Guest Post: 8 Basics for Working with the Media

Newspapers - Media - PR

Note: This is a guest post by Erika Taylor Montgomery. More info about her at the bottom!

Sometimes working with the media can seem daunting and intimidating, but it doesn’t need to be! With 20 years working as a member of the media and another 13 years of experience in public relations, I can tell you with confidence that anyone can go after media coverage; it just takes time and preparation. Not sure where to start? Here are 8 basics to keep in mind:

1. Get everything ready.

Journalists are extremely busy and usually on a deadline, so make sure you have everything set up before you start reaching out to the press. Is your website is live and up to date? Anticipate items they might want – have 2-5 high-resolution images (at least 3×5 in size and 300dpi), including your logo and headshot, and samples ready in case they’re requested.

2. Do your homework.

With more and more people asking reporters for coverage, it’s important to take the time to do your homework and make sure you’re emailing or calling the right person. For example, if you have a beauty product, contacting the Food Editor won’t get you very far. Make sure the person you contact actually writes or talks about items similar to your product or service. It’s also a nice touch to reference a story they’ve done that you liked when you contact them.

3. Carefully craft your pitch.

A “pitch” is the industry term for a written introduction, usually an email as it’s what journalists tend to prefer (it is much less intrusive and they can get to it when they have a few moments). Fundamentally, a pitch is a request. You are asking for someone in the media to do a favor for you – tell their readers or viewers about your business. As I mentioned before, journalists are extremely busy and usually on a deadline, so keep your pitch to 2-3 paragraphs in length. Make sure your pitch tells the recipient why the story is relevant to their audience right up front, then provide a few important details about the story, and don’t forget to include your contact information (phone and email) in addition to a link to your website for them to find more information. Remember that a pitch is designed to whet the reporter’s appetite, not give them a complete dump of every little detail. If they want more info, they’ll definitely ask, so start with just the most relevant and important information.

4. Say please and thank you.

Being polite and keeping a friendly tone can go a long way. Even if the reporter is short and cryptic, maintain a helpful, professional tone when working with the media and remember to include a “please” and “thank you.”

5. Follow up.

If you don’t hear back, feel free to follow up a couple of times, but stay friendly and don’t do it too often – not more than once a week. You want to be pleasantly persistent – not an annoying stalker. At Three Girls, we include slightly different angles and story ideas in our follow up emails or calls to give them even more ideas about ways the press could share the information with their readers, listeners or viewers.

6. Be pleasantly persistent.

If a journalist requests samples or more information, feel free to check back in with them – but remember to stay polite! Follow up enough to remind them of the sample you sent, but not so much that you become a thorn in their side. I recommend following up no more than 2-3 times over a 6-8 week period. If you don’t get a response, don’t be discouraged. Wait a few months a try again with a slightly different angle.

7. Be friendly, genuine and helpful.

Make sure you’re responsive and helpful, and answer any questions they have quickly – within 24 hours or less if possible. You don’t want them to lose interest in the story idea and journalists are often on deadline and need info quickly.

8. Say thank you again.

If the reporter does write or talk about your business, thank them! In addition to sending a quick email or tweet thanking them, mail them a hand-written thank you card to let them know you really appreciated the coverage. At Three Girls, we include hand-written thank you cards with a fun chotchkie (like a branded pack of post-its) as part of our media relations services. In fact, we regularly receive thank you emails in response to our snail-mailed thank you notes because it’s just not common and helps us stand out.

Now you’re ready to get started!

Erika Taylor Montgomery is the CEO of Three Girls Media & Marketing Inc and host of Punch! Media & Marketing Made Easy, which airs Saturday mornings from 9:00 to 10:00 PST on 1220 am KDOW. To set up a complimentary consultation on public relations or social media management, you can email Erika at

{Photo by Thomas Hawk on Flickr.}

“When in doubt, overwhelm a small niche.”

Antilope in her niche

Niche (noun) /niCH/

1. A position or role taken by a kind of organism within its community. Such a position may be occupied by different organisms in different localities, e.g., antelopes in Africa and kangaroos in Australia.

2. A comfortable or suitable position in life or employment.

I love the concept of finding your niche. It’s something that happens in nature all the time, as part of the evolution of healthy, balanced ecosystems.

But it is also a concept a lot of my clients struggle with.

You see, the people I work with have a strong drive to help. They are generous and open-minded people. Niching down to them sounds like excluding a lot of clients they could potentially serve. And they totally have the skills to serve a lot of different people.

So, why have a niche?

From the marketing perspective, the strongest argument is that identifying your niche will spark a lot of instant connections with potential clients and allies.

If you can say that you, for example, specifically serve families with young children on the autism spectrum, your whole marketing strategy can evolve organically from there. Parents who come to your website will immediately understand how you can help them (or someone they know), and other organizations and businesses will recognize you as a natural fit for their network.

Now, to address the risk of excluding people: For one, it’s really not as big as you think. The amazing thing is, people outside your niche will be drawn to you because of your niche, and of course you’re allowed to work with them, too.

And second, it’s just not realistic to think that you can serve everyone anyway. There are only so many hours in the day, and some people are just not a good fit for you or will go elsewhere for other reasons. You will overall be more helpful by focusing on the people you know you can serve best.

How big or small should your niche be? I’d say start very small – you can always grow or shift as your practice evolves. As always, Seth Godin says it well:

It’s entirely possible that you will choose a niche that’s too small. It’s much more likely you’ll shoot for something too big and become overwhelmed. When in doubt, overwhelm a small niche. ~Seth Godin

What niche will you serve overwhelmingly well?

{Photo by DeusXFlorida on Flickr.}

Standing up, reaching out.

in·de·pen·dent, \ˌin-də-ˈpen-dənt\:

(1) not subject to control by others
(2) not requiring or relying on something or someone else
(3) showing a desire for freedom

Independence vs. Connection?

What strikes me about this definition is that it is mostly about what our relationships with others are not, as if independence and connectedness were opposed concepts. But I think the more independent you are, the bigger your potential for truly awesome connections and relationships that won’t get in the way of your freedom. And the more awesome connections and relationships you have, the greater your chances of becoming truly independent.

If you don’t want to be controlled by others, why would you want to take on the burden of having to control someone else?

If you are not relying on someone else to have your needs met, you’re free to enjoy an equal partnership.

If you have a desire for freedom, why limit it to just your own freedom?

An Independent Approach to Marketing

And yes, that can totally be applied to marketing! Here it goes: An independent approach to marketing means that you don’t follow the scripts but lead with your heart.

It means that you have the guts to speak your mind, and to use your own creativity.

It means that you want empower your people to decide for themselves if what you have to offer is what they need and want.

It means nurturing real relationships with other human beings.

It means standing up, and reaching out.

{Photo by addicted Eyes on Flickr, who writes: “I took this while on the road in Rajasthan. I rememeber my mother and another lady were the only women to drive in our town (Erode, TN) 25 years ago; that had surprised many people back then. Its great to see Indian women’s self sufficiency these days; still there is a long ways to go. For me this picture screams self-sufficiency and freedom!”}