PR Tool Kit: How to Drive Earned Media

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We have created a media relations 101 guide for public relations pros to learn the best practices and tips of the PR trade. We have included three sections:

  • Section 1: How to research and pitch media

  • Section 2: How to write a press release

  • Section 3: How to write and submit a guest post

We hope this guide gives you the basic PR tools you need to drive more earned media for your clients and/or brand!

Section 1: How to Research and Pitch Media

Your company likely has a compelling story to tell the world. All you need now is someone willing and able to tell it. Getting the right kind of PR can give your company a healthy boost of visibility, generate buzz, and potentially attract qualified leads and customers. Matching the right story to the right reporter is key to landing a media placement that will benefit all parties involved.

Don’t waste time throwing as many pitches as possible to a blanket list of reporters. Instead, choose a reporter with an interest or specialized knowledge about the subject and beat that your story falls under. This way, the story will get in front of the audience your business is targeting.

Finding the right reporter takes time and research. You will also have to craft persuasive pitches and be responsive to reporters’ needs in a timely manner.

The following five effective PR strategies will help you find the right reporter and get your story in front of your target audience.

1. Do your homework

Before you can start pitching, you need to figure out which reporters are worth reaching out to about your story idea. Immerse yourself in reading an enormous amount of different publications — magazines, newspapers, trade journals, blogs, etc. Read every relevant publication that pertains to your industry. Doing so will give you a good sense of which media outlet would be best suited and most likely to feature your story. Eventually, you’ll start to recognize the names of reporters that cover your beat.

2. Track similar stories

Create a spreadsheet to keep track of links to articles that are similar to the kind you’d like to see written about your company along with the authors’ names. Update your journalist database or list regularly so that you’ll be able to keep things organized once you start sending your PR pitch to various publications.

3. Make contact with reporters

Once you pinpoint the reporters whom you want to cover your story, send media a pitch note through email, phone, or a direct message on social media. Their contact info (email and/or twitter handle) will often be featured on the article or publication’s website. Otherwise, a quick Google search will likely dig up what you need. For reaching out to those who may be harder to find, consider investing in a journalist database like Cision, Meltwater or Trendkite — PR tools with extensive media contact information.

4. Emphasize the benefits the reporter will gain from writing the story

Good PR pitching is not just about asking a reporter to write your story. Rather, try to establish a rapport. Be courteous and friendly. It also helps to compliment the reporter or talk about something the reporter is interested in, such as a topic they recently covered. Show that you have done your homework and understand what they’re all about. Next, demonstrate in your pitch note how the story aligns with the reporter’s interests. Be wary of coming off as only trying to advance your own cause. Explain why the story is not one of the hundreds of PR pitches the reporter receives every week. Show them why your story would interest their readers and emphasize that publishing it would be mutually beneficial for both you and the writer.

5. Be responsive in your correspondence and respect your reporters’ time

Reporters often work on tight deadlines. Once they commit to your story, they will depend on timely correspondence to get it done. Make sure to supply them with all the relevant information they need and address any requests for additional information promptly. After you’ve done your part, it’s important to follow up with the reporter, but be careful not to become a nuisance.

Solidifying good relationships with reporters you trust is an essential part of aiding your PR efforts. By establishing a good reputation with writers, you’ll likely receive continued coverage for your company well into the future.

Section 2: How to Write a Press Release

A successfully executed public relations strategy rests on good press releases. These brief, informative documents share announcements about company events, product releases and updates, and other newsworthy items about your organization.

Press releases do more than keep the media, the industry, and the public informed about your business’s recent developments. They are also intended to pique the curiosity of journalists and inspire them to do further research on the topic. Crafting a press release is often the first step toward landing a feature story in a magazine or a television interview, which can provide a company with greater visibility, awareness, and new customers.

Journalists are flooded with potential stories and pitches on a daily basis. Therefore, it’s crucial that your press release stand out from the pack of people doing PR outreach. While the basic format of a press release is simple, the content should be compelling and interesting.

Here are eight tips for how to write a press release that will help your company stand out, look professional, and attract writers looking for juicy stories.

1. Grab their attention

About eighty percent of readers don’t make it past the headline. A good press release headline should give the reader an idea of what the rest of piece is about and interest them enough to read further. Make sure you use a captivating headline for your press release and in the subject lines of your email when you send the pitch.

2. Get to the point

Respect that reporters are extremely busy and, if you’re lucky, will only read the first sentence and skim the rest. Therefore, be sure to get the message of your press release across right in the beginning. All of the important points should be addressed in the headline and the first few sentences. The subsequent paragraphs should only feature supporting information. Think of it as an inverse pyramid where the information that is of greatest importance is at the top and items of lesser importance are at the bottom.

3. Include data

Avoid excessive hyperbole and embellishment. Reporters are not interested in fluff. Your job is to pack your press release with hard, cold data and relevant statistics that back up your claims and demonstrate the newsworthiness of your company, story, product, or announcement.

4. Proofread carefully

This cannot be stressed enough. Carefully proofread and edit your press release, always! Have a third party look it over before sending it out. Even a seemingly minor typo or grammar mistake can turn off a reporter and convince her not to take you seriously.

5. Include quotes if possible

Including a good quote from someone in the company or close to the product, event or story can add a dash of color as well as a human element to the press release. Reporters can include the quote in the eventual article and will appreciate not having to ask you for one. A quote also breaks up the facts and stats that can make a press release seemingly dry.

6. Include your contact information

Although it may seem obvious, neglecting to include contact information is an unfortunately all-too-common blunder that can sabotage a good press release. Without your contact info, reporters are unable to follow up with you. Don’t forget to include a phone number and email where you or someone else at the company can be reached.

7. One page ideal, two page maximum

Like everyone else, reporters don’t have a lot of time to read, so shorter is usually better. Try to keep your press release down to one page. You can allow yourself a maximum of two pages if necessary, but try not to go over that limit. Imposing such brevity on your press release forces you to keep them cogent — something reporters will appreciate.

8. Provide additional resources for further information

Although you should limit your press release to one or two pages, there is still room for including resources for those would who would like to know more. Feature relevant links where reporters can access additional information. Also, include a link to your company’s website so prospective writers can learn more about you and what you’ve accomplished. Including this additional information is an essential part of the press release. Don’t expect writers to go through the trouble of searching for it on their on their own.

Follow these eight steps and you’re well on your way to writing a readable press release that will catch the attention of writers and encourage them to do a story about you or your business.

Section 3: How to Write & Submit a Guest Post

Guest posts, or bylined articles, are fantastic for gaining credibility in your industry. Without promoting your company itself, you demonstrate your knowledge and expertise on industry trends and news and even get to show off your superb writing skills.

There are some steps you can take to increase the quality of your byliner and the chances it will end up in one of your desired publications.

1. Know which media outlets you want to pitch

Determining this will help you set your writing style, which should complement the writing style of the publication.

2. Review writing guidelines provided by publications

Do this before and during your writing process to ensure that your piece will qualify as a guest post or article for for the publication.

3. Check whether your topic has been written about before

Doing this will help you decide whether your article idea is fresh and relevant or stale and overdone.

4. Be concise and sharp

Choose your words wisely. An article that is too wordy may lose the attention of the reader.

5. Write a memorable headline

You know as a reader that if the headline doesn’t grab your attention, you likely won’t open the article. The same applies here. Think punchy words, symbols, catch-phrases, numbers, etc.

6. Use stats to back up your writing

Especially in this day in age, where most can google and gather information quickly, it’s crucial to provided research that backs up your ideas.</p><p>While there’s no guarantee your article will be well-received or even published, going through these steps will certainly up those chances!