Media Fan Club – Are You a Member?

By: Suzanne McGee, Director

Generally speaking, PR professionals received plenty of advice last year about how to pitch and to whom, but what actually are agencies doing to change their ways? How are they working with their staff to ensure that they are making contact with the right reporter with a proper pitch? What education is happening in-house? Heck, are they even reading the newspapers, magazines and blogs that they contact?


When you think about it, PR professionals should make up a large piece of a reporter’s fan base. We should be most knowledgeable about what they’ve been writing and what they or their editor’s are researching. For the most part, it’s our ability to develop and maintain these relationships that enables us to give our clients the best service possible.


What should you be doing with your staff?

  • Challenge them to read more
  • Ask them to share what they are finding
  • Play six degrees of separation with current headlines
  • Evaluate their outreach not only on their coverage, but on their development of each relationship
  • Work with them on a regular basis so that you can help them grow and foster a connection built on knowledge not “smile and dial”

It amazes me to see some of the pitches that I get from PR people who have me on their media lists. (Never mind what that says about their lists!) Most don’t have a pitch; others barely have coherent sentences that highlight their news.

What happened to interacting with journalists? Doesn’t anyone get excited about their connections? Last year when attending DEMOfall, I was excited to see three of my favorite publications represented in the seats in front of me. Like a great dream team line-up, I could see reporters from The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, BusinessWeek and Financial Times. I had the opportunity to speak with, not pitch, but have a professional conversation that was fruitful for both of us. To top it off, I finally got to meet Rafe Needleman – someone who I’ve pitched and contacted for a good number of years. These folks forget that it’s a pleasure to meet them and put a name and face together.

These may seem like no-brainers, but at the rate we get chastised, I wonder how my colleagues are training their teams. A recent Wall Street Journal piece (“Are Your Clients Happy Now, Mr. Brabender?” December 19, by Barry Newman), noted that there are more than twice as many PR professionals as there are journalists. If this it true, our industry needs to improve quickly. While we can’t police everyone, just as the media can’t either, we can take steps to not only improve our performance, but in a way that makes our jobs better.

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