Julia Hood, chief content officer at Haymarket Business Media in New York, delivered an information-packed presentation on the art of pitching at The University of Alabama PRSSA Southeastern Regional Conference. Hood provided a compelling speech with guidelines for young public relations professionals.
At the start of her speech, Hood touched on the constantly changing world of media relations, as more and more media channels begin to develop. She emphasized that since audiences have so many choices, brands are becoming media companies, and newsrooms are shrinking as journalists make the transition toward brand content. Due to these changes, Hood said that public relations professionals are facing more competition in getting reporters’ attention. She then began listing tips and tricks to conquer the world of media relations. With these tips, she placed strong emphasis on the importance of building and maintaining relationships with journalists.
1. Treat journalists like clients. “They are the customer of your news and message,” she said.
Hood also advised students on ways to develop a liaison with reporters. She suggested helping them effectively do their jobs by giving them a leg up on the competition and making sure they obtain the assets they need.
2. Meet reporters halfway. Hood also highlighted the importance of being mobile and going to your reporter rather than asking them to come to you.
“Face to face is vital,” Hood said. Bring the story and, if possible, your executives to them because reporters often do not leave their desks.
3. Educate, educate, educate. She urged students to educate themselves and to break out of their comfort zone. It helps to build trust when you take the time to learn about the reporter’s other beats. Hood suggested helping by sourcing experts when you send your pitch. Also, work your angle.
4. Work like a reporter. She advocated for developing multimedia and social packages to send to reporters rather than sending lengthy B roll. This approach will help your content gain traction.
5. Be professional, but fight to ensure proper journalistic standards. Hood advised to always fight for fairness and the truth. “Sometimes journalists cut corners—push back if you haven’t had time to assemble context,” Hood said. It is vital to maintain professionalism, but always fight for the truth to be reported, and never accept the bare minimum.
“If you can get a neutral story, you’ve won,” Hood said.
6. Learn and use the business side of media organizations. Hood pointed out that being open to discussing commercial operations and paying attention to meaningful partnerships can open up more channels to deliver your message.
7. Play the long game. “You’re not going to like every story,” Hood said. It isn’t worth it to cut ties with a media outlet due to one story that doesn’t portray your company in the most favorable view. As long as a story reports the truth, the journalist is doing their job. Media and truth are still important, regardless of your company’s image.
The guidelines that Julia Hood provided were incredibly useful and insightful for public relations practitioners of every sector. Pitching is not only about drafting the perfect email, but rather building give-and-take relationships with reporters. It is becoming increasingly more competitive to get your story out there; therefore, it is crucial to have strong relationships with the media in order to gain maximum exposure.
Kiara Mitchell is a public relations student at The University of Alabama and a marketing & promotions intern for the Crimson Tide Athletic Department. You can read her personal blog: Candidly Kiara or connect with her on LinkedIn.