine-tune your industry smarts. Who knows, you might even pick up a new client at the bar!
So, as we enter into the post-vacation and back-to-work season, remember #facetimeisthebesttime.
-Erin Tracy, Vice President, Regan Communications, NYC Office