Media Relations Lessons from SATW: How To Attract a Tough Editor’s Attention
October 19, 2018
In the world of media relations, we often get caught up in the endless email messages that come through our inboxes each day. Now and then, PR professionals seem to miss out on an important email, which can result in a missed opportunity. But these three panellists happen to disagree. They think editors haven’t just missed your amazing email pitch — they are actually ignoring you.
As a media relations expert, what can you do to get their attention and a great placement? At SATW’s 2018 Annual Conference in Barbados, three editors shared their thoughts during a “How to Pitch” panel.
- Anne Banas, Editor — BBC Travel
- Domini Clark, Travel Editor — The Globe and Mail
- Tracey Minkin, Senior Editor Travel + Features — Coastal Living
TIP #1: KNOW THE EDITOR’S INTERESTS AND PERSONALITY
If you want to use your media relations skills to pitch directly to an editor and get coverage, you’ll need to know what piques their interest. Some editors prefer to receive pitches via a two-sentence email while some enjoy press releases that they can reference later. Still others like brainstorming with publicists over coffee. Each editor has a particular method to their madness.
DOMINI CLARK appreciates a quick email pitch but does not want you to follow up. If your first swing at bat is a success, she will reach out. She is always open to meeting over a coffee when you are in Toronto and have interesting stories to tell. Do not offer a freelance writer — she will select one for you.
ANNE BANAS suggests a follow-up if she hasn’t gotten back to you, but do not spam. She prefers you to pitch a writer first for her outlet, as she cannot get through the sheer volume of email pitches she receives. Anne enjoys a focus on interesting characters around the world and is open to new content ideas.
TRACEY MINKIN reads every email and likes press releases. She will use an email search function when she is interested in a destination to see what messages in her inbox fit with that theme, and then she will go from there. Personalized messages with a customized subject line go a long way.
TIP #2: KNOW THE OUTLET’S AUDIENCE AND STYLE
Perhaps the most important takeaway for media relations professionals is that you should not mass-pitch. The panel agreed that pitching on general topics like “top places for vegetarian food” is the worst PR practice — your message will be considered spam! Print, online, broadcast and social media are all very different platforms with specialized ways of sharing a story. Publicists need to be aware of not just media type but also of the content on which they focus.
DOMINI CLARK: The Globe and Mail’s readers enjoy the newspaper firstly for news, then politics and lastly opinion. This audience does not typically read for travel, and it’s hard to get them to read content. The outlet is using data to see what resonates with readers and has learned that feature destination stories do not do well. Instead, this outlet should be pitched with something that takes it up a level, such as a personal story, service pieces, wellness or flying. She recommends grouping different destinations together for a “round-up” story if you want to include something specific, such as an exhibition.
ANNE BANAS: Pitching BBC Travel is tricky. The organization reports differently, as their journalists are all over the world in “never-before-seen” or remote places. BBC Travel covers oddball characters in remote places that show a “slice of life.” It values taking time to do stories thoroughly and publishes five times per week in long-form content and long documentaries for digital. In 2019, the outlet will create short seasons or six-part in-depth series. Its main theme is “Places That Change the World” — for example, places that make an impact throughout the world — so a specific hook is a must.
TRACEY MINKIN: The print magazine is considered a keepsake, and your coverage must earn its place in this particular magazine. Publicists must think hard about stories that resonate with a variety of readers to honour their commitment to purchasing the magazine, a tale that is worth the reader’s time and monetary commitment. Coastal Living’s digital side is a different game. Here the platform is looking for original content that results in a click, as it becomes syndicated. Coastal round-ups do particularly well here, as do up-and-comers, such as a lesser-known-chef story.
TIP #3: TIMING IS EVERYTHING, AND DON’T BURY THE LEAD!
Quite simply: do not over-speak, and do not overwrite. LearningSolutionsMag.com reports that within one hour, people will have forgotten an average of 50 per cent of the information you presented. Editors are quite likely to fall within that group, so media relations focused publicists must adopt a strategic approach to pitch timing and writing. There is no industry standard for the perfect time for a story, but here are a few ideas.
DOMINI CLARK: In today’s world, travel writing is particularly white. There are amazing writers with diverse voices being told stories of the Caribbean through a white lens, which has become tired. There should be a change for new voices that tell these tales, and if there is a story to share with that perspective, now is the time. Be sure to put the most interesting fact in the front of the pitch to make this work.
ANNE BANAS: Thinking about crisis stories, be mindful about timing regarding world disaster news, such as a Caribbean island devastated by a hurricane. Be sure to share news if there is confidence that a destination is ready to get back on the radar. Let us know as soon as there are new developments, as that is very news-worthy. Be upfront.
TRACEY MINKIN: It’s tricky to sell a story. It won’t be covered just because it’s a heartfelt tale. It needs to coincide with particular world events, such as the Florida Keys “open-for-business” campaign after the natural disaster. We owe it to them and readers to spread the word, and we will!