We come across bridges in our everyday lives, and rarely think about them; that was me, until I started working in public relations. Now, every time I see one, I think of how it relates to our work in media outreach. As public relations professionals, we are often tasked with elevating the reputations of our clients’ organizations. One of the primary methods of this is media outreach – researching past coverage and trends, determining what our clients’ expertise is, and formulating an outreach strategy that marries those two factors by selecting reporters from targeted publications and crafting an enticing pitch.
According to Muckrack’s State of Journalism 2023 survey, an annual survey of journalists that track their habits and the ways they do their jobs, nearly 50% of reporters reject pitches due to the lack of personalization, extended length, or awkwardly worded subject lines. All these are things that smart public relations professionals can control, especially personalization. If your pitch is vague, it becomes obvious that it is not really aimed at them but is part of a larger e-mail blast that countless others are getting. If you look at it from their angle, it makes sense that they might not be interested. So, what’s the solution? Start forging a relationship by building a bridge.
Create Your Blueprint
Just as any structure (especially the ones we drive or walk over) needs a carefully crafted plan, the foundation of a solid earned-media outreach campaign is a well-thought-out strategy. You can create your blueprint by first figuring out what precise message your client would like to get out. If it’s, for instance, science promotion, then we thoroughly review the research paper or scientific abstract, but we also pair that with a media scan to get a feel for the existing landscape of media coverage on that topic. Which reporters are talking about this topic, and in what sort of outlets? Is national coverage worth pursuing, or is a trade outlet the best option? If one reporter seems to cover this topic frequently, consider forging a relationship with them by first reading their coverage to determine their specific interests.
And then, you can get to building your bridge! Bridges need to be suited to their unique geographic areas and be durable enough to weather difficult challenges. Personalization is key. Since journalists often lament the lack of personalization in pitches, you can immediately grab their attention by writing a pitch that specifically references their past coverage of a topic. This tells them that the person making the pitch has done their homework and knows what they’re talking about. It could entice them to reply to your inquiry and possibly interview your subject-matter expert or cover your abstract.
After bridge-construction is done, testing the strength of your connection is important to ensure that you have a proper foundation. If you were successful in increasing awareness of your clients and their issues, it’s valuable to sustain and build the relationship for future opportunities. The reporter may feel that your client was very helpful to their coverage, and will want to remain in contact when they write about a similar topic. Public relations professionals can play an active role in this process by following up with the reporter with relevant and timely information. Becoming the “Go-To” source for a topic is an aspirational goal that can be achieved with time and sustained effort.
Just as a bridge connects two places, a skilled public relations professional connects journalists with people who can tell a compelling story. Our clients, whether health systems or medical societies, all have access to the latest medical innovations and the newest research on compelling treatments. So, it’s our job to be continuously building credibility so that their impact can be felt and their content can be magnified. But building that bridge to credibility can only happen if public relations professionals have already built a solid, lasting foundation.