MGA recently embarked on a national media relations campaign for a client in the environmental measurement and monitoring industry. Even though MGA has done a lot of media relations over the years, our client was new to the process. The campaign was focused around a national product launch that consisted of a cross-country tour, Vaisala Across America, to over 40 cities in 16 weeks. The MGA team pitched media from Fargo to New York City and everything in between. For those of you new to media outreach, below are a few tips that we relied on throughout the tour.
Messaging is essential. Memorize your messaging like the back of your hand. I recommend having three versions of your elevator speech ready to go for when you call a reporter: one that is 15 seconds, 30 seconds and 45 seconds. Speak as you would like to be spoken to – don’t let buzz words get in the way of the true story.
Expect the unexpected. News happens. During the tour, we battled against four major news stories that were happening in the city where we had our tour stop – the Facebook Initial Public Offering at the New York Stock Exchange, the John Edwards jury selection, a murder-suicide and a massive flood. When this happens, follow-up a day or two later or offer as much material as you possibly can that day, so it takes less time for the reporter to put the story together. For example, we sent high-res b-roll, which included numerous sound bites and great visuals.
Be adaptive. Schedules change and reporters who say they are going to call you back don’t always do, so sometimes it’s easy to feel offended or disappointed. If they haven’t given you an absolute “no,” then it’s okay to be persistent. One more follow-up call or email isn’t going to put you on their black list. If you still aren’t getting an answer after your second follow-up then don’t be afraid to change your pitch or your reporter contact. Sometimes we can get too caught up in the pitch we have and forget to look for other angles that exist within the story.
Be confident. It can be a bit daunting to cold call a reporter you haven’t met before, but be confident. If you know that the story you are offering is timely, interesting, relevant and fits within the reporter’s beat, then you have nothing to worry about.
Think outside the box. Don’t be afraid to try something new or out of the ordinary. The goal is to get the reporters’ attention. Develop a new quote or sound bite, be creative with your lead and subject line (for e-mails), send a brief yet engaging pitch, do some digging on the reporter to see what their hobbies or interests are and include that in the pitch, or include links to other stories you’ve secured in other markets to help give them a better idea of what the story is truly about.
Use your resources. If you have a good relationship with a reporter and you feel comfortable reaching out to them or asking for their help in tracking down the right reporter for the story, then do it. Or if you have a friend with reporter connections, ask if you can use their name in your pitching. Often times, you’ll be more successful.
Overall, the tour was a great experience for Vaisala. The MGA team helped our client secure 100 media stories, raising their profile within their industry and with the general public. We couldn’t be more proud of Vaisala for taking the leap with us and being so enthusiastic throughout the entire process.
If you’re about to dive in to a media relations campaign, you can find additional tips on the Public Relations Society of America’s forum, PRSAY. Do you have other tips that you can share?