There are many ways to get placed in the media, and I found a way that not only works but also is incredibly efficient. Why work hard when you can work smart, right? So here are my thoughts on the best way to get your clients exposure:
- Rule number one for me is that no one likes to be "sold." Nothing creeps people out more than having that car salesman sell them on his raft of bull. We can all detect it, and it's almost always a complete turnoff. So the first thing you want to do is not come off as a salesman (and I thank all the PR people who do this because it helps me separate myself to the media). Don't ever sound like you are reading off of a script or reciting something you've said a hundred times before. I never use terms like "pitch" or "follow up." It's PR speak, and I think it's nonsense. It is more important to sound like a fellow business associate and not a salesperson. Remove yourself from the role of a publicist.
- Moving forward on that theory, remember that the person on the other end of the phone/email is a real person just like you. They probably like to go out on weekends. They would probably rather be at a Yankees game than in the office. They are looking forward to Friday. That said, talk to them as a human. It is important that you develop a relationship as a real person and not a robotic telemarketer. Doing the latter will lump you in with a million other annoying PR people and hinder your results.
- Don't email unless you have to. (Follow-up emails with requested information are a different story.) I know that may sound ridiculous, but email to me has a ton of potential problems if you don't have a relationship with the person. Media members get tons of emails, many of which are spam. I don't want to take the risk that my email will get deleted without them even reading it. I love the phone. Unless their Bacon's profile (I think it's Cision now, but it will always be Bacon's to me) says to never call, I call. By getting the person on the phone, I can start to develop a relationship. Now, that isn't to say you should call and immediately run your mouth off with your client's news. I always, always ask, "Do you have a second?" Showing respect for their time goes a long way. If they say that they do, then you can relax and talk like a normal person as opposed to speeding through and rambling on. If they don't, they will usually tell you when there is a better time to talk.
- Don't leave messages. This is the same to me as sending a reporter an email. Don't take the ball out of your hands. Once you've left that message, you have put the ball in their court. When the time comes that you get that person on the phone after you've left a message, you will at that point officially be annoying. By speaking to the person, there is a dialogue that takes place. Maybe the idea you had wouldn't work for them, but you can discuss other possible ways to get your client into that media outlet. I know this sounds obvious, but PR is not rocket surgery, and too many people make it out to be.
- Small talk can actually work if you do it right. I'm not suggesting that you discuss the weather when you get a person on the phone, but if you've had a nice conversation, you can throw it in there quickly and effectively. Case in point: when talking to men's publications like Maxim or GQ, sports can go a long way. Towards the end of March, when I'm speaking with editors at these types of publications, I will add a quick "Did you fill out your NCAA tourney bracket?" If they actually did, they immediately perk up and start to talk about it. If they didn't, they quickly say they aren't into that. No worries; it was worth the shot. Those who get into that kind of thing are talking to everyone in the office about it anyway, and they love talking about how they hitched their wagons this year to the University of Kentucky. This goes back to the human, "real-person" element and helps to develop relationships. If you are a sports junkie, use it to your advantage. I did this with a writer at a popular men's magazine, and he said, "I'm going with my alma mater, Villanova." So after that, out of courtesy, I would send him quick emails about Villanova athletes who had signed on with NFL teams, and he appreciated it. (Sorry, John, but J.J. Outlaw never stuck on the Philadelphia Eagles roster.)
- Never, ever berate media members if something doesn't work out or your client gets cut from a story. PR is a marathon, not a sprint. Why get upset over one hit when being understanding will go a long way towards more hits in the future? If your client is miffed, that doesn't mean you, in turn, call the media outlet and express outrage. It is your job to explain to your client that this happens all the time, which it does. I can't tell you how many times I've seen publicists make this mistake. I used to work at a sports PR agency that I won't name, and this was always the case. I would ask my boss, "Do you have a contact over there?" And I would hear all too often, "I do, but they aren't speaking to me." What? Does that make a lick of sense? Why make enemies? Again, this is about relationships. I know for a fact that I've gotten several hits because a certain media outlet was appreciative of me being understanding and respectful in the past. The media are your bosses, and you should treat them that way.
- Another thing the media appreciates is when I toss them something I know they'd be interested in, even when I have no client involvement. It shows them that I am thinking about them and helping them do their job. I sent out news to every NFL writer in the country about a certain NFL player who allegedly made racist comments, but it wasn't widely reported. I got emails back from the L.A. Times, Philly Inquirer, and Charlotte Observer saying "thank you" and "I'll certainly look into this further." Many media members appreciate it when you contact them with something other than cramming your client down their throat. A side note: the story about that NFL player is a great one. I soon had his agent calling me to clear things up, and I even rattled his team's front office. I later released an official statement by that player. Good times, indeed.
About the Author:
Micah Warren, principal of FeverPitch Media Group and head of the company's public relations and internal marketing divisions, is a published writer who has an incredible track record of placements and positive results. The company was founded by him and partner Scott Daugherty in April 2004.
Micah's overall communications skills have landed hits for his clients in USA Today, The New York Times, The New York Post, and Maxim magazine, on ESPN's SportsCenter, ESPN.com, and BET, in Playboy magazine and Stuff magazine, and in many numerous other newspapers, websites, and trade publications as well as on several television shows and radio networks.
Prior to forming FeverPitch, Micah publicized and marketed numerous companies, celebrities, and athletes, including NFL punter Sean Landeta, four-time Emmy Award-winner Bill Boggs, Grammy Award-winning engineer/producer Neal Pogue, and acclaimed hip-hop producer Duro.
Currently, Micah is working as a columnist with 610 WIP host and former Philadelphia Eagle Garry Cobb on his website, GCobb.com. In addition, Micah is a contributor to TheSportsTV.com, a burgeoning website that includes league news as well as scouting video.
Micah has a Bachelor of Science in Television Production from Boston University's School of Communication and a master's degree in the National Football League.