if you are still sending out press releases over the wire headed "press release" or "for immediate release," you are just setting yourself up for rejection according to a panel of journalists at today's Social Media Summit in San Francisco.
For most of these young journos, the days of press releases for assignment editors are over. In the current media environment, each journalist is encouraged to develop a personal brand, and the place they're doing it is on the big social sites: Twitter and Facebook.
So, according to Kym McNicholas, a reporter for Forbes.com, make a list of outlets you want to be covered by, find out who the writers are, read their stories until you find the ones who might be covering the space your company is in, and then establish a relationship. McNicholas says, "ask to friend me on Facebook, but don't do it without a personal note telling me why."
Many journalists will accept, McNicholas says. They want lots of friends because they want to build their personal networks, and they are rewarded for having a big footprint across the Web. After you friend a journalist, engage regularly and read their stories, post comments, share their stories with your friends and colleagues, and ask people in your company to make comments and share the stories further. To the journalist, that's a huge win, and he or she will feel like they owe you one back, so to speak.
For Ben Parr, the outspoken editor of Mashable, it's a slightly different story, because his publication is online only and everyone in his constituency knows how to use social media tools. He gets several hundred emails a day, dozens of tweets and emails, all of them pitching, pitching, pitching, and he's overwhelmed. He even has an email filter that filters out press releases: "It takes me two weeks to get through an email cycle," he says, "and you have no chance without a direct relationship. Don't expect to hear anything from email in less than two weeks."
The entire panel thought that if you did pitch by email, the email should be short and make it's point in the title or the opening line. The email should be personal, too. Public companies should put up blog posts with press release material in them.
What's in the best story pitches?
- Numbers and stats - startups should reveal numbers and stats- Foursquare tweets them out!
- Breaking news that hasn't been discussed before
- A relationship to a trend (see Google news to see what's trending)
- A news peg that's real
And there's a difference between platforms. For example, TV covers fires and robberies, and for them, timing is everything. Their editorial meetings are typically at 3PM, so if you pitch at 2:30:-for evening news you have a better chance of being covered than if you pitch at the traditional 8 AM.
For the tech blogs, Parr suggests that you not release when Google does. That means checking the news cycle.Technology launches need to be simultaneous or they won't be covered Weekends are especially good for tech blogs, if your PR people are accessible on Sunday, and can get to your CEO, because will lose your story if you don't respond to a reporter within twenty minutes. When I was in PR, I once responded to a reporter in Arizona while I was riding in a jeep in Rwanda!
Local TV, says Joe Vasquez of KPIX, also likes Sunday releases, because that's their biggest news viewing night.
Some common "don'ts":
- Don't play the NY bureau against the West Coast bureau
- Don't make cold phone calls
- Don't make grandiose claims, like "we will be the next Facebook"
One thing has really changed since the days when I owned a PR firm or worked at Intel: the deep dark secrets of the media have now been revealed. It is easy to find and talk to any journalist if you have something to say that will interest them. They are now paid for "performance," which means there are metrics telling how many readers they have individually, rather than just how many subscribers the outlet itself has. And that has changed their modus operandi: they want to reach out to you--if you can help them both get great stories and share those stories.