Brandon LewisBrandon Lewis

In PR, there’s nothing more exciting than landing that perfect pitch. All of the hard work that went into your strategy pays off in a secured placement for your client and a budding relationship with a media contact. More often not, however, the perfect pitch is more elusive than we’d like. We send emails that don’t receive replies and make phone calls that aren’t answered. And then there are those awful times when we break through the radio silence and are greeted with an unhappy reporter with no qualms in lashing out. Any of these scenarios can rattle someone’s confidence, especially if you’re just starting out. Being successful in PR means shaking off those tough experiences and learning from them. Here are some tips to get you started on the path to being a media relations master:

Research.The amount of preparation you put into your campaign will dictate the success of each step, the first being the creation of your media list. If you think building a quality media list using just a third-party media tool is too good to be true, that’s because it is. In the age of shrinking newsrooms, the best way to keep up with the changes in the media landscape is to stay on top of them yourself. Take the time to actively search for the right contact, starting first with the outlet you’re trying to target. Look for stories that closely relate to your pitch, and see who’s writing them. Once you’ve found that author, look into other stories they’ve written. Pop over to their Twitter profile and see what they’re talking about in real-time. The closer you can align your pitch to their interests, the better chance you have of starting a conversation with them. Also, take note of their preferred methods of contact and their pet peeves. If a reporter notes on Twitter or Cision that they don’t like to be contacted via phone or through Twitter, don’t do it. It’s a surefire way to ruin a relationship that hasn’t even started.

Personalize your pitches. One of the most common complaints of reporters and editors is receiving an email pitch that has nothing to do with their beat. Even if your pitch aligns perfectly with their interests, it’s best to make the connection for your contact. You should send pitches that are tailored to each contact on your list, and that means more than simply getting their name right (although that’s very important!). Show that you’ve done your homework by linking to one of their recent articles in your pitch, or referencing how their previous coverage relates to the story you’re pitching. Journalists are more likely to respond to your pitch if you’ve shown that you understand their work, or at least that you've made an effort.

Don’t fear the follow up. You send a perfectly tailored pitch to the best contact you’ve found, only to get crickets. What gives? Journalists are inundated with many emails, and between deadlines and meetings, it is possible that they just missed your message. Send a follow-up note, asking for their thoughts and interest on the original pitch. If another email doesn’t break through, try making a phone call. Of course, be mindful of your follow-ups; consider time zones, whether they are participating in any events, if they’re OK to get a follow up, etc. And be prepared for some journalists to flat out tell you that if they had been interested, they would have responded. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should always assume silence means no — every reporter is different. Ultimately, there’s nothing wrong with being politely persistent, but be respectful. Hounding a reporter about a story is a great way to get on their bad side. If you don’t hear a response after a few tries, move on to another contact.

Don’t take it personally. In your media outreach, you’ll sometimes encounter a journalist who may not be the friendliest person in the world. It’s especially intimidating on the phone, where someone can either abruptly hang up on you, or talk your ear off regarding all of their burdens for that day. These are experiences that can leave you shaken, but they’re a true rite of passage in the PR world. Remind yourself that reporters receive email and phone calls from PR professionals every day (some much less skilled than you’ll be after this post). Frustration should be expected. Don’t be discouraged. Assuming you did your due diligence, you weren’t necessarily wrong to share that pitch or make that phone call. Most of the time, a rude reaction has nothing to do with you personally... and even the coldest contact could still have potential down the road. Apologize for any disruption you may have caused, and move on to the next contact on your list.

Media relations is a large part of PR, so anxiety over being successful at it is normal. Too much anxiety, however, will only keep that golden nugget of a placement further from your grasp. Don’t let an empty inbox or a difficult phone call shake your confidence and make you doubt your abilities. Instead, keep these tips in mind and have faith in the story you and your client are trying to tell. The right reporter will come along, and the placement that comes from that match will make every ignored email and call worth it.

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Brandon Lewis is an Account Coordinator at Resound Marketing.