The Capital Chapter’s June monthly luncheon featured a panel of journalists from the Capital Press Corps to give local PR pros information about pitching, building relationships, regular beats and what drives coverage. Panelists included Gray Rohrer of the Florida Current, Matt Dixon of the Florida Times Union, Kathleen Haughney of the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Tia Mitchell of the Tampa Bay Times and Lilly Rockwell of The Florida Trend. April Salter, APR, CPRC, president of Salter>Mitchell and a former president of the Capital Chapter, moderated the panel.
After brief introductions and reminiscing about how each one knew he or she wanted to become a journalist, the reporters talked about what they do on a daily basis and gave a behind-the-scenes look at the inner working of the press corps.
The topic quickly turned to the “Do’s and Don’ts” of pitching. It turns out reporters understand the stress and fears facing PR professionals when they are trying to get media coverage for client. They each weighed in with a couple of tips to help get a positive responses. Matt called this getting “click time,” which is when a reporter actually opens your email. Getting “click time” is definitely the first step to success!
The reporters said keeping pitches relevant to their specific field of interest is a must and recommended researching previous stories they’ve worked on. Kathleen mentioned she appreciated when someone recently had specifically referenced one of her articles on a similar topic. She said it pays to do your homework on the reporter to whom you’re pitching.
PR pros should also find ways to make a story more appealing by playing with creative and interesting angles. Gray said, “You aren’t pitching to us, you’re pitching to our readers.”
Reporters always need interviews, but many times they wholeheartedly prefer to interview “real” people. Having the perspective of the person affected makes the story more relevant, especially if the media outlets are regional and can show a connection to or impact on their audiences. Tia said that sometimes it’s not good to have the spokesperson do the interview, but rather to choose someone who is directly impacted or personally knowledgeable about the topic or issue.
All of the panelists stressed the importance of building trust with reporters, and the first step toward trust is establishing a personal relationship. Lilly said she is open to meeting sources for lunch or coffee to get to know them better and to build those relationships. These relationships will improve the chance that your emails have of being read and phone calls of being returned, although the group said they prefer emails!
Above all else, PR professionals should always be honest about the story and their angles. Matt said he would rather have a conversation then listen to a robot pitch.
PR pros work with reporters often, sometimes on a daily basis, and learning how to improve relationships and future coverage is always a plus. Many thanks to the five journalists who took time out of their day and their very busy schedules to speak with Capital Chapter members about this important topic!