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Pro Tips on Pitching Media

Effective PR can help associations stand out as leaders and experts in their respective industries. Veteran PR professional Sheri Singer provides a few pointers for successfully pitching journalists and generating good PR.

Associations are perfectly primed to serve as spokespeople for their respective industries, communications professional Sheri Singer told Associations Now earlier this week.

“Associations are perceived by the press as much more credible than any individual would be, because an individual would have more of an ulterior motive,” said Singer, who is president and CEO of Singer Communications. “But the association’s goal is to promote the industry not at the expense or benefit of one person.”

Yet, few associations are capitalizing on this despite the relative ease and cost-effectiveness of a proactive communications strategy, Singer added. Below are some of Singer’s tips on pitching media and generating positive publicity for your association:

Cut through email clutter. Some reporters may get up to 200 emails an hour, Singer said, so to cut through that clutter, create an attention-grabbing subject line.

Over and over again, reporters have said they open or don’t open an email based on that subject line,” Singer said. “So, if you send them an email that says ‘press release distributed today,’ they’re not going to open that.”

Capitalize on the most newsworthy part of what you are pitching and prioritize that in the subject line. If a notable speaker or celebrity is attending your annual meeting, lead with that, Singer said.

Another way to break through the barrage of email is to make your news relevant to individual reporters. “Don’t rely on the press release,” Singer said. “If I’m sending a press release via email, I put a blurb at the top of the release that summarizes it, and, where I can, where I know the reporter, I personalize it.”

Don’t send journalists on a wild goose chase. Put contact information on releases and in emails, and avoid generic press contact information such as “[email protected],” Singer said. “You need someone’s name and phone number [on a release], and that phone number needs to be a cell number because reporters work 24/7 now. You can’t rely on the fact that you’re going to be in the office when they call.”

The best thing to do is to create a press room on your website where all press releases are archived and where you list relevant facts and figures about your association and who your members are, Singer said.

“Reporters love, love, love a stat sheet, so they can get a really good picture of your organization very quickly,” said Singer, who also advised associations to consider potential external stakeholders, such as journalists, in addition to members when designing their websites and the ways in which they’re providing information online.

Where you can, use images and infographics. But don’t include them as attachments. “Reporters generally have a very strong spam system,” Singer said. “You have to cut and paste the release into an email you send them. You have to cut and paste any photos. What I do is say that a photo or infographic is available, or I link back to an organization’s website so reporters can go there.”

Spell out your name. With the exception of AARP or other organizations that only want to be known by their initials, it’s important to spell out your organization’s name on first reference, Singer said. The name should also be spelled out on the organization’s website.

Break into an existing news cycle. Tap into the buzz of a current news story and provide a list of experts or spokespeople for reporters to talk to, Singer said. “As an association, you’re in a great position to do this,” she added. “But you have to be very proactive and you have to be following the news 24/7 and have all your ducks in a row.”

Do you have tips for developing a proactive PR strategy? Let us know in the comments.

(iStock/Thinkstock)

Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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