Building media relationships, virtually

By Luke Budka, head of digital PR and SEO, TopLine Comms.

A lot of us are still stuck at home. Without the opportunity to meet media contacts in person, we’ve had to be a little more creative in our ongoing mission to remind them we’re an agency that really works hard at supplying interesting emotive stories, not boring press releases. Here are a few things our team’s found works.

1 Sliding into DMs:

Use every communication channel available to you. Our media relations team can regularly be found sliding into DMs on LinkedIn, Instagram and WhatsApp – unless the contact’s said otherwise, it’s fair game. The pandemic has (sadly) blurred the line between business and pleasure. We’ve spoken to national journalists who were running newspapers via WhatsApp during lockdown – if you’re stuck on email, you’re missing out.

2 Be more human:

Journos are people too (probably). They don’t want you to waste their time but they’re not adverse to unusual, creative and dare I say it, humorous approaches. After a national Sunday editor went quiet on us, our media relations lead sent this video – it worked a treat and the conversation started up again.

3 Virtual events:

A lot of journos are also still stuck at home. This means they can attend events, as long as they’re virtual. Ensure they know they’ll have the opportunity to interrogate event attendees and they won’t just be stuck on mute, and with the right speakers you can attract a lot of media interest in things like roundtables focussed on topical issues.

4 Personalised pitching:

This is PR 101 but probably more effective than ever because of the proliferation of SEO agencies doing ‘outreach’. Traditional PR folk are now up against SEOs who measure pitch success by email open rates. Instead of improving the quality of their pitching and tailoring their approaches, they’ll work out their conversion rates and simply increase the number of contacts they send their email pitches too (another reason using social to contact the media cuts through the noise). No, it obviously won’t work, and results in tweets like this.

5 Work hard at being useful:

We’re big fans of FoI requests. We’ve used them for a lot of previous client campaigns. At the moment however we’re using them for our own PR. That doesn’t necessarily mean we’re trying to generate coverage (though it’s a nice by-product), more that we’re compiling and distributing data to our media contacts that we think they might find useful for future stories (e.g. this data on university ransomware attacks). By solidifying our reputation as a quality source, we open doors for our clients.

Luke Budka is head of digital PR and SEO at B2B growth agency TopLine Comms. He preaches about PR-led SEO and doesn’t think there’s a lot of difference between being on the front page of a newspaper vs. page one of Google’s SERPs. Except that one of those results is more measurable.

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