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Archive for the ‘Press Releases’ Category

I’m without the Internet except during my lunch break during the week for the time being, so I’m going to squeeze in a post while I have the chance. I hope to be back up and running sooner than later.girlonphone.gif

My current internship experience is focusing heavily on media relations, which is my area of least expertise, so I am learning a great deal that I wasn’t able to pick up in the classroom. I think the difficulty with learning media relations in class, at least for me, was that we weren’t able to interact with the media. Pretty key component from what I’ve seen. It was great learning about building media lists, what elements typically go into a media kit, how to write material that will be beneficial to reporters, etc., but actually following up with them about all that material you just sent and setting up interviews and answering questions… well that’s all in a league of its own.

I was able to sit in for some follow-up calls with my supervisors on two accounts several weeks ago, and then last week I was able to make the calls myself. Honestly, I was afraid. I remembered being in print beat reporting and the resulting stress, lack of free time and occasional tears of frustration, and I could only imagine the newsroom with reporters typing away, interviewing and working to meet deadline. Believe it or not, I really didn’t want to be the one to interrupt. Somehow I worked up the courage to finally make the calls, (the fact that I’m being paid to complete tasks was a pretty good incentive) and I survived the experience.

Now that I’ve done it, I have a few personal tips for easing the anxiety of making follow-up calls to the media that I hope are helpful to anyone about to make their first calls. I would also appreciate any additional tips readers can leave, since I’m still new to this as well!

If you get a reporter in person: 
– Begin by asking if it’s a good time to talk. Reporters are busy, and the last thing you want to do is catch them in the middle of the most amazing sentence they have ever written with ten minutes to deadline. By asking if it’s a ‘good time,’ you’re immediately being positive and respecting their time… both key to establishing a good relationship and hopefully getting to share what you’re calling about. Side note: Don’t ever ask if they’re busy. The answer is always yes. Your call will end abruptly.

– Get to the point. You don’t want to waste your time or theirs so tell reporters exactly why you’re calling. Once you state your purpose, they will tell you whether or not your pitch is something they would even consider covering. If they are interested, briefly go into more detail about the newsworthy subject at hand and how you can support them in their coverage of your client. If they are not planning on covering your pitch, be considerate, thank them for their time and end the call.  

– Provide something of substance. Don’t just ask if they received your pitch. From everything I’ve heard from the media side, this might be one of the most annoying habits of PR professionals. If you are following up about a release or kit you sent, then you do want to establish first whether or not they received it and remembered it, but from there you should have supporting or new information to provide them related to that release. If they weren’t interested the first time around, asking them if they got the release isn’t going to help your cause and may well hurt it. Point is, be helpful.

– Don’t get offended when you’re turned down. Easier said than done, but it’s important to keep in mind that reporters are working on a number of stories and just because they are not interested in something your client is doing at the time doesn’t mean they won’t ever be interested in the future. Also, some newsrooms or reporters will just ask if they can put you through to voicemail. Don’t assume they’re blowing you off because again, it’s about their time. It may be easier for them to concentrate on your message later, making the message a more successful opportunity to gain their interest in your pitch.

If you get a reporter’s voicemail:
– Keep it short and simple. If you start reading off your press release, you can bet that your message will be scrapped. Instead, keep your message brief, but don’t sacrifice clarity in your attempt to cram all of your information in under a minute. Speak slowly and clearly, repeating your name and contact information twice.

– Have nothing to hide. I have heard some debate over whether or not to say you are calling as part of a PR agency or as the client because some reporters will automatically disregard PR persons. Clearly if you are in a corporate environment this is not an issue, but in an agency environment, stating that you are with a client could be considered misleading. I prefer to say that I am ‘calling on behalf of’ whichever client I am pitching.

Also, it sometimes helps me to highlight important facts in a release or write out some key messages I want to convey before I start making calls. That way I am sure to at least hit on my most important reasons for calling whether or not the rest of the call goes as planned.

Practice makes perfect, so don’t be afraid and don’t give up!

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frustrated-girl.jpgThis was a stressful week at Kent State with what seemed like midterms underway, but the underlying complaint I heard from PR friends— that all the intense projects, hard work and sleepless nights will never prove directly useful in our careers— got me thinking.

I know it’s not that anyone thinks that what they’re learning will never come in handy… we wouldn’t be paying for four+ years of college if that were true. However, I think the cynicism comes into play when the only reason behind completing four major projects in one week appears to be a good grade. As I’ve had to tell myself before, the stress and hard work will pay off in the long run, but it’s nice to sometimes see immediate results.

I have had recent success in this area, and I think (hope) that this personal experience is worth sharing with other students fighting the desire to just call it and start the weekend early.

During my media relations class with Dr. Jeanette Drake last semester, our final project was a media kit equipped with news releases, fact sheets, feature stories, personality profiles and pictures. We were told to choose a client that could actually use the project. Many students dismissed this suggestion, a decision I believe resulted from a complete doubt that a client would actually use their work. It’s a classroom project. It’s just for a grade. It’s not real.

Not so!

I chose the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life of Kent State University as my client, killing two birds with one stone since I had volunteered to be the PR chair for the event this year anyway. I spend a gigantic portion of my life researching and interviewing the client and writing the materials, and to be honest, I avoided the dreaded ‘just let me turn this in and be done with it’ mindset because this wasn’t just a grade, this was going to be an experience.

dks-shirt-article.jpgI got up the guts to send one press release out, which resulted in front page coverage in the Akron Beacon Journal and a television spot on 19 Action News, and I just pitched another idea to The Daily Kent Stater, which got coverage, and the reporter even used information from my fact sheet. Score!

Hopefully this doesn’t come off as bragging, but as an example of how classroom projects can actually be useful in creating portfolio materials and gaining experience. Too many students make the mistake of thinking an internship is the only way to apply the classroom to the real world. That’s not the kind of thinking that makes PR such a fast-growing field.

In any case, the weekend is almost here. I’m planning on celebrating.

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