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Have you ever been in a one-sided relationship?

Just like a speed dating, or dating in general, it doesn’t work, so why should it work with the media? Developing strong and mutually beneficial relationships with reporters is crucial to being successful in media relations and it can make your job easier.

If your only interaction with a reporter is to pitch a story you’re not in a relationship you’re in sales.

According to Michelle Leff Mermelstein, PR Manager for Sprint Nextel, putting yourself in the shoes of the reporter is key. Imagine if day in, day out, you picked up the phone or checked your email only to get a constant barrage of messages relating to subjects that had nothing to do with you. It could be overwhelming and the probability of your pitch ending in the trash folder is high.

You must spend time cultivating meaningful relationships and show genuine interest in the reporter’s work. Follow them on Twitter. Share their stories. Engage with them.

Here are six ways to ensure to ensure that your PR strategy is performing at optimal level:

  1. Prepare, prepare and prepare some more.
    • Identify who covers your topic, what they have written about it and how timely it is.
  1. Craft the perfect email pitch.
    • Be relevant: Monitor topics and trends in the industry and take time to understand how your brand can authentically add to those conversations.
    • Find that “sweet spot”. A great media pitch reflects the audience that reads, watches or listens to the outlet and journalism it is tailored for.
  1. Package your story: what can you give them beyond just words? Can you make your story visual?
    • Do the hard work for them. Provide infographics and visuals, even if they do not use them, it will help the reporter understand your point.
    • Make sure to include at least one executive quote and consider a third party quote or accolade.
    • Avoid putting attachments on your emails.
  1. Start with your subject line.
    • A good rule of thumb is to employ no more than 6-10 words.
    • Speak directly to reporter’s beat and describe what you are pitching and why it’s relevant.
  1. Pick up the phone and get personal.
    • Only leave one message if you don’t catch them live: Don’t be a stalker.
    • Be enthusiastic: Believe in your pitch.
    • Paint a picture: Help the reporter visualize the story.
  1. Always add value and become a trusted resource.
    • Don’t ask for something without providing additional value back. Help with the stories that you are asking the reporters to create. The more you can help them, the more they can see you as partner and resources.
How about using social media to pitch your story?

Melissa recommends starting communicating with your top targets now. Get in their heads by interacting with them on a regular basis, so when your pitches land in their inbox, they recognize your name.

Reach for “Golden Rings”

At least once a year, Michelle recommends to ask yourself the following two questions:

  1. What are your DREAM publications?
  2. What will it take to get a placement in those targets?

Once you selected a group of targets who matter most, follow up by nurturing that relationship. This process could take up to a year, but it could open the doors to audiences and expand your reach. Study their work (especially what they are excited about on Twitter) and cite that in the first sentence of your email. Be genuine!

Example: “How are you? I noticed you started ‘Let’s Eat’ segment food USA Today .com…I just watched the video you did on McCormick and it’s awesome…”

The Best Media Relations Pros…
  • Ask reporters what they are working on.
  • Keep track of reporter’s beats and recent coverage.
  • Anticipate likely questions.
  • Foster positive mutually beneficial relationships.
  • Proofread. And then proofread again.

Never forget that the reporters need you as much as you need them.  Reporters and news organizations need to tell a good story.


avatar for Michelle Leff Mermelstein, APR

Michelle Leff Mermelstein, APR

Sprint Nextell
PR Manager
Mermelstein is an accomplished communications and public relations strategist with more than 16 years of success in positioning products, services and issues to drive audience engagement. She has an extensive track record for developing and executing external and internal public relations campaigns that directly impact revenue and corporate image. Her expertise includes public and media event planning and product lifecycle project communications management. In her current role as public relations group manager for wireless products and pricing at Sprint Nextel, she focuses on creating dynamic communications campaigns to launch innovative products and programs. Before joining Sprint, Mermelstein was a senior account supervisor with Edelman’s Healthcare Team, an account supervisor with Fleishman-Hillard’s Healthcare Team and a Public Affairs Associate for the American College of Physicians. Michelle is a faculty member with George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management (GSPM). She teaches in the GSPM’s Strategic Public Relations master’s degree program. Michelle earned a master’s degree in Political Management from George Washington University and a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Journalism from American University.
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