‘PR Boot Camp’ Offers Helpful Tips for Pitching Stories to the Press

by Jeremy Schoolfield

The media may be changing in the digital age, but the fundamental principles of working with journalists still apply. Thursday four media professionals provided a well-rounded discussion of how to get your attraction better press coverage during “PR Boot Camp.”

Veteran industry public relations professional Mindy Bianca offered “10 Tips for Working with the Media”:

1. Find your unique story angles. “There is a story everywhere, but sometimes you’re too close to it to realize it’s a story,” Bianca said.

2. Know your story and stay on it.

3. Know who you’re pitching. Be specific and get to know reporters.

4. Anticipate the needs and questions of the media.

5. Put as much in writing as you can. This helps reporters get all the details right after they leave your attraction.

6. Welcome the media to your site. “We sell experiences, so bring reporters out,” she said.

7. Be generous with your time and respectful of theirs.

8. It’s OK if you don’t know all the answers on the spot—just be sure to get them to the reporter ASAP.

9. It’s not all about you. Journalists rarely are looking for profiles anymore, Bianca said, so don’t feel slighted if you’re part of a broader story such as a listicle. Take the coverage wherever you can get it.

10. Don’t get too cozy with journalists. “There is no off-the-record,” Bianca said.

Brett Meister handles global PR for the Harlem Globetrotters. He offered five of his own tips for getting your story out:

1. Look for any “firsts” or “-ests” you can use as a hook.

2. Be nimble and change plans quickly based on the news cycle. “Don’t be stubborn if there’s an opportunity to take advantage of a current news event.”

3. Provide media training for staff outside the PR department. Give them three key message points to get across in every interview.

4. Don’t assume reporters know anything about you.

5. Have a backup plan if the reporter isn’t interested in the first pitch.

Scott Fais is an award-winning features reporter for Central Florida News 13 in Orlando. He offered the other side’s perspective in the session. He concurred with Bianca that relationships are the key to producing great stories, and offered these three tips on building a bond of trust with reporters:

1. In-office visits establish a relationship by putting faces with names; showing a personal interest in the reporter is key.

2. Invite reporters to your site just for an educational visit (without a hard pitch).

3. Provide as much detail as possible with fact sheets, names and titles of sources, etc.

What doesn’t work? Blanket e-mailing press releases with no personal pitch. And even worse? Following up on those blanket pitches with impersonal “did you receive my press release” e-mails. Fais says he almost always permanently blocks e-mail addresses whenever that scenario occurs.



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