Interview with a Pitcher Edition 4: Learning the Art of Media Relations from DCI’s ProsDecember 1, 2016
DCI’s blog series, “Interview with a Pitcher,” aims to give valuable media relations insight on pitching the press, directly from the mouths of our team members who are talking with reporters almost every day. Here, DCI team members share their experience and thoughts on best practices through thought-provoking interviews, designed to help each of our readers consider their own approach to media relations.
While each pitch, and each reporter pitched, requires a customized, strategic and personal approach, these interviews share some of our best practices and can help you refine your own style when it comes to this important part of a successful public relations program.
Edition #4: Rebecca Gehman, Account Manager
Since joining DCI in 2012, Rebecca has played a pivotal role in content creation, media relations and marketing strategy work for our clients across the globe. In addition to executing a wide range of programs, she has had the opportunity to work directly with top “place” leaders—including two Presidents, two Governors, four Mayors, and counting. Whether it’s the country of the Netherlands or the city of Charleston, South Carolina, Rebecca’s creativity and curiosity helps clients deliver their message through social media platforms or in media outlets like the Wall Street Journal.
How long have you been a media pitcher, and what is your favorite part of interacting with the press?
I’ve been with DCI since 2012, so I have about 4 years of working with the press now. My favorite part about interacting with the members of the media is being able to help make reporters’ jobs easier while bringing stories to life. I also like being able to get little-known client stories in the press – those stories with the surprise element.
How do you approach pitch-writing for news stories versus in-market press trips versus desk-side appointments?
When pitching meetings I cut straight to the chase – “do you have time for this meeting on this date?” It’s all about the quality or caliber of the spokesperson you’re offering; it’s less about the specific pitch and more about the reporter you’re pitching.
How do you decide who to approach – an editor or a reporter or a contributor? What’s your strategy once you’ve identified the outlet you think the story should be covered in?
I always see if the story fits with the tone and content the reporter has been writing about, so their title doesn’t matter as much their content. Once I’ve identified the outlet I want the story to be covered in, I go through each of the sections and pitch the section the client’s story best applies to. If it applies to two sections, pitch them both! I always envision what the article will look like, from the headline to the ending.
I also mirror my pitches. For example, if I’m pitching the Wall Street Journal, I mirror the pitch after articles I see in that outlet.
What is your go-to method to grab his or her attention?
The subject line is everything. I try to write it how I envision the headline in print. Additionally, I’ll work hard to get on the phone with the reporter I’m pitching. Calling is a way to cut through the clutter and really hear what interests them.
Do you have any tips on how to avoid a miscommunication over email or to remain the most efficient when using email to arrange interviews or follow up?
Get all of your facts straight. The less back and forth you can have the better. PR people don’t always have all the information, so it’s important to be honest about the information you have and the information you don’t in order to manage expectations.
How can a media pitcher best re-utilize the relationships they or their coworkers have built with reporters?
I think it’s always best to keep journalist interactions with the person that has the strongest relationship with him or her. This helps keep the reporter comfort level the highest, and I think it helps with getting feedback and gauging interest levels on stories.
How do you ensure your economic development messages are received and understood in your pitches?
When you’re pitching an industry or job growth in that region, it’s important to always tie that message back to the region itself – a.k.a how is the place making this growth possible?
Short and sweet v. robust and thorough?
Short and sweet – always.
Attachments v. no attachments?
Bold fonts or no bold fonts?
Bold fonts. I’ve heard specifically that reporters will always read at least all the bold fonts, so it’s helpful to bold the important parts.
Call in the AM or the PM?
Neither. I call at lunch time because during the late PM the reporter might be filing a story by a deadline, and in the AM they might have meetings.
Do any of Rebecca’s pitching strategies resonate with your own media relations practices? We’d love to hear. Let us know in a comment below or tweet us at @aboutdci.